This mountain gives one of the best views in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Gregory Bald makes a great day hike for adventurous hikers visiting Cades Cove in the GSMNP. From the top of Gregory Bald (GB) you are on the North Carolina / Tennessee State Line. To the north you look over Cades Cove and to the south you look over Fontana Lake into the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness. In the Summer many people start up Gregory Ridge Trail. Most inexperienced park visitors turn back after about three miles. Experienced hikers and backpackers will continue on up the steep trail for the additional three plus miles that leades to the bald. There are Five trails that lead to GB. Three from the North Carolina side and two from the Tennessee side The easiest is from the Parson Branch Road if it is open (see getting there). Spring rains washed it out again in 2003 and it was closed to vehicle travel. The Park service finally got enough funds to repair the road and as of late 2007 it was open. From Parson Branch Road take the Gregory Trail four miles past Sheep Pin Gap (campsite # 13) The hardest trail starts at Twenty Mile Ranger Station off of NC HWY 28 and starts on Twenty Mile Trail for 2.5 miles until the intersection with Long Hungry Trail, (LHT). LHT will intersect with Gregory Bald Trail in about 5 miles and by following Gregory Bald Trail for a little over a mile to the West you will emerge onto the Bald.
Most people leave from either Twenty Mile Ranger Station in North Carolina off of NC Hwy 28 or Cades Cove from the parking area at the end of Forge Creek Road in Tennessee. Both of these locations can be found on any map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Parson's Branch Road is now re-opened it is the closest trailhead to the Bald.
Permits or fees are required to enter the park or to climb if you are going to stay overnight. There are some campsites that require a reservation number and the closest campsite, #13 is one of them. Call 865-436-1231 for reservations. Anytime you plan on being in the park overnight you must request a backcountry permit. You can get the permit by telephone, website, or in person at a ranger station.
When To Climb
Any time of the year is a good time to climb. Only experienced cold weather climbers should try it during the winter months. My wife and I have climbed this mountain during every month. We have had to turn back in December and January due to deep snow. The trails are not wide enough for snowshoes, they will hang up on the vegitation. In the winter we have spent several days in the area when the temperture never got above 12 degrees F.
Campsites 12, 13, 92, and 93 are the closest to the bald. There are no huts but there is an Appalachian Trail shelter about six miles to the East. The Appalachian Trail used to go across Gregory Bald before the Fontana Dam was built. The Trail now goes across the Dam and by-passes GB. Campsite 13 requires reservations and has limited space. The recent Summer and early Fall have been very dry. Check with the rangers about water supplies on the Bald before you go. You may need to pack in your water until the area gets additional rain.
You can get weather and other conditions information from the backcountry information desk at 865-436-1230.
Whitetail deer can often be observed as they browse on the bald. Black Bear and wild hogs will often leave signs but are more elusive. Over 40 years of no hunting has made most of the wildlife unafraid of humans. I have had deer come within inches of me while relaxing in a hammock. During warm weather we have seen several rattlesnakes sunning themself near campsite 13. All of the rattlesnakes that I have come across have been pretty laid back and seem non-agressive by nature.
If you get to the Gregory Bald area by motor vehicle plan on spending at least half a day in historic Cades Cove. There is an eleven mile one way loop through the cove that gives you one of the best chances to see native wildlife. The loop opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. Early morning and late evening are the best times to view wildlife. Mid day is a great time for exploring the original cabins and churches. Plan on at least three hours to drive the loop. Traffic can be heavy and the pace is slow. During the Summer months the road is closed to motor vehicles until 10:00 AM on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check with the rangers for details. When the road is closed to motor vehicles it is a great walk or bicycle ride. The paved roads are smooth enough for road bicycles. In late June of 2015 I planned on hiking in from the trail head out of the cove. Traffic was so heavy that when wildlife was spotted, everything stopped. I started hiking up to the bald two hours later than I planned. I set up camp in the rain in the dark.