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Are you going hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains? Make sure to hike the Andrews Bald trail — a gorgeous trail near the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower.
During a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, my husband and I climbed the Alum Cave trail all the way to the peak of Mount LeConte.
As we sat on the rocks at the top, we sipped espresso and chatted with another hiker.
Yes, I said espresso! If you want to be a backpacking barista, bring along coffee (we love Illy coffee grounds), a backpacking stove (for heating water), and a hand-pump espresso machine.
The other hiker was local, and does the trails in the Smokies often, so I used the opportunity to ask him about a few trails.
We’d planned on hiking the Chimney Tops trail the following day, but after hiking 3,000 feet up Mount LeConte, I wasn’t sure my legs would be up to doing the extra-steep Chimney Tops.
Our new friend told us that he hadn’t been back to Chimney Tops since the Gatlinburg fire in 2016, because the trail is blocked part-way, and you can no longer hike all the way to the (now unsafe) chimneys.
Now, some of you probably still love the Chimney Tops hike, but since my legs were exhausted from Mount LeConte, it was a good enough excuse for me!
Instead, he recommended the shorter, somewhat easier Andrews Bald trail, and confirmed my decision to hike to Charlies Bunion and the Jump Off later that week.
And so, the next morning we set off to hike Andrews Bald.
Headed to the Smokies? Check out my recommended hiking gear for the Smoky Mountains and my tips for hiking in the Smokies, avoiding crowds, or enjoying the North Carolina side of the park!
What Is a Mountain Bald?
A bald is a flat meadow on a mountain and is covered with shrubs and other plant-life.
So on this hike, you’re hiking downhill to a meadow.
Why Hike Andrews Bald?
Because it’s an exceptionally pretty hike!
If you go on a clear day (we didn’t), you can see the Smoky Mountains surrounding the bald.
If you go on a cloudy day, you can still enjoy the trail.
The trail itself is pretty– the trees are mossy and tall, and there are wildflowers everywhere.
The scenery on this hike reminded me of the forests we hiked through when we backpacked Yosemite.
Is This a Hard Hike?
It’s a moderately difficult hike with lots of stairs.
It’s not very long (3.6 miles), but the elevation changes about 1200 feet.
The hike to Andrews Bald is almost all downhill, and the hike back is almost entirely uphill.
Where Is the Andrews Bald Trail?
The Andrews Bald trailhead is located near the base of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower.
The location of this trail (next to the extra-popular Clingmans Dome) makes it easy for people to find the trailhead and start hiking, even when they weren’t planning on hiking at all.
This trail can be fairly crowded.
Don’t forget that, as of spring 2023, you’ll need a paid parking pass anytime you’re stopping for more than 15 minutes. Buy it online or when you get to the park.
Hiking to Andrews Bald
Start at the Forney Ridge Trail sign near the beginning of the paved Clingmans Dome Tower path.
Begin walking down the stairs.
And then keep going down– stair after stair after stair.
Pretty quickly, you’ll arrive at another sign.
Continue towards Andrews Bald.
And keep walking down those stairs.
Occasionally, you’ll get glimpses of the mountains in the distance.
If it’s a clear day, you’ll probably have more glimpses than we did.
Make sure to take time to look around during your hike.
We saw flower after flower, as well as berries.
The trail continues through the pine forest.
This might be the best smelling trail in the whole park.
At the next trail junction, continue following the signs towards Andrews Bald.
As you get closer to the bald, the trail levels out slightly.
Finally, you’ll see a scenic view sign.
You’re almost there!
And then– you are there!
Take a few moments to look at the flowers in the field. The day we hiked, there was a group hunting for blueberries in the bushes.
This is also a great time to stop and eat a snack. Rest up, and prepare yourself for the hike back up.
On your way back, follow the signs for Clingmans Dome parking, and enjoy the rest of your hike!
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