Last weekend, the Browne’s were going on a hike up to Gregory Bald to attempt to catch the infamous Flame Azaleas at their peak. They invited us along for the ride, err hike, I should say and we graciously accepted being the mountain loving, hiking crazed fiends that we are. Hubs knows about every trail in the Smokies thanks to his mom, who coincidentally was going up to Gregory Bald that same day.
There are two trails up to the Bald – Gregory Ridge Trail and Gregory Bald Trail off of the primitive Parsons Branch Road. I threw in the primitive because that was in fact on the sign onto the road. Here is a glimpse thanks to someone who took their camera along for the ride:
We almost got stuck a few times in the AWD Subaru. I cannot imagine how anyone in a MINI Cooper could have done it. This road is closed quite frequently due to it’s “primitive” nature; in fact I read this morning that it is closed this week due to mud, so anyone looking to visit Gregory Bald for the Flame Azaleas will be forced to take the longer route of Gregory Ridge Trail, which is 2 miles longer than the 9 mile trek we made.
Gregory Bald Trail sees an elevation gain of 2300 feet in 4.5 miles with the last mile the hardest.
Trailhead – image borrowed from another blog since we didn’t get a picture of it. Bad photographer, bad.
Some of our first glimpses of the flame azaleas!
And we are there! The bald is essentially a 10 acre field. Farmers that lived in Cades Cove used it as a place to herd and graze cattle. No one knows if it was cleared naturally or by man.
According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them.
Twas gorgeous up there last weekend. Some of the blooms had still not opened, so you may still have your shot at catching the Azaleas at or near peak. If you cannot make it in June, I’ve heard August is also a good time to go. The wild blueberries on the bald are ripe for picking, but beware bears love blueberries. Beagles love blueberries too, but no reason to fear coming across a Beagle in the woods.
Speaking of coming across a bear…this little guy was just moseying down Parsons Branch road on our way out.
Thank goodness we were in the car at this point or I might have needed a change of clothes. We didn’t stay long for pictures – he took one step forward to either pose or make a strong point that our presence wasn’t welcome.
I’ll warn you that Parsons Branch road is one-way and it spits you out onto the Dragon for the drive home. So if you have a weak stomach when it comes to car rides, I’d recommend taking the other trail to Gregory Bald.