ELK KNOB STATE PARK
MT. JEFFERSON STATE PARK
There are two small state parks within 40 minutes of each other that boast some of the highest peaks and best views of all the State Parks of the North Carolina. Elk Knob State Park is located off Meat Camp Road in Watauga County and Mt. Jefferson State Park is located off NC 221 between West Jefferson and Jefferson in Ashe County....we visited them both on the same day!
Elk Knob is a new park and has just opened a new trail to the summit. It is one of the best designed trails I have trod.
Don't let the trail sign fool you...it may be 1.9 mile trail...but there is about a 950 foot elevation change from the trailhead to the summit....the first .5 mile of the trail gets the old thumper thumping!
About halfway up the mountain at about 5000 feet in elevation you get the first glimpse of some of spectacular views to come.
The trail is really very well designed with frequent switchbacks which mask the severe elevation change....it is also very well constructed gravel path with frequent rock benches....a nice place to rest your dogs.
Nicely arranged rock steps are located in a couple places along the trail to aid the hiker but if you read this blog you know I hate steps no matter how pretty they are!
You can tell that you are getting closer to the summit as the trees begin to get shorter...not yet having blossomed the Elk Knob trail has an interesting contrast in color.
The first view you get as you near the summit is a nice look at a distant blue Grandfather Mountain.
The Summit offers two places to rest and enjoy the incredible views....if you go to the Southern overlook first you get to see the western mountains and south into Tennessee!
The Western vista features Grandfather and Sugar Mountains....note the box feature of the Sugarloaf condo...
But as nice as the views are at the Southern overlook, they are simply incredible at the Northern overlook. Just to the left of the green Peak Mountain in the foreground is the blue silhouette of the highest peak in Virginia- Mt Rogers!
On a clear day the sign says you can even see Pilot Mountain!...guess what it was a clear day!
The clouds of the Northeastern sky were very impressive. I can't decide which view was the best...what about you?
There is no trail in the State of North Carolina less than two miles in length that provides the views that we enjoyed at Elk Knob....at 5520 feet you can see easily into Tennessee and Virginia. You can also see the highest peaks in two states....Mt Rogers in VA and Mt Mitchell in NC.
|FBWG on a Rock Throne|
The trail is very nice...well designed with great switchbacks....9.....access is good....take 194 off 421 at Deep Gap and the park is about 10 miles away on Meat Camp Road...8....The views are spectacular....10....This trail is a solid 9....and is one that anyone can hike!
|The Town of Jefferson is at the foot of Mt Jefferson|
We set the GPS and traveled some down home mountain roads crossing from Watauga to Ashe County and made it to Mt. Jefferson in about 40 minutes....This is a park I had written off mainly because the trail was so short....1.5 miles round trip...but decided since the day was early and we were close by to check it out and I am glad we did.
You ride to the summit on the mountain on a nice paved road. The main trail is the Rhododendron Trail which at its halfway point takes you to a nice overlook named Luther Rock.
|Looking at the New River from Luther's Rock|
Mt. Jefferson has two peaks....one with a transmission tower...the other Luther Rock. From Luther Rock you have an 180 degree view of the surrounding countryside and to my amazement if you look to the Northeast you can see Pilot Mountain in the distance.
Luther's Rock is well over 4000 feet in elevation and spring is also late at this elevation and blossoms make a nice window frame for my picture of the western mountains.
We finished the Rhododendron loop trail choosing not to venture down the "Lost Province" trail as the FBWG has a thing about not taking any trail that has the word "lost" in its name... just sayin....but on the ride out I did stop at a great overlook and got another good picture of the blue Grandfather Mountain in the western sky.
Mt. Jefferson is not a hike you should plan to take but if you are in the area it is worth a stop. The access is nice.....9.....the views are pretty good....8....the trails are short and not very scenic save Luther's Rock....6.....so the FBWG rates it a 7....but you got to admit the park does have a pretty cool sign!