Early in the month of June 2014 my husband and I spent some time at our Gatlinburg cabn, Treetop Treasure. Normally when we are in town we are cleaning, fixing, restocking, and well just plain ole working. This trip however we determined we were going to do some touristy things and enjoy what the area has to offer.
I had seen photos of a couple of the balds in the area but had never hiked to them. Bald, meaning in this case a lack of natural or usual covering. The history of the balds is interesting and possibly even a bit mysterious or controversial. Some say the cause was of a natural origin such as insect infestations, others say the areas were cleared by Cherokee indians or early white settlers. Whatever their origins they are spectacular spots. Click here for more history of the balds.
I was anxious to see first hand these beautiful and mysterious places so one fine June morning we set out for Andrew’s Bald. To get to the bald you take the Forney Ridge Trail. The trailhead is located in the Clingmans Dome parking area, just to the left of the trail that takes you to the Clingmans observation platform. It is 1.8 mile hike into the bald so roughly 3.6 roundtrip. The hike is a very popular one so be sure to get an early start to beat the crowds if you are hiking it during peak tourist season.
The trail is considered moderate in terms of difficulty. It was recently improved under the Trails Forever program. The maintenance crews placed large flat rocks, fashioned stairways from wood and other stones, as well as raised boardwalks and installed some drainage features. The trail is still pretty rugged with tree roots, rocks etc so you will want to wear some good hiking boot/shoes. The air temperature at these higher elevations can vary greatly from low land temps. You may find a 20 degree difference (cooler) so dress appropriately.
The trail descends quickly into a spruce-fir forest, a lovely walk where the sunlight filters in through the canopy above. Plenty of vegetation around creating a carpet of lush green. We saw several different flowers in bloom along the trail as well. As you near the end and the light becomes brighter, just a few more steps and you break out into a grassy meadow like area. This bald is cluttered with blueberry bushes as well as berry vines. When we first arrived the mountains were obscured by clouds. We decided to sit awhile and eat the lunch we had packed, rest and take in the grandeur of the bald. As we sat and refreshed ourselves the clouds begin to lift and the mountains began to appear.
So on this glorious June day this is the sight that filled our eyes and the wonder of it all still fills our hearts.
Come to the Smoky Mountains and “go bald”. You won’t be sorry you did.