“A steady climb to one of two park-maintained balds in Great Smoky.”
— Kristen Arendt
Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Parsons Branch Road is closed in the winter from November to March.
While you'll have to do a little work to climb to Gregory Bald, the views from the 10-acre bald are well worth the effort, and the flaming azaleas in the area are truly spectacular in season!
Need to Know
Mid to late June is the prime time to see the flaming azaleas in full bloom. In the summer, be sure to start early to avoid the crowds and bring insect repellent, as the mosquitos can be a tad overwhelming at times.
From the Gregory Bald Trailhead parking lot, head out on the Gregory Bald Trail
which starts on the west side of the bend in Parson Branch Rd. From the trailhead, it's a little over 4 miles to reach the bald. The first mile is fairly easy and more gradual, giving you time to take in the scenery as you hike through an impressive old-growth forest highlighted by large eastern hemlocks.
After the first mile, the grade will start to get a bit steeper - pace yourself as the next three miles will continue to be similarly challenging, and you won't get much of a break until reaching the bald. The trail has some rutted sections so take your time and watch your footing on the steeper, rocky terrain. The trail sees a lot of traffic, and it can be especially rutted out after rain.
Right before entering the bald, you'll pass Backcountry Campsite 13, Sheep Pen Gap, which is one of the quietest camping spots you'll find in GSMNP. The Gregory Bald Trail
also comes to a junction with the Wolf Ridge Trail
just past the campsite. Stay to the left on the Gregory Bald Trail
to continue your hike up to Gregory Bald.
Gregory Bald is about 10 acres. Be sure to take your time to explore this beautiful grassy meadow as there is plenty to see from the bald - animals, views, and, of course, the flame azaleas. The view is always great but the colors in June are outstanding! On a clear day, you'll be treated to views of Cades Cove, Rich Mountain, Fontana Lake, Thunderhead Mountain, and Clingmans Dome
Once you are done exploring Gregory Bald, retrace your steps back to your car.
Flora & Fauna
The highlight of this hike is definitely the abundance of flaming azaleas. These flowering shrubs showcase brilliant hues of orange, yellow, and red, making it easy to see where they get their name.
White-tailed deer, black bears, coyotes, and turkeys frequent the area.
History & Background
Gregory Bald is one of two NPS maintained balds in the park. Without this maintenance, the meadow would soon be reclaimed by the surrounding natural vegetation. Early settlers used to graze livestock here.