Azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. During our visit last year we saw acres of fire red, wine red, orange, salmon, yellow, white, pink, and even multi-colored azaleas.
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.
The hike to Gregory Bald isn’t exactly easy. You’ll have to hike more than 5.6 miles and climb over 3000 feet to reach the grassy bald summit. Although it takes some effort to get there, the destination is still extremely popular during the peak bloom periods. According to an article in the most recent issue of Smokies Life Magazine, careful records kept from 1935 to 1962 show that peak bloom for flame azaleas occur between June 13 and June 24.
Last year we were at the summit on June 19. Most of the azaleas were at peak bloom that day, but there were some that were a little past peak. This may have been the result of the heat wave that hit the region earlier that month.
In addition to roughly 10 acres of grassy bald meadows and flame azaleas, you’ll have stunning views of Cades Cove and the surrounding mountains, as well as plenty of space to enjoy a picnic lunch.
I would go so far as to say that the hike to Gregory Bald during peak flame azalea bloom season should be on the life list of any self-respecting hiker, gardener, or nature lover!
For more photos and information on hiking the trail to Gregory Bald, please click here.
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