Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Blue Ridge Parkway--Green Knob

Hike: Green Knob Trail
Nearby Town: Blowing Rock, NC
Elevation (Max): 3900'
Elevation Gained: ~460'
Mileage: 2.1
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: This hike is accessible from the Sim's Pond Overlook at Milepost 295.9 between the town of Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain
Web Site:

Sim's Pond

E and I have made it a tradition to head west to the North Carolina mountains every year, usually in October.  Asheville is our usual home base for these trips, but a couple years ago, we decided to explore a new area, so we made out way out to Boone.  Turns out when people say Boone is the coolest place in North Carolina (thermally speaking), they aren't kidding.  E and I tried to save money by staying at a KOA instead of getting a room at a hotel.  Well, the morning we arrived at the KOA, they had an inch of snow on the North Carolina.  The night we were to stay there, it was sleeting, with excessively high winds, so we went through about 8 fire starters without successfully roasting one s'more.  When we tried to go to sleep, I suffered a facial beating as the walls of our tent repeatedly collapsed on me as a result of the relentless winds.  At about 2 in the morning, I started browsing TripAdvisor on my phone and calling the local hotels to see if we could get a room anywhere, and it turned out that out of the 6 or so hotels in Boone, only one had a room available, and we packed up and headed for drier, warmer, and more peaceful sleep.  So much for saving money.

Now, on to the hike.  As you head south from the Blowing Rock area on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Moses Cone and Julian Price parks, you'll see a pull off at Sim's Pond at Milepost 295.9.  The pond is pretty small, but scenic, and there is a trail that crosses the spillway of the pond, and that is the beginning of this hike.  Once you get to the other side of the pond, turn left to head into a dense rhododendron forest.  The trail will go across a few small ups and downs crossing Sim's Creek a couple times.  Some of these stream crossings are easier than others, but none of them are hazardous and the trail is always pretty obvious.  After a little more than a half mile, the trail crosses beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway alongside Sim's Creek.  There is a trail that breaks off here to go to another overlook off the parkway, but ignore it and continue on the trail ahead to make a loop.

The trail continues along the creek for a little while longer before turning left and leaving the creek behind.  The trail also steepens at this point, but what's ahead is a great payoff for your efforts.  The trail sneaks through a narrow opening in a fence to enter a beautiful, hilly pasture.  On our hike, this section simply took our breath away.  There were cows grazing on the hillside with fall colors emerging in the trees lining the pasture.  Open spaces like this can sometimes make staying on a trail difficult, but there was a pretty obvious worn path when we went that made it very easy.

I just love how that one bright red tree stands out

As the trail continues its climb and heads back into the woods, you'll find a bench near an opening in the trees that gives a nice view of some of the mountain peaks beyond.  Continue on just a bit more, though, and the view really opens up as the trail enters a meadow filled with goldenrod.  Looming over the meadow in the distance is Grandfather Mountain.  The trail descends through the meadow, briefly passes through some woods, and drops you off on the Parkway.  Turn left on the road for a quick walk back to the Sim's Pond Overlook where the hike began.  There was something about hiking along that beautiful mountain creek and through a cow pasture in cool, misty weather that made this hike one of our favorites.  I highly recommend it.  Check out the GPS-generated map below.

Calloway Peak of Grandfather Mountain