June 26, 2014 – During my previous visit to Clingmans Dome, I had intended to do this trail then, but got rained out and wound up having to run down the mountain to keep my camera from getting soaked. But I had heard enough about the beauty of the flame azalea that only bloom in higher elevations, so I was determined to see them before they pooped out.
While Gregorys Bald trail seemed to be the most well known spot for viewing them, I knew I wasn’t up to an 11 mile uphill climb hike that was rated “strenuous.”
Andrews Bald Trail is 1.8 miles one way, rated moderate with an elevation change of about 1,200 feet. At 5,920 feet, it’s the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Starting off, it didn’t seem bad at all and the lush greenery along the way was beautiful in itself.
But I was relieved by the time I got up to the top because the uphill parts were not easy for me, but of course I stopped several times along the way to catch my breath and take in the beautiful surroundings. Here I got a preview of the mountain views awaiting me.
I had to catch my breath here from the sheer beauty of the distant mountains, lakes, all framed by the striking flame azalea.
They may have been already past their peak with some drooping going on, but they were still glorious in my opinion!
From every vantage point, something else to ooh and aah over!
This brilliant red variety was my favorite and I used it to pose in front of to prove I made it!
I heard to allow at least four hours for the 3.6 miles round trip, and I know it took me longer than that, but I was in no hurry and took my time getting up there and then relishing the views on top.
I was wiped out and on sensory overload, so by the time I almost got back to the Clingmans Dome walkway, I stopped to wipe my brow and saw this purple fringed orchid that I had missed seeing on the way.
A great day, a fantastic hike and some of the most beautiful scenery ever!
More links and pictures:
Andrews Bald (Romantic Asheville)
Andrews Bald (Great Smokies.net)
Hike to Andrews Bald (NPS)