Ten acres of grassy meadow filled with a variety of azaleas await each traveller who chooses to make the steep trek up the mountain. Both the 8.8-mile round-trip hike via Gregory Bald trail and the 11.3-mile round-trip hike up Gregory Ridge trail are strenuous, though the latter covers an elevation gain of over 3000 ft. and is recommended for advanced hikers.
We took the Gregory Ridge trail, enjoying the mountain laurel and the wide variety of flora growing after recent rains. We met a few fellow travelers on both the trail and the bald; the experience of the meadow, the view, and the flowers makes human connection easy. By the second mile up, we knew there were still azaleas in bloom and the view to Cades Cove was clear. Atop the bald, we shared some time with fellow Tennesseans and visitors from Eastern Europe.
When taking either of the trails to the summit, your body may protest, but once you stroll into the sunlight, your soul will soar.