Great Smoky Mountains: Clingman’s Dome, Andrew’s Bald & Mountain Layers Brewing

Bryce City, NC

Okay finally getting around to sharing one of our Hike n Hops from Sep ‘22 trip to the Great Smoky Mountains! Although we didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted here, we did do this awesome hike that included the iconic 360 view from Clingmans Dome. Then we did a trek along Andrew’s Bald, which took us through incredibly lush forests. After exploring more of the park, we ended our day at Mountain Layers Brewing in Bryson City!

THE HIKE: Clingmans Dome & Andrews Bald Trail

Length: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 1100 ft
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2.5 hours
Trail use: Hiking Only
Parking: Large lot at trailhead with pit toilets
H&H: 5/5

Clocking in at just over 6,600 ft tall, Clingmans Dome is the tallest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! It’s a popular spot for visitors, who, after a heart-pumping climb to the top, can see up to 100 miles on a clear day. You can access Clingmans Dome by taking the Clingmans Dome Access road at about MM 15 on Newfound Gap road (the main scenic byway linking Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC). This is a very popular area of the park so be prepared for traffic and crowds! We aimed to start our day at this point so we could beat the crowds! After parking at the trailhead, there’s a paved path up to the viewing tower. But don’t let the pavement trick you, it’s an incredibly steep hike and we had to stop and catch our breath a few times. The view from the Dome absolutely makes it all worth it though! It was fairly cloudy when we first arrived but thankfully a cool breeze moved some of the clouds away and we got some stunning views of the woods. 


Always bring extra layers when going to Great Smoky National Park! The weather can be much cooler than expected!

After the Dome, a friendly ranger convinced us to check out a side trail to Andrews Bald. We’re so glad that we took this advice since it ended up being one of our favorite parts of the trip. We had the trail nearly to ourselves and couldn’t believe the amount of plant life in the overgrowth! The unique climate of GSMNP makes it flush with mushrooms and moisture-loving critters. In fact, the Mountains are known as the salamander capital of the world since more than 30 distinct species of salamanders can be found there! The Great Smokies are also known and beloved for their black bear population but sadly we didn’t see any on this trip! 

So you might be wondering, what the heck is a bald? Grassy balds are treeless, grassy meadows that occur below timberline and mostly on ridgetops in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The really cool thing about them is no one is really sure where they came from. These areas are incredible to experience though because one minute you’ll be hiking through dense tree coverage and then suddenly it opens to a grassy field with vistas of the surrounding mountains. We sat with the majesty of Andrew’s Bald for a while, especially since we had the place to ourselves. It was the perfect spot to relax and even a little bird friend wanted to say hi! But for the most part, I think I’ll just let the pictures of this awesome trail speak for itself!

THE BEER: Mountain Layers Brewing Company

Address: 90 Everett St, Bryson City, NC 28713
Distance from Trail Head: 30 miles, 50 mins 
Food?: Food Trucks
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly outside

After a day full of hiking, beautiful vistas, stunning waterfalls, and many granola bars, we were ready for a brew! Honestly sometimes doing a Hike n Hop can be pretty difficult in a National Park because you have to go to the nearest city which can be quite a drive! For our trip, we were staying in Asheville and knew that we wanted to head back along the Blue Ridge Parkway, so a stop in Bryson City seemed like a plan! 

Mountain Layers Brewing Company has been a local establishment in Bryson City since 2014. They pride themselves on making fresh delicious beer and being a welcoming spot for the community and visitors alike! Their location has a small front taproom inside or a sprawling roof patio. They also frequently have rotating food trucks for all of your post hike needs! Having visited in mid September, we were happy to see some fall beers on the tap list and really enjoyed the Oktoberfest! The folks at Mountain Layers were incredibly friendly and I’m so glad that we chose this spot to fuel up before our long drive back to Asheville!

Our Beer:

  • Oktoberfest – Amber Layer – 5.9%
  • Fontana Hoppiness – IPA – 6.5%
  • Elk Watch Stout – Irish Dry Stout – 5.6%
  • Dragon Tamer – NEIPA – 5.8%
  • Wee Be Heavy – Scotch Ale – 6.5%
  • Prickly Pear – Gose – 4.3%

Stay tuned for more of our Great Smoky Mountain NP and Asheville trip!

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