Ascent of Elk Knob on 2011-09-04
|Date:||Sunday, September 4, 2011|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Location:||USA-North Carolina|
| Elevation:||5520 ft / 1682 m|
Ascent Trip ReportToday (Sept 4 2011) was dedication day for the new summit trail. A couple of dozen volunteers and park staff climbed the mountain to put the finishing touches on the trail and celebrate the completion of 5.5 years of work.
This was my 24th ascent of Elk Knob, and I had the honor of dumping the last wheelbarrow of gravel on the end of the trail.
The new trail is 3.8 miles round trip and climbs 960 feet from the parking lot. Most of the hike is under trees, but the views from the summit clearings are well worth the hike.
HUNDRED-MILE VIEWS: On a clear day, five states (NC/SC/TN/VA/KY) are visible from the two overlooks at the summit. This includes 3 state HP's: Mount Mitchell NC, Mount Rogers VA, and Black Mountain KY.
Signs at the overlooks identify a number of recognizable peaks, including Whitetop, Pilot Mtn, Grandfather, and the Roans. If you arrive on a crystal-clear day, you can also look for:
-- Mt Guyot TN/NC (98 miles, 245 degrees W/SW) just to the R of Big Bald from the south overlook. Guyot is the second highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
-- Black Mtn KY (79 miles, 301 degrees W/NW) beyond the N ridge of Snake Mtn, looking W/NW from the road where it twists to the left below the south overlook. With good binoculars and a steady hand, you may be able to spot the white radar dome on top.
-- Whitaker Mtn SC (83 miles, 173 degrees S/SE from the south overlook) at the W end of the ridge that includes Crowders Mtn, Kings Pinnacle, and Kings Mtn.
-- Charlotte skyline (89 miles, 148 degrees S/SE) on the far left side of the south overlook. The 60-story Bank of America tower is the tallest building between Philadelphia and Atlanta.
-- Winston-Salem skyline (82 miles, 100 degrees E) on the far right side of the north overlook. The highest building is the 34-story Wells Fargo Tower (formerly the Wachovia Tower).
(My bearings are based on true north rather than magnetic north, which is +7 here.)
According to peakfinder.org, the view theoretically spans all the way from Flag Pole Mtn (143 miles W, the highest point in the Cumberland Plateau) to Shepherd Mtn (107 miles ESE, the highest in the Uwharrie hills). In all my trips up Elk Knob, I've never been able to spot either of them. However, the reciprocal view should be easier, especially from the fire tower atop Shepherd Mtn.
COUNT THE COUNTIES: I know of no peak in America that commands a view of more county high points than Elk Knob. This is one dimension where the western mountains don't stack up--if only because the eastern counties are smaller and closer together! I have been able to identify 35 county high points visible from Elk Knob. There may be as many as 41, according to peakfinder.org.
Elk Knob State Park acreage includes two COHPs: Johnson TN on Snake Mountain and Ashe NC on The Peak. No trails have been developed to either location.
SWEET & HIGH: Elk Knob and adjacent Snake Mtn (5560) are the HPs in the Amphibolite Range, distinguished by craggy peaks (by southeastern standards, anyway) and "sweet" soil which support several rare species of plants, including Gray's Lily. Elk Knob is the 3rd highest point in Watauga County, after Grandfather Mountain and Snake Mountain. Google Earth shows the summit at 5556. The state park sign says the elevation is 5520, evidently based on the 40-foot contour maps. However, I have seen a 10-foot topo that shows a 5550 contour.
THANKS, NC: The state of North Carolina has been proactive about purchasing large tracts of land along the Blue Ridge to protect mountains from development. Elk Knob is one of four relatively new state parks, along with Grandfather Mountain, Chimney Rock, and Gorges. Facilities at Elk Knob include a picnic area (elev. 4500) and backcountry camping sites (elev. 4000).
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: Elk Knob State Park is 10 miles north of Boone NC. From US421/King Street in Boone, take NC194 north for 4.5 miles. Turn left onto Meat Camp Road and go 5.5 miles to the park entrance on the right.
|Summary Total Data|
| Elevation Gain:||960 ft / 293 m|
| Distance:||3.6 mi / 5.8 km|
| Route:||New trail|
| Trailhead:||State Park trailhead 4560 ft / 1389 m|
| Quality:||10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)|
| Weather:||Drizzle, Hot, Calm, Low Clouds|
| Time Up:||1 Hours |
| Time Down:||40 Minutes|
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