After taking a day off after Charlie’s Bunion to rest our legs and ride roller coasters at Dollywood (Woohoo!!!), Mom and I spent our last morning in the Smokies hiking before we had to head back. Originally, the plan was to do Gregory’s Bald, but the forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon and we wouldn’t have been able to complete the 8.8-mi roundtrip before thunder and lightning rolled in. So we consulted our little book and decided instead on the more manageable, but still new to us, Andrew’s Bald. At 3.6-mi roundtrip, Andrew’s Bald was supposed to have some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains, which appealed to us, and had 899ft of elevation gain, which still met our requirement of doing more challenging hikes than we would normally do at home.
To reach Andrew’s Bald, you actually take Forney Ridge Trail, which begins at the parking lot for Clingman’s Dome. I’ve hiked Clingman’s Dome dozens of times, yet I had never ventured down the other path. For over a mile, we descended through a spruce forest, down stairs, rocks, and the steep path. The lack of rain the day before helped making the various surfaces less slippery, but everything was still covered in mud from the downpour we had experienced two days prior. A little over a mile into the hike, we climbed approximately 200ft over a quater of a mile, before we started the final descent to Andrew’s Bald.
For anyone who doesn’t know, a bald is an area of land generally devoid of vegetation, which is what lends balds to having great views (weather permitting, that is). Andrew’s Bald isn’t a desert by any means, but instead of more of the same trees which cover the surrounding area, there are long grasses and a couple of azaela bushes. We were a little too late in the year for the majority of the azaelas, but there was still one bush in bloom by the time we got there.
The view was exactly as advertised, and the weather was still clear enough that we could actually see everything. Unlike Charlie’s Bunion, where we were looking at the mountaints from within their midst, Andrew’s Bald is more of a panoramic view where you see the mountains from a distance. Two other families showed up while we were there, but the bald is so large that it can easily accomodate large groups of people.
Word of warning: Forney Ridge Trail actually continues past Andrew’s Bald another 3.8-mi to Springhouse Branch Trail. So make sure to stop at the bald unless you’re prepared to make this a much longer hike.