Last week we finally hiked Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mt. National Park (GSMNP) to see the flame azaleas. The weather was absolutely perfect—cool enough for jackets and jeans, which is unusual in June in East Tennessee.
The drive to Andrews Bald from our home in Blount County was longer than the hike itself, at close to an hour and a half. To get there, head toward Clingmans Dome, which is one of those well-traveled spots in the GSMNP. It's about 20 miles from Sugarlands Vistors' Center near Gatlinburg on Newfound Gap Road. (If you need to use the restrooms, I'd recommend stopping at Newfound Gap, as the facilities are nicer there than at Clingmans Dome.)
The trail to Andrews Bald is off to the left from the parking lot. Most people will be heading right up to the lookout tower at Clingmans Dome. (You should go there, too, if you never have. It would be another mile round-trip.)
The hike is a gradual downhill 1.8 miles, with plenty of stone steps. Apparently the trail used to be rather rugged, but a park service grant was put to use to make the trail really nice. We planned our hike in early June so we'd catch the flame azaleas and rhododendron, and we weren't disappointed.
We took a picnic and just meandered about the bald.
The views were spectacular; we really picked a perfect day to go.
Once we had our fill of views and gouda, we headed back up the trail. We passed a dozen people or so, but nothing close to the crowds that were hiking up to Clingmans Dome. If you want to get a taste of the Smokies, watch this video that I took back at the parking lot after our hike. That loud noise is the wind blowing.
Great hike for families with a total of 3.6 miles. I don't recommend this for anyone who is wobbly, as the stone steps are a bit tricky to navigate. I imagine this would be a slippery-when-wet trail, also. If you want to see the flame azaleas and rhododendron, definitely aim for the first weeks in June.
Linked up with Amy's Finer Things Friday, Outdoor Wednesday, Wordless Wednesday, and Seven Clown Circus