With a summit view topping many lists as the best vista in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gregory Bald is also rich in history. The Cherokee called the mountain "Tsistu'yi," or "Rabbit Place." They believed that a mischievous chief of all rabbits lived on the grassy bald, known simply as the Great Rabbit. The mountain was originally surveyed by Arnold Guyot in 1856, who named it “Great Bald’s Central Peak” in his trip through the Smokies. The peak was eventually renamed by Cades Cove settlers after Russell Gregory, a Cades Cove settler who helped settle the mountain, who was killed by Confederate soldiers in 1864.
The hike begins at the Twentymile Ranger station just south of the park, and heads north into the forest. The climb is very steady for about 3 miles until the grade really starts the steepen. Make sure you head up to the top for sunrise and sunset; it’s a bit of an extra climb, but you won’t regret it. On the second day there is an option to return to your car more quickly, but the Shuckstack Fire Tower stands resolute as a worthwhile detour for the views over the lake and Fontana Dam.
If you need a refill, you’ll find water halfway between where you turn onto the Appalachian Trail and the spur trail to the fire tower. It’s only a few hundred feet off trail at a campsite, and it is signed well. You will be stuck in the trees for the remainder of the hike once you leave the ridge, but don’t distress, as wildflowers and some interesting rapids in the river will entertain you during your final miles.