Monday, October 7, 2013

Julian Price Park - Lake Loop and Green Knob Loop


                                          GREEN KNOB LOOP

Green Knob Summit
On the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, just past Moses Cone Visitor's Center and just past the Price Park picnic area and right before you get to the Price Lake is a small pond .... Sims Pond...

On a overcast Sunday afternoon in early fall, we decided to go looking for colorful leaves and decided to take in two short hikes...the first being the Green Knob Loop, a 2.4 mile loop hike which begins at Sims Pond.  Leaving the pond, the trail leads into the mountain forest.  Surrounded by rhododendrons, this trail soon is covered by a golden canopy of changing leaves.

The trail follows Sims Creek upstream offering several nice views of the clear cold water flowing down the mountain side to the pond. 

The roar of the mountain creek is soon replaced by the roar of automobiles crossing the bridge over Sims Creek.

Passing beneath the underpass, the trail leaves the creek as it winds uphill.  The trail does not look steep but even on a cool day we worked up a nice lather as we trudged through the forest.  At one spot where we took a break to let our hearts catch up with our feet, I spied an unusual tree.  The lichen on the north side of the tree looked like stair steps.

Not far from the tree, the forest ended and we emerged into a lush green meadow. 

In the meadow even in early October there were wildflowers adding their contrasting color to the scene.  

From a well placed bench in the center of the meadow,  I  even got to see some of the last honey bees of the season work hard to gather the nectar from the fading blossoms. 

“We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.”  
- Muriel Barbery

Leaving the meadow and taking the trail up toward the Green Knob meadow, we glanced back and perhaps captured one of the best views of the hike.  Always look back down the trail when you hike as you may gain a new perspective of the scene...what do you think?

As we left this meadow the trail steepened and we briefly found ourselves beneath another leafy canopy.

The Green Knob Summit is another meadow, but is not as large as the one on the lower slopes but nevertheless is just as picturesque.   The trail skirts the summit and proceeds downhill.  I had hoped to see the mountains to the northwest but the leafy trees hid them from me.

The trail is a very steep downhill trek.  You do not want to reverse the loop.  I now know why the hike from the creek to the meadow was deceptively strenuous.  It is about a 500 foot change in elevation.  But near the bottom of the forest part of the trail is a large oak tree beneath which is a bench.  From this bench you can see through a leafy window the distant Grandfather Mountain which today was partially covered with clouds.

Not far from the big oak tree is the third and final meadow of the trail.  This meadow is overgrown but from the trail are the best views of the surrounding mountains.

As the trail leaves the third meadow, it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway just below the Sims Pond overlook.  Of course we could not leave the trail without a last look at this picturesque pond.

We were especially drawn to the play of a family and their brown lab.  The dog was swimming after a stick and retrieving it only to splash after it as it was tossed again into the pond.  We regretted we never brought our beloved Shadow to this spot but vicariously enjoyed from a distance the love of a family and their dog. 


The Price Lake is the most distinctive feature of this wonderful park.   Julian Price Memorial Park has been a favorite of mine since I was a boy camping with my family in the campground which borders the western side of the lake.  The last time I hiked this trail was about 45 years ago...dang the FBWG is getting old!

Taking the loop from the Lake Overlook, we went north through the campground.  As a result of the government shutdown the normally vibrant campground was empty...a ghost town offering memories of my youth as we passed the old campsites and walked through the camp amphitheater.

The first part of the trail is handicap accessible.  Nice wide graveled trail combined with wooden bridges made the hike a much different experience than I had decades earlier.  The bridges made it much easier to negotiate the swampy southern end of the lake crossing many of the feeder creeks of the lake.  We captured on nice shot of a reflective pool before we left the handicap trail for the narrower lake side trail

The narrower lake side trail weaved its way along the lake shore occasionally deviating into the rhododendron forest.  Mixed in with lake views were some nice looks at the changing color of the forest.

As we made our way around the fingers of the lake, we saw an ever changing view of the lake especially as the sun was covered time and again by the shifting clouds.

From the eastern side of the lake, we again got to glimpse the shrouded peaks of Grandfather Mountain in the distance.

The sun glistening over the rippling surface of the lake is a nice visual contrast with the cloudy sky and the distant blue mountain.

We waited for several minutes watching the distant cloud move over the peak of Grandfather Mountain hoping to get a clear view of the summit but the weather would not cooperate so we moved on.  Nevertheless the clouds offer a unique view of the peak almost like the forest peak was on fire.

These two trails offer a nice Sunday Afternoon hike.  Julian Price Park is just north of Blowing Rock about 2.5 hours from the Triad.  By combining the two hikes we got in almost 5 miles.  So I will rate them together... Access 9; Trails 8... Scenery 8...Overall a solid 8.  These are trails which are great for the family and for anyone who wants to start hiking.

Leaving the Park we could not resist riding across the nearby Linn Cove Viaduct.  This is one of the most picturesque sites on the parkway especially as the color of the forest changes with autumn.  Stopping at the Stack Rock Overlook, I captured some nice shots of the mountains to the southeast of Grandfather Mountain.

It is hard to imagine that wildflowers would still be in bloom in early October but like  Oliver Wendell Holmes observed: "The 'Amen' of Nature is always a flower." 


  1. This place looks so serene...I can't wait to get out of the city and go to a place like this! Thanks for posting - beautiful pics :)

  2. Your post on Sims Pond is the best I have seen Thanks for the commentary, quotes, and poetry. Good pics too!

  3. of my favorite hikes that anyone can do on the Blue Ridge Parkway.....