THE HIKE: The Maddron Bald hike is a 17.8 mile roundtrip strenuous hike. It can be done as a day hike, but most prefer to do this as an overnight hike. This hike is made up of three different trails that will connect together to make a complete loop. This includes the Gabes Mountain Trail, Maddron Bald Trail, and Snake Den Ridge Trail. Along the way there are two different places to camp.
The first part of the trail is easy along Gabes Mountain Trail. Though there are some inclines, the trail is generally wide and flat, making any climb much easier. The first arrival point is a junction 2 miles in. A turn right takes you down steeply .2 mile to Henwallow Falls. It is a nice place to stop. If you decide to skip the falls, continue straight at the junction. Once you pass this junction, you will leave virtually everyone behind. Almost no one goes past the turnoff for the falls.
The hiking past this point is fairly unremarkable until you arrive at campsite #34 at the 4.8 mile mark. This is a good place to stop for the evening if you are doing this hike as a two-nighter. Otherwise, stop for a bit and continue to press forward. After what seems to feel like an eternity, you will reach the trail junction with the Maddron Bald Trail at 6.1 miles. Take a left onto this trail.
The Maddron Bald Trail has some of the very best old growth forrest in the entire Smoky Mountains. But the amazing scenery comes at a price. The trail in this section is much more difficult and the hardest part of the journey. As you arrive at Maddron Bald, you may initially feel disappointed if you have been to either Gregory or Andrews Bald. The views here are mostly blocked by foliage. But the are several unofficial side trails at the bald that offer some terrific views and places to rest. Campsite #29 is right on the bald at the 11 mile mark, and the place I would recommend staying overnight for this hike. There are bear cables here just like at campsite #34 to keep your food out of the reach of bears and a water source is nearby. It is a nice place to stop after a taxing day.
Continuing on, the next trail junction is less than two miles away. At the 12.7 mile mark, you will come to the junction for Snake Den Ridge Trail. Take a left here. After gaining 3800 feet of elevation, this is the point where it is all downhill. The trail is rocky and it is easy to twist a knee or ankle, so use caution. Horses also use this trail, so be on the lookout for their remnants.
When the trail ends, you will take a left to hike .5 mile back to your starting point and arrive exhausted at the end of the trail.