Hike to a picturesque mountaintop meadow on Andrews Bald, following the Forney Ridge Trail from the craggy heights of Clingman’s Dome and catching stunning views of the southern Great Smoky Mountains.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 3.5 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: no dogs allowed No dogs
allowed
?Due to park regulations, no dogs are allowed on this trail. Check out our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:in the Great Smoky Mountains

GEAR: North Face Pack, our hiking gear list and Nikon D810 Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Trails Illustrated #317: Clingmans Dome, Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s touted as the highest mountain bald in the Smokies. Andrews Bald is the lesser known, albeit just as beautiful, neighbor to its uphill ally, Clingman’s Dome. It’s known for its rugged and craggy access along the Forney Ridge Trail. And the wildflower-covered meadow on Andrews is sure to leave a lasting impression. It’s undoubtedly one of the most serene vantage points of the southern Smoky Mountains.

Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains

This is a popular hike, without a doubt. The modest elevation gain over this three-and-a-half mile (round trip) adventure makes this hike a priority hike for those in the Clingman’s area. But it’s a fantastic hike for families willing to brave some moderate elevation change. And it’s pretty perfect for a sunrise or sunset, too.

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Andrews Bald on the Forney Ridge Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at the far western edge of the Clingman’s Dome parking area (view maps and driving directions). As with many hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an early start (particularly during peak the summer season) is best. Especially with this trail’s proximity to perhaps the most popular attraction in the park: Clingman’s Dome.

The Forney Ridge Trail descends along its namesake ridge, traversing the southern flank of Clingman’s Dome. The trail soon reaches an intersection with the Clingman’s Dome Bypass Trail, just one-tenth of a mile from the trailhead. This route takes a sharp left turn at the intersection. The hike veers southbound and continuing to follow Forney Ridge.

Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains

The trail nets the majority of its outbound descent in this first mile. The hike reaches an intersection of the Forney Creek Trail, which leads to the park’s Backcountry Campsite 68 and the Jones Creek Trail. This route veers left at the intersection, continuing its southbound route another seven-tenths of a mile to the bald. The trail follows a well-established single track of wooden bridges and rock stairs. The preeminent corridor of spruce-fir, fern, and pine needles gradually gives way to grassy pastures. The trail margins widen as the alpine grassland approaches. A wooden sign signifies the splendid panorama lies just 500 feet beyond.

Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains

Upon entering the bald, the vastness of the view becomes immediately apparent. Large swaths of forest become visible from its 5,920 feet vantage, framed by groves of scarlet colored flame azalea, rhododendron, and alpine grasses. These colorful native shrubs are best viewed during the early summer months when their blossoms are most vibrant.

Views to the south reveal the immense distance of the fringes of Fontana Lake and its backdrop, the mountains of the Nantahala National Forest, including Wesser Bald and Cheoah Bald. While its summit views face predominantly south and west, sunrise is a spectacular time of day for Andrews Bald. The first rays of light blanket Welch Ridge Trail and Mule Gap to the west, as well as the Fontana Lake Valley to the south, exposing the vertical topography of the region.

Andrews Bald in the Great Smoky Mountains

Finding a fantastic place for a summit picnic is perhaps the easiest aspect of this hike. Take your pick from the acres of green pastures along the trail, with views abounding.

After soaking up the beauty, the return hike to the trailhead is nearly entirely uphill, climbing nearly 400 feet and retracing its outbound route. Thanks to major trail improvements, including the plethora of stone stairs placed by the Friends of the Smokies, this hike is often enjoyed by adventurers of all ages. Though the return route is a workout, indeed. The hike reaches the trailhead at just under 3.5 miles, completing the adventure.

More of our favorite Smoky Mountain adventures

The Smokies are simply splendid – and outdoor adventures abound in this beautiful National Park. Follow the Alum Cave Trail to Mount Le Conte. The hike explores stunning landscapes and summit views, and visit the high-elevation Mount Le Conte lodge at the top of this 6500 foot, towering summit. Hike a scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail and Chestnut Branch trail to the summit of Mt Cammerer, and visit the historic western-style fire lookout tower on its mountaintop. Explore the ultra-scenic Cades Cove, and hike to the thundering cascades at Abrams Falls. Follow the Chimney Tops Trail to expansive views of an enormous stone pinnacle and nearby Mt LeConte. Hike the Appalachian Trail to Charlies Bunion, catching stunning high-elevation views from Newfound Gap to a rocky, rugged precipice. Or check out our full list of our favorite hikes in the Smoky Mountains for more inspiration on ways to explore this especially scenic stretch of the South.


Andrews Bald Map, Directions & Details

Andrews Bald from Clingman's Dome: Forney Ridge Trail Map
This map reflects our route when we last followed the trail. Trails and routes change frequently – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Friends of the Smokies. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the Clingman's Dome parking area.


GPS Coordinates

35.556950, -83.496267     //     N35 33.417 W83 29.776

Elevation Profile

Andrews Bald on the Forney Ridge Trail: Elevation Profile
 
 
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Nicholas Walsh
Author

Nicholas Walsh is a adventure photojournalist from the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The son of avid outdoorsman father and a mother with a passion for education, he sought to wander his home from an early age. With passions for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, surfing, and whitewater paddling developing before his seventh birthday, it became clear that both a personal and professional life spent outdoors and abroad would be in his future. Nick is a freelance photojournalist, based in Atlanta, Georgia with professional affiliations to several media and photographic production firms. Follow him on Instagram: @_shootnick_