If you have at least half a day to commit to hiking in the Clingmans Dome area we highly recommend taking the Forney Ridge Trail from the Clingmans Dome Trailhead and parking area to Andrews Bald. This is a relatively short hike down and across Forney Ridge to the high elevation bald from the end of Clingmans Dome Road, just 27 miles from Cherokee. Please come prepared with your best pair of hiking boots. This trail is ROCKY. And if you come during/after a rain shower or storm the trail can potentially turn into a small creek, so be aware. You probably will decide against a hike in the rain anyways, but if you do, you'll know what to expect. In just a moment from the start of the trail, the "AT" branches off to your Right and Forney Ridge Trail and Andrews Bald is to your Left. After about a mile or so into your hike the Forney Creek Trail branches off to the Right. Here you'll need to continue straight ahead on "Forney Ridge Trail" and on to Andrews Bald in under a mile. For some of the best viewpoints from the bald continue through the grassy bald for a about 50 to 100 yards. See the Southern portion of the GSMNP as well as Fontana Lake. You are surrounded by mountain range after mountain range. We suggest planning on an A.M hike out to the bald from Clingmans Dome Road. Pack a picnic, blanket, camera and binoculars for an ultimate journey in the Smokies. As always, be sure to check the weather before you embark upon any hike in the Smokies. Bad lightning storms can pop up as well as thick fog banks and blankets, so please be aware of what the weather is doing. Fog makes views from the summit impossible. Andrews Bald, just like any other high elevation hike in the Smokies, makes for spectacular Fall foilage hikes/views. We highly recommend getting off the "beaten path" while in the Smokies late October to early November. The more you seek trails like Andrews Bald, the fewer folks you run into. The main parking lot maybe full, but the crowds will be at Clingmans Dome. However, this trail isn't for everyone. The hike back to the parking area gains approx. 900 feet and is rocky. Having said that, if you are prepared with proper hiking equipment (i.e. shoes) you should be fine. Enjoy!
From Cherokee, NC take U.S. Hwy-441 North into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue for 20 miles on this curvy two-lane highway to Clingmans Dome Road on your Left. Take this road for a steady 7 mile climb to the parking lot for Clingmans Dome and Forney Ridge Trail at just over 6,300 feet of elvevation. From the parking area head towards the paved path for Clingmans Dome. Here you need to pick up the side "Forney Ridge Trail" to the Left and down hill. At approx. 1 mile into your hike the Forney Ridge Trail continues on to the Right. Here you will need to keep straight and out to Andrews Bald.