Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Are you ready for Gregory Bald this June?

Although Gregory Bald is an excellent destination anytime of the year, mid to late June is the absolute best time to make the trek to the summit. In addition to its excellent views of Cades Cove, Gregory Bald provides for one of the best flame azalea shows in the world during this time period.

In fact, azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet. 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.

This isn't an easy hike, however; the Gregory Ridge Trail climbs over 3000 feet, and the roundtrip hike is 11.3 miles - but it's well worth it. This is without a doubt one of the top hikes in the Smokies - no matter what time of year you decide to hike it.

I know there's already speculation that peak bloom for the azaleas may occur earlier than normal this year due to the unseasonably warm weather. However, according to a 2009 article in Smokies Life Magazine, records kept between 1935 and 1962 show that peak bloom for flame azaleas occurs between June 13 and June 24. I would expect that this years peak bloom will likely occur during the earlier part of that range. Before that, I don't know...

Here's a preview of some of the sights you'll see at the top of the bald:

For more information on this hike, please click here.

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Rich Osings said...

I used to work for the NC Arboretum, researching the Gregory azaleas. IIRC, I remember someone telling me that June 26 was never too late in their experience.

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Rich - those stats reflect peak bloom from the overall perspective. Yes, there will still be blooms to enjoy after the peak. But, given the warmer weather this year, I wouldn't wait too lait into June - just to be safe!