Monday, October 17, 2016

Black Mountains- Green Knob Tower


Driving south on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the intersection with NC 80, you will come upon a popular overlook - Green Knob Overlook.  I counted 10 photographers in this one spot!  They forced me to take my picture from beneath a tree!

For the second weekend of October, the leaves were yet to peak but the color provided was enough to make for some nice pictures nonetheless.
Looking south the color of autumn was beginning to brightly show against the background of distant peaks.
In a couple of weeks this entire mountain would be splashed with color, but today the bright red of maples dotted the oak covered ridge.

We did not travel to this overlook for the view. We parked there so that we could hike the Green Knob Tower Trail.  On top of this colorful knob is an abandoned fire tower from which we were promised a view of the Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains.

Donning our hiking gear we set off to find the unmarked trail head.  Our directions were to walk north on the parkway for 100 yards and look across the road.  About where this motorcycle is in the picture, we found a well worn but unmarked trail just as our trail research promised.

The trail is a narrow switchback trail that quickly rises above the Parkway.  It is a forest trail while well worn, is obviously not regularly used.  Some of the steep parts are festooned with my favorite trail adornment....steps!

The trail is billed to be 3/4 quarters of a mile and I judged that to be about right but it is a 3/4 of a mile climb. We soon saw the fire tower and I quickly climbed the stairs eagerly seeking the promised 360 degree view....only to be disappointed as a sturdy lock confined me to the top steps.  Still the view to the west was amazing!

The contrast of color and shifting sunlight, together with moving clouds made the view change with each look.  Disappointed to find Mt. Mitchell covered with clouds, I nevertheless was able to snap some nice shots of her sister peaks.

As I awaited clouds to move I heard the familiar sound of hikers and their dogs coming down the trail. Appearing was three huffing and puffing young people who had trudged up the Green Knob Trail from the South Toe River.  We saw this trail head when we hiked the South Toe River loop and had considered taking the trail this time...boy we are glad we didn't as these kids are in the flower of their youth and they said it was a grueling 3.5 mile climb with few switchbacks.  Their names were Paul, Wyman and Lindsey.  Their dogs were named Balto and Lucy....great folks!

Fearing the clouds would soon spoil our planned trip to Mt. Mitchell, we left the Green Knob Tower to our young friends and moved down the trail. But we paused at the Green Knob Trail head from which the young folks had emerged and marveled at the late blooming blue bells.

If you want to visit the Green Knob Tower, don't take the trail from the South Toe River.  It is too grueling and has no views.  The Green Knob Tower Trail accessed from the Parkway is the best way to visit this place.  The trail access is a 9....only because we followed the directions so well....park at the Green Knob Overlook....walk 100 yards north on the

parkway and look for the trail head...if you get to the big oak overhanging the Parkway you have missed it.  The trail is a great trail....steep and short with plenty of switchbacks...but it is narrow and unmarked...rate that an 8....The scenery is nice but because there is no access to the top of the tower, it is limited to a westward view.  Rate this an 8...could be a 10 if you could get to the top of the tower.  Effort to view is about right...the overall trail is a solid 8.


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  3. It was so nice meeting you and your wife! Green Knob was a such a tough, steep hike but the view was definitely worth it! - Lindsey Pearson (

  4. you guys were great!....what a tough hike you chose....glad it was you and not me...the view was great...but thanks to your trail report I will pass on the long way up from the Black Mountain campground FBWG