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Ascent of Potato Knob on 2011-05-07

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, May 7, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Potato Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6400 ft / 1950 m

Ascent Trip Report

The state park office is at Stepps Gap, which is the most direct access to Potato Knob. When I asked about hiking to Potato Knob, however, I was advised to follow the MST (Mountains-to-Sea Trail), which involves 1000 feet of climbing instead of 500.

I didn't ask why, but I eventually found out. A no-trespassing sign has recently been posted near the cabin that has been a landmark on the hike from Stepps Gap.

The MST trailhead is 0.5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC 128. Park on the gravel pullout on the R, and the MST heads west up some steps on the other side of the road. This is a pleasant hike with some nice views along the way and not nearly as steep as I feared, looking at the topo. I reached the ridge W of Potato Knob in 1:18 and then bushwhacked 24 minutes to the summit. GPS says 1.88 miles from the trailhead. Considering how steep Potato Knob looks from the Parkway, the summit was a letdown with no views. If it wasn't the Buncombe County HP, there would be little reason to visit.

(I have since learned of a more direct route that climbs the steep face of Potato Knob, called the Grey Eagle Rock trail. The Swannanoa Valley Museum leads a hike up this trail each July.)

My 73rd COHP and 38th in NC.

I continued north to bag Clingmans Peak, Mt. Gibbes, and Mt. Hallback--over 6,000 feet all the way. The trail north of Potato Knob is unblazed but wellworn and unmistakable, following the wildlife boundary. A stone cabin (complete with arched windows and satellite TV) has been built next to the aforementioned log cabin. I followed the driveway up to the radio tower road, where I found a sign facing the road that says "PRIVATE TRAIL/No Trespassing".

Unless you are willing to walk past that sign, the best way to Potato Knob is via the MST.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:1080 ft / 329 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Weather:Pleasant, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1080 ft / 329 m
    Extra Loss:80 ft / 24 m
    Distance:1.9 mi / 3 km
    Route:MST westbound, then bushwhack
    Trailhead:NC 128  5400 ft / 1645 m
    Time Up:1 Hours 42 Minutes
Descent Statistics
Ascent Part of Trip: Southern Black Mtns

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Potato Knob2011-05-07 a
2Clingmans Peak2011-05-07 b
3Mount Gibbes2011-05-07 c
4Mount Hallback2011-05-07 d

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