Andrews Bald Hike – Great Smoky Mountains

Andrews BaldTO THE TRAILHEAD:  From the top of Newfound Gap , take Clingmans Dome Road to the very end at the Forney Ridge Parking area.  Keep in mind that this road is closed from December 1 – March 31.  It may also close if weather conditions warrant.  You will start this hike to the left of the paved trail that leads to the observation tower of Clingmans Dome.   You will walk 1.8 miles total on the Forney Ridge Trail.

THE HIKE:  Andrews Bald is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains.  The trailhead is easy to access and the trail itself is not too difficult.  The popularity of this hike has caused major erosion issues all along the hike, but the first mile in particular is very worn.  There are many places along the way that the rocks and roots will play havoc with your feet and ankles.  I’ve fallen on my rear end more than once after getting my shoes caught on a root.  There are very few balds in the Smokies and Andrews Bald is one of only two that is maintained by park ranger staff.  The bald appearance are maintained by mowing and controlled burns.

Once you begin the trail, you will come to a junction with the Clingmans Dome trail at .1 mile.  Take a left to stay on the Forney Ridge Trail and begin your descent.  Continue until you reach the next trail junction with Forney Creek Trail.  This confuses some people and they end up going the wrong way since the names of the trails are so similar.  Simply stay to the left to stay on the Forney Creek Trail.  The trail ascends for the last .8 mile to a well-worn path at Andrews Bald.  There are many places to walk all around the bald to find the best views.  Just make sure that when you stray from the path that you can find your way back from where you came.  The nice part about this crowded trail is that the bald is so large that you can spread out and not feel that you are in a big crowd at the top.

Andrews Bald is the easiest of all the bald hikes in the Smokies and its altitude often gives you some great views.  If you decide to do this hike, try to stay away from peak times during the summer and October as well as weekends.  This is an enjoyable hike that is made even more enjoyable when do not feel like a herd of cattle heading to the bald. Also, due to the overuse of the trail, large portions of the trail are badly eroded and become very muddy after rain/snow.  Make sure your footwear is up to the challenge before you begin.

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