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July Classic Hike: AT and Mountains to Sea Trail

July 19, 2018

picnic at Andrews Bald - photo by Linda Spangler

Beth Ransom led the July hike. Beth joined FOTS when she began hiking GSMNP trails, after she completed the Carolina Mountain Club’s Pisgah 400 (hiking all 400 miles of trails in the Pisgah Ranger District) and South Beyond 6000 (40 selected southeastern 6,000-foot peaks).

by Beth Ransom

The July Classic Hike of the Smokies was a section of the Appalachian Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail (MST). The hike was held on Tuesday, July 10. We had 16 hikers in the group.

hikers on appalachian trail - photo by Linda Spangler

The white blazes on trees mark the Appalachian Trail.

We all met at the top of Clingmans Dome Road parking lot and set up a shuttle back to the Fork Ridge trailhead.

We all packed into three cars and travelled back down the road to park across from the AT/MST trail access.

Hiking group at Andrews Bald

The hiking group at Andrews Bald.

The total hiking distance for the day was approximately 7.3 miles. The hike began on the west side of Clingmans Dome Road directly across from the Fork Ridge trailhead.

We entered a small passage onto the trail and turned left to hike south on the AT/MST.

The purpose of this section was to showcase the Mountains to Sea Trail that runs concurrently with the AT for about 3.7 miles.  The western terminus for the MST is at the base of the Clingmans Dome tower.

Clingmans Dome tower

Clingmans Dome tower in the fog.

The Park Service announced on Friday, July 6, that the observation tower at Clingmans Dome would be closed for approximately two weeks starting July 10.

We were lucky to find the ramp to the observation tower open when we finished hiking the MST/AT. Several hikers took advantage of the ramp being open and walked up for a view — though limited by a bit of mist.

Forney Ridge Trail

The hike continued with a nice walk down the paved walkway to the parking lot. The group continued hiking along the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald.

The steps, water control and boardwalks along the upper portion of Forney Ridge Trail were much appreciated. This work was done by the Trails Forever crew.

view from Andrews Bald - photo by Linda Spangler

The hiking group had great views from Andrews Bald, their picnic location.

The hiking group was able to enjoy a lovely lunch at Andrews Bald with wonderful views of Fontana Lake. (See photo at the top of the post.)

After a short rest and some chocolate, the group returned via the Forney Ridge Trail to the Clingmans Dome parking lot.

We saw wildflowers and the sun did break through periodically during our walk along the AT/MST.

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Thanks to Linda Spangler for the photos from the AT/MST hike.

The next Friends of the Smokies Classic Hike will be Bradley Fork to Cabin Flats on Tuesday, August 14. The hike is 9.8 miles, with a 800-foot ascent and rated moderately strenuous.

Individual hikes are $20 for current Friends of the Smokies members and $35 for new and renewing members. Funds go to support the Trails Forever program that restores popular trails in the GSMNP.

The Classic Hikes of the Smokies series is sponsored by Smoky Mountain Living, Mission Health, Diamond Brand Outdoors, Equilibar, HomeTrust Bank, Smoky Park Supper Club, and Leap Frog Tours.