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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