Andrews Bald & Clingman’s Dome

  • Highlights: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, bald summits, great views, wildlife
  • Distance: 4.8 miles, out and back
  • Elevation change: 1,490 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate/Difficult
  • Trailhead Parking: Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center parking area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Website: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Beer Pairings: Boojum Brewery—Graveyard Fields porter and Gem & Juice IPA

The Hike:

This hike is a “two-for-one” special. The trailheads begin at the same location but head into two different directions. Clingman’s Dome is a short, very popular hike to an observation tower with great views. It gets crowded so we did this one first. From the parking area, follow the paved path uphill .5 miles to the summit. The Appalachian Trail crosses here and at 6,625 Clingman’s Dome is the highest point on the entire AT. Climb to the top, take some photos, and check it off the list.

Return back to the parking lot and on your right is the trail head for the Forney Ridge Trail which leads to Andrew’s Bald. Trails in GSMNP are not marked with colored blazes. Instead, they have weathered wood signs at junctions. To reach Andrew’s Bald, follow the Forney Ridge Trail down a gradual descent for 1.8 miles. Rhododendron and mountain laurel line the trail and when they are in bloom this must be spectacular. We visited in April and had intermittent snow flurries with no blooms on any of the wildflowers. 

The summit of Andrew’s Bald is dotted with patches of rhododendron, blackberry, and raspberry. Our views from the summit were limited due to the weather. On a clear day when the wildflowers are in bloom in May/June the views must be amazing. Retrace your steps, uphill this time, to return to your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Boojum Brewery in Waynesville is a nice brewpub with indoor and outdoor seating, live music, pub food, and really good beer. Kathy really liked Gem & Juice, a hazy New England style IPA with a pleasant citrus flavor and aroma. It was nicely hopped at 35 IBUs. Pete enjoyed Graveyard Fields porter, named after a great hike near the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a classic English style Brown Porter with notes of caramel and coffee.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.