Gregory Bald is on the western end of the Smoky Mountains rising above Cades Cove with an elevation of 4,949 feet. It is named after Russell Gregory, an early settler in Cades Cove who used the 10 acre meadow for grazing.
Gregory Bald is a type of mountain known as a grassy bald unlike most summits which are heavily forested.While it is not clear if the bald was created by nature or cleared by early settlers for grazing, it is one of two balds the park service maintains to keep from becoming forested.
We chose to do the Gregory Ridge Trail, an 11 mile round-trip hike which begins at the end of the Forge Creek Road just past the Cable Mill area in Cades Cove. We could have taken a two mile round-trip shorter trail, but it's location on a one-way road requires a long out-of-the-way trip back to the hotel so we opted for the longer trail. This tough trip gains 3000 feet in elevation.
This hike was on my to-do-list for a long time but we were never there at the right time, so we finally planned this vacation around the time the azaleas are normally in bloom. Luckily, I think we hit it pretty much at peak.
After a strenuous 6 mile hike we emerged from the woods onto the grassy bald. Our tiredness disappeared as we were overcome by the beauty of the azaleas.
Wall to wall azaleas.This has to be one of the best displays of azaleas on the planet. They were just stunning! Everywhere you looked, bright pinks, reds and orange painted the bald.
I was glad we made it up early enough to see the dew on the azaleas.
I decided the coral and pink shades were my favorite.
The white ones seemed to be the scarcest.....
and we only found a few yellow ones.
On a clear day Gregory's Bald offers a full panoramic view of the park, but it's pretty cloudy and hazy on this day. The clouds lifted just enough to give us a view of Cades Cove.
Yellow tinged with pink. So pretty!
I could have stayed up here all day but we have a long hike back down. I highly recommend this hike but it is strenuous so plan accordingly. Take lots of water and some high calorie food with you.
A few photos taken on the hike down. A very knobby tree I liked.
I spotted these beside the trail on the way down. Unlike most plants Indian Pipes lack chlorophyll, the stuff that makes plants green. It looks like a fungus but it's an actual flowering plant.
Mountain Laurels were blooming in the lower elevations.
Footbridge over Forge Creek.
The hills are alive with the sound of music
With songs they have sung for a thousand years
The hills fill my heart with the sound of music
My heart wants to sing every song it hears
I go to the hills when my heart is lonely
I know I will hear what I've heard before
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I'll sing once more
Lyrics from the Musical "The Sound of Music"