Great Smoky Mountains National Park

September 19, 2013Happy Trails

Great Smoky welcomes more visitors annually than any other national park. The area has a history of hospitality, as the ecosystem has welcomed species of all kinds to its temperate forests for millions of years. This is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, with more than 17,000 species documented. Rising over 5,000 feet, the crest of the Great Smokies runs in an unbroken series of peaks for 36 miles. Along the ridge are high-elevation grassy meadows called balds, and Andrews Bald claims reign as the highest bald in the Smokies at 5,920 feet. (The highest peak is nearby Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet.) The hike to Andrews Bald climbs almost 900 feet, mostly along a rocky creekbed, to a grassy, treeless mountaintop with panoramic views of the southern Smokies. Spot Fontana Lake below. In spring, enjoy the wildflowers; in fall, the changing leaves are inspiring.

Aerial view of Rocky Mountains covered in white clouds

Trail: Andrews Bald
Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: near Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Length: 3.5 miles roundtrip
Level: Moderate
Peak Season: Spring to Fall

Before You Go: The trail leaves from Clingmans Dome Road parking area, about 20 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Great Smoky can get very congested during peak seasons; arrive early to ensure parking.

Bring With You: Wear sturdy hiking boots. A hiking stick is a good idea, too. Wear layers and be prepared for foggy weather. Carry water and pack your lunch—a grassy bald provides a perfect spot for a picnic and a nap.

Looking for more recommendations on trails and treks for all ages and ability levels? Download NPF's Happy Trails: 25 Unforgettable National Park Hikes, a must-have for planning the perfect national park adventure!

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