The Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers many diverse natural opportunities for visitors to experience. One of the more unusual phenomenons that occur in the high elevations is the grassy balds.
Science is unsure of the origin of these high Eastern meadows. They could be caused by the winds that constantly batter the peaks, or periodic fires caused by electrical storms, or even by deliberate clearing by the aboriginal inhabitants of the region.
Whatever the origin, a day hike to Andrews Bald is a pleasant way to spend a morning or afternoon in the park. It’s a two mile hike from the parking lot, with some rocky areas along the trail, but even the most leisurely pace will barely take an hour to arrive at the bald!
If you arrive in late May or Early June you will be treated to the fiery blooms of the Flame Azalea or the fringed flowers of the Catawba Rhododendron. If you take the trail October, you will be treated to amazing vistas in their Fall splendor.
Be sure to carry water and a snack, and always remain aware of the possibility of snakes along the rocky parts of the trail, as Timber Rattlers will seek the warmth of the sun on the exposed rocks.
To get there from either North Carolina or Tennessee, take the Newfound Gap Road all the way to the Gap. Go West on Clingmans Dome Road until you get to the parking lot. The trail to the Dome goes up past the new Visitor’s Center, while the trail to the bald descends from the parking lot.
Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to experience the Eastern Appalachians!
I highly recommend it as an outdoor destination!
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