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Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 @ 9:44 am in Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Difficult Hikes, Tennessee, Vista Hikes | 5 comments

Appalachian Trail to Mt. Kephart and The Jumpoff – A Photo Essay

The Appalachian Trail splits the states of North Carolina and Tennessee through most of the breadth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hugging the state line as it traverses the rugged and remote ridges, the AT is a favorite destination for day hikers and thru hikers alike. There is a three and a half mile stretch from Newfound Gap to the summit of Mt. Kephart, and beyond to a magnificent overlook known simply as The Jumpoff, that provides an excellent example of what high country Smoky Mountains terrain is all about. I’ve written...

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Thomas Divide Trail to Sunkota Ridge Junction, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 @ 10:54 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 1 comment

Thomas Divide Trail to Sunkota Ridge Junction, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Thomas Divide is one of those ridge hikes that splits the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains Range. It is also one of the longer trails in the national park at near 14 miles, but you can do as much or as little as you wish for a day hike. The trail passes through a rich forest of Eastern hemlock, beech, birch and multiple varieties of maple. The crest also enjoys the presence of spruce and fir. When the leaves are down you can see Clingmans Dome on the west side of the ridge and the massive shoulders of Richland Mountain to the east. Ken and...

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Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 @ 11:37 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Vista Hikes | 4 comments

Walking the Pisgah Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway – A Photo Essay

Walking the Blue Ridge Parkway in winter is a great way to get a slow-motion view of the wonderful vistas that whiz by at 45 mph in your car. The Parkway is closed so you don’t have to worry about traffic. The only concern really is perhaps slipping on snow or ice. This latest in the Photo Essay series looks at a 4-mile stretch of the BRP between mileposts 412 and 408. It starts where Scenic Hwy 276 climbs to meet the Parkway at milepost 412. The Cold Mountain Overlook is right there, and that’s where Ken and I parked. Gates are...

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Flat Rock and Plantation Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 @ 10:24 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Flat Rock and Plantation Trails, DuPont State Forest

Working on a little project to tick off all the trails within DuPont State Forest, I visited two short ones that are close to each other in the northeast corner off Sky Valley Road. Each is little more than a mile round trip. Flat Rock Trail passes through a boulder field and past a recent logging operation to a dead end at the confluence of Jim Creek with Grassy Creek. Plantation Trail walks among an absolutely stunning pine forest that, judging by all the ribbons tied to trunks, is unfortunately probably next for the lumberjack’s axe....

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Pitch Pine, Three Lakes and Bridal Overlook Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 @ 10:35 am in DuPont State Forest, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Pitch Pine, Three Lakes and Bridal Overlook Trails, DuPont State Forest

Located in the heart of DuPont State Forest, Three Lakes Trail does exactly what its name implies… it takes you to a trio of very picturesque lakes near Conservation Road. Lake Dense is an ideal stop for a family picnic. Lake Alford, really more of a pond, may be the most vivid and charming of all. The largest, Lake Julia, is breathtaking from every angle. Add to this a stroll along Pitch Pine Trail to reach the lakes, and a visit to Bridal Overlook afterward, and you can make a delightful day in the woods of DuPont State Forest. I...

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Pine Tree Trail and Cascade Trail Loop, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Jan 23, 2016 @ 10:40 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Pine Tree Trail and Cascade Trail Loop, DuPont State Forest

Arriving before the morning sun had a chance to melt the fresh dusting of snow, I walked this short loop in the southwest corner of DuPont State Forest with the sound of woodpeckers filling the air… and not much else. It was quiet. A half inch of snowfall muted the normal sounds. I purposely picked this woodsy loop. Usually enjoyed by mountain bikers, I guessed correctly that I would have it all to myself on this day. So for two serene hours I strolled along Pine Tree and Cascade trails following rabbit and squirrel tracks and listening...

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Noland Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Jan 17, 2016 @ 3:53 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Noland Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Bryson City, NC is located on the far southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hosts the Deep Creek and Lakeview regions of the park. Noland Creek Trail runs north/south off Lakeview Drive between Fontana Lake and the Noland Divide high above in the mountains. The trailhead is one mile north of the lake and heads in both directions. On this day Ken and I headed north up into the drainage. The Noland Creek valley contains a beautiful hardwood and pine forest and at one time was home to several settler families. If you look...

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Jones Gap Trail to Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 @ 12:03 pm in Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Difficult Hikes, South Carolina, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Jones Gap Trail to Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap State Park sits on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in upstate South Carolina very near the state line with its neighbor to the north. Along with Caesars Head State Park, these two share an area known as Mountain Bridge Wilderness. The Jones Gap Trail follows the Middle Saluda River along an old roadway built by Solomon Jones in the 1850s. In this cove backcountry the river is quite wild with many waterfalls and rapids that add exciting sights and sounds to a pristine mountain woodland. Near the eastern end of Jones Gap Trail are two...

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Chasteen Creek Cascade, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Dec 28, 2015 @ 11:27 am in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Chasteen Creek Cascade, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smokemont region of the Smokies is one of the most convenient, located just a short few miles northwest of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center off Hwy 441. The trailhead for Bradley Fork starts in the back of the Smokemont Campground, surrounded by the Smokies ubiquitous waterways. It’s only a mile and change up Bradley Fork Trail to its meeting with Chasteen Creek Trail, and then just another three-quarters mile to an exciting cascade on Chasteen Creek. The path along the way is easy to navigate and offers many picturesque vantage...

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World’s Edge at Chimney Rock State Park – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 @ 12:06 pm in Hickory Nut Gorge, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Easy Hikes, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 6 comments

World’s Edge at Chimney Rock State Park – A Photo Essay

August 2005 saw the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy purchase a 1,568-acre tract of land south of Lake Lure known as “World’s Edge” for $16 million with the intention of transferring the land as the first to be added to the new Chimney Rock State Park. World’s Edge contains a mile-long set of steep slopes on the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, with more than 20,000 feet of streams and waterfalls. From an overlook point, the land falls away to the southeast providing a stunning view of...

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Micajah and Cannon Creek Trails, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 @ 11:11 am in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Micajah and Cannon Creek Trails, DuPont State Forest

The far southwestern corner of DuPont State Forest offers a forested hike atop multiple plutons, past a retired rock quarry, and across a couple of gentle mountain streams. The oak trees are in abundance, as are white and longleaf pines. Look for the fascinating moss and reindeer lichen on the plutons as you gaze at the far away mountains of Pisgah National Forest. This section of the state forest is quite popular with mountain bikers, but hikers can enjoy the scenery every bit as much. Ken and I explored the Micajah on Wednesday, December...

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Thomas Cemetery Loop, DuPont State Forest

Posted by on Dec 14, 2015 @ 12:46 pm in DuPont State Forest, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Easy Hikes | 1 comment

Thomas Cemetery Loop, DuPont State Forest

Beginning at the Guion Farm area of DuPont State Forest on Sky Valley Road you can make a nice hike on several roads that loop through a deep and dense pine woodland. This is a pine regrowth region that the N.C. Forest Service leases for controlled logging, so you may need to keep your eye out for large trucks, but you may also have the opportunity to see modern lumberjacks in action. Half way along the loop through the forest is a 19th century cemetery that encloses the remains of the Thomas family. Dave, Grace and I walked these roads on...

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Raven Cliff Falls Overlook, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 @ 4:31 pm in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountain Bridge Wilderness, Rated Easy Hikes, South Carolina | 0 comments

Raven Cliff Falls Overlook, Mountain Bridge Wilderness

Matthews Creek plunges more than 350 feet over Raven Cliff Falls into the gorge it has carved below Raven Cliff Mountain. One of a myriad of landmarks along the Blue Ridge Escarpment in Caesars Head State Park, the rim of this gorge offers a gentle and rewarding hike. Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area that also includes Jones Gap State Park, this is the most extensive trail system in South Carolina. More like Western North Carolina than the coastal and central regions, the South Carolina Upcountry is similar in elevation and forest...

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Asbury Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Nov 15, 2015 @ 10:22 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes | 0 comments

Asbury Trail at Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Historic Asbury Trail straddles the boundary between the Smokies national park and the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It is named for Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury who, in the early 19th century, brought his traveling ministry to this area that would eventually become a national park more than a hundred years later. It was also formerly known as the old Cattalucha Indian track. You can follow Asbury Trail past the gauging station on Cataloochee Creek and all the way to Scottish Mountain, 12 miles from the Cove Creek...

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Waterrock Knob Across the Plott Balsams Range, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Oct 28, 2015 @ 11:33 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes, Vista Hikes | 6 comments

Waterrock Knob Across the Plott Balsams Range, Blue Ridge Parkway

Sometimes things just don’t go exactly as planned. But making the most of what’s available is what sets hiking apart. Everything doesn’t have to go perfectly to still enjoy the day. Such was the case with this hike across the Plott Balsams mountain range from Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’re in rarefied air here, with the entire trail above 5,600 feet, and with magnificent views of the Great Smoky Mountains, the thriving mountain community of Sylva, NC, and even all the way to Mt. Pisgah far to the...

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Black Balsam to Silvermine and Chestnut Balds on Mountains to Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 @ 4:22 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Easy Hikes, Vista Hikes | 5 comments

Black Balsam to Silvermine and Chestnut Balds on Mountains to Sea Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Looking for a short, easy, serene getaway in the high country that offers outstanding long distance views of the Blue Ridge Mountains? This is the trail for you. This little stretch of the famous Mountains to Sea Trail will take you from Black Balsam Road, through a dark and deep balsam spruce forest, across Silvermine Bald and on to Chestnut Bald to a splendid overlook of Looking Glass Rock, Pilot Mountain, and Pisgah National Forest’s Cradle of Forestry. If you have your binoculars or a zoom lens, you can see all the way to Lake...

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Twentymile Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Oct 19, 2015 @ 12:26 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Twentymile Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Located in the far southern region of the Smokies, near Fontana Village and the Little Tennessee River, Twentymile is an area of the national park that is a little less traveled. Primarily used by backpackers as a means of accessing remote park highlights like Gregory Bald or Shuckstack Fire Tower on the Appalachian Trail, Twentymile can also be enjoyed by day hikers or creek seekers year round. Like so much of the mountainous Smokies, Twentymile is blessed with water, water everywhere. Two-thirds of the length of this loop is alongside...

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Cataloochee Divide Trail from Cove Creek Gap to Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 @ 11:12 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes | 6 comments

Cataloochee Divide Trail from Cove Creek Gap to Purchase Knob, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

M eanderthals has hiked the middle section of the Cataloochee Divide Trail several times, so we thought we should check out the northern end of the Divide. And I’m delighted we did. The forest is beautiful. Starting at Cove Creek Gap, high above Cataloochee Valley, the Divide trail follows the ridge for 4.5 miles past occasional views of the Smokies and Blue Ridge on either side. We happened to catch the mixed hardwood forest in the early stages of autumn coloring, enhancing the experience even that much more. The destination is one of...

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Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 @ 10:13 am in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Pisgah National Forest, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

Blue Ridge Parkway High Country – A Photo Essay

Leaf peepers head to Graveyard Fields in late September for the annual ritual of Autumn color in the high country. Located at mile 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Graveyard Fields is one of the earliest locations to begin the chromatic display, as well as one of the most intense. From the bright red of the blueberry and sumac bushes, to the multi-colored hues of the maple and oak, this is a prime location year in and year out. But don’t limit yourself to Graveyard Fields. There is a 5-mile stretch of the Parkway from mile 416 through...

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McKee Branch, Caldwell Fork, Hemphill Bald, Cataloochee Divide Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 @ 11:13 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Rated Difficult Hikes | 4 comments

McKee Branch, Caldwell Fork, Hemphill Bald, Cataloochee Divide Loop, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Two of my favorite places on the North Carolina side of the Smokies are the Cataloochee Divide, high on the crest, and Cataloochee Valley far below. This four-trail loop enables you to explore the beautiful forest that lies between the two. Start at Purchase Knob, then take McKee Branch Trail down, and more down, to Caldwell Fork Trail which parallels the Divide and the Valley. Next turn is on Hemphill Bald Trail where you go back up the drainage for a return to the Divide at Double Gap. From there it’s an easy stroll past The Swag back...

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Hangin’ with the Elk at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 @ 10:16 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Easy Hikes | 7 comments

Hangin’ with the Elk at Cataloochee – A Photo Essay

Late September is an exciting time in Cataloochee Valley as the elk herd begins their annual mating dance ritual known as the rut. Cows, calves and yearlings live in loose herds or groups throughout most of the year, and are seen wandering the vast meadows of the valley all spring and summer. The bulls, however, live in bachelor groups or alone. It is rare to happen upon a bull off season. During the rut, cows and calves form harems with one or two mature bulls. At this time of early fall, people come from far and wide to this corner of the...

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Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Posted by on Sep 13, 2015 @ 11:17 am in Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee, Water Hikes | 1 comment

Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness straddles the North Carolina / Tennessee line near the southern borders of the states, with about 75% of its 17,000 acres contained in NC. Six trailheads provide access to more than 60 miles of trail within the designated wilderness, which typically follow ridge tops or drop into the shady drainages. Perhaps the most atypical trail though is the Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls in the far northern corner of the wilderness. A series of dams on the Little Tennessee River nearly a hundred years ago created...

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A Day on the Cataloochee Divide – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 @ 11:27 am in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Photo Essays, Rated Easy Hikes, Vista Hikes | 0 comments

A Day on the Cataloochee Divide – A Photo Essay

Two of my favorite places in the eastern section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are Purchase Knob and Hemphill Bald. In fact, I enjoy it so much that I volunteer every 10 days or so at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center on Purchase Knob. And Hemphill Bald simply has one of the most outstanding views in the eastern Smokies, overlooking Cataloochee Ski Area, Maggie Valley, and the Blue Ridge Mountains far in the distance. What they share in common is the Cataloochee Divide. The divide is the ridge that separates...

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Road Prong Trail to Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted by on Aug 22, 2015 @ 1:26 pm in Forest Hikes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Rated Difficult Hikes, Tennessee, Vista Hikes, Water Hikes | 0 comments

Road Prong Trail to Chimney Tops, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Chimney Tops is one of the more popular destinations in the Smokies because of its central location, rugged beauty, and challenging access. And challenging it is. While short in distance, the trails that lead to the summit of Chimney Tops are steep and strenuous. Accessible from two trails, one below that climbs from Hwy 441 to the top, and one above that drops down from Clingmans Dome Road to meet the other. It was this latter, known as Road Prong Trail and formerly Indian Gap Road, that we chose for our adventure to Chimney Tops. We...

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Grand Highlands at Bearwallow Mountain – A Photo Essay

Posted by on Aug 10, 2015 @ 10:18 am in Hickory Nut Gorge, Hiking Blog, Inspiration, North Carolina, Photo Essays | 0 comments

Grand Highlands at Bearwallow Mountain – A Photo Essay

Grand Highlands is a real estate development in Henderson County, NC. What sets it apart is location. A location that is described as “an open meadow placed on a mountaintop.” Land that affords you some of the most spectacular views in Western North Carolina. I think of it as a picturesque spot for taking photographs of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains and valleys. Within a stone’s throw of two delightful hiking trails that were built and maintained by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, Grand Highlands is also a launch point...

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Bob Stratton Bald via Connector 54A, Nantahala National Forest

Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 @ 1:48 pm in Cherokee National Forest, Citico Creek Wilderness, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina, Rated Moderate Hikes, Tennessee | 0 comments

Bob Stratton Bald via Connector 54A, Nantahala National Forest

Deep in the remote southwestern corner of North Carolina where the scenic Cherohala Skyway climbs to meet Tennessee at Beech Gap, the Bob Bald Connector Trail (54A) climbs a ridge through Nantahala National Forest to Bob Stratton Bald. One of the lush mountaintop meadows the Southern Appalachians are known for, Bob Bald as it is called, straddles a boundary between Citico Creek Wilderness and Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. During the green seasons Bob puts on a dazzling display of wildflowers with a remarkable array of colors that rival...

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Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015 @ 1:06 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Hikes, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Water Hikes | 2 comments

Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Crabtree Falls is a 70 foot cascade on Big Crabtree Creek, a short hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The creek drops over a black rock face with many small ledges, giving it a delicate web-like appearance. A trail descends 500 feet over the course of a mile as it leads to a footbridge crossing the creek at the base of the falls. In the Spring, an impressive array of wildflowers can be found, and by July ferns fill the dense hardwood forest and soak in the spray of the falls. You can complete a loop hike by continuing through the forest beyond...

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Black Balsam Knob and Sam Knob Summits, Pisgah National Forest

Posted by on Jul 11, 2015 @ 12:40 pm in Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, Hiking Blog, North Carolina, Pisgah National Forest, Rated Moderate Hikes, Vista Hikes | 4 comments

Black Balsam Knob and Sam Knob Summits, Pisgah National Forest

There is a notch between two wildernesses in the Pisgah National Forest high country. Shining Rock Wilderness is to the northeast, and Middle Prong Wilderness is to the west of this pie-shaped cut in the topology. In between are two bald mountaintops that exceed 6,000 feet elevation. To the locals the area is called simply… Black Balsam. The air is fresh (usually), the wildflowers abundant, and the adventure plentiful. Under normal circumstances, the views from these treeless summits are fantastic, oft times exceeding 50 miles. In this...

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