Trail: Andrews Bald | Forney Ridge Trail
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Mountain Trail, Multitude of Rocks
Distance: 3.6 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Foot Traffic: Crowded
Restrooms: Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Scenic Views, Wildflowers
Andrews Bald | Forney Ridge Trail Trailhead
From Sugarlands Visitor Center: Turn onto Newfound Gap Road (US 441) and drive toward Cherokee for 13.1 miles. Turn right onto Clingman’s Dome Road and drive another 6.9 miles to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot.
From Oconaluftee Visitor Center: Turn right onto Newfound Gap Road (US 441) and drive 15.5 miles toward Gatlinburg. Turn left onto Clingman’s Dome Road and drive another 6.9 miles to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot.
After arriving at the parking area, walk toward the visitor center on the wide paved path. Just past the large boulders, a smaller mountain trail goes off to the left. Take this trail for 0.2 mile and turn left onto Forney Ridge Trail.
RELATED: Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Centers
Andrews Bald | Forney Ridge Trail Description
The consensus among hikers is that the hike to Andrews Bald on Forney Ridge Trail, and the view from there, is excellent. However, hikers disagree on the difficulty rating of the trail, mainly because of the multitude of rocks one has to deal with.
Recent trail improvements by the Friends of the Smokies through the Trails Forever program made Forney Ridge Trail easier to hike. Even so, the vast number of rocks remains a menace to the feet and ankles. Our grade is “moderate” due to the rocks and the 839 feet elevation change.
Forney Ridge Trail begins a descent and continues downhill for the first mile. At the 0.9 mile, you will come to Forney Creek Trail; continue straight. The trail then begins a short ascent to Andrews Bald, another 0.5 mile.
Flame Azaleas | Andrews Bald | Photo: © John Parker
John Parker is a fantastic wildflower photographer. John spends a lot of his time hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park with his camera. The above photo is from his recent early morning hike to Andrews Bald.
Andrews Bald is a fantastic place for an early/late summer picnic (to avoid the heat) and the view of Fontana Lake is spectacular on a clear day. Wildflowers, rhododendron, and flaming azaleas cover the highest bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with color.
Nearby Points of Interest
Clingman’s Dome is a must. You cannot park in the Clingman’s Dome parking area and not do Clingman’s Dome! Chimney Tops Trail is just 13 miles back toward Gatlinburg. Chimney Tops is a “strenuous” hike, but the payoff is amazing.