Andrews Bald is the highest grass bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park residing at 5,800 feet on the North Carolina side. To reach Andrews Bald we followed the Forney Ridge Trail for 1.8 miles. The trail-head is reached via the Clingmans Dome parking lot. The trail has a unique drainage system – and therefore trail design – to deal with all the rain and snow melt that run down the side of Clingmans Dome.
The trail descends about a hundred step / path squares in the first tenth of a mile. After that the trail gets more rocky and it’s important to watch where you’re stepping. There is more elevation change as the trail goes on. As a little boy I passed put it – there seems to be more ups than downs, but I think the elevation change is really pretty even with an equal amount of ups and downs. Just remember since it’s an out-and-back trail, whatever you go down you – you must go back up – and vice versa.
Shawn rolled his ankle about a half mile in, so he found a nice spot to set up his REI chair to hangout while I speed hiked to Andrew’s Bald and back.
One mile in, the trail splits with Forney Ridge Trail continuing straight to Andrews Bald. The trail that turns to the right leads down to Forney Creek. At this point the trail started to remind me of the Jordan Pond Path in Acadia National Park (Maine) with its raised boardwalk.
The Frasier Firs of the park are being killed off by the balsam woolly adelgid that was accidentally introduced in the 1950s. Sadly, most of the mature firs in the park are dead. Even so, I still found them interesting to look at.
I wish Shawn had been able to made it to Andrews Bald as it would have been fun to sit and enjoy the view. There were quite a few groups enjoying a nice picnic in the sun. Andrews Bald is well visited because it is the easiest bald in the park for visitors to reach, according to guide books, however it is still possible to find some solitude.
The Forney Ridge Trail continues another 3.8 miles to the Springhouse Branch Trail.