Hike to the summit of Sam Knob, catching sweeping summit views and exploring a beautiful, wildflower-filled meadow just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
Sam Knob is a towering mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway that tops out at just over 6,000 feet. The hike to the mountain’s summit is exceptional and relatively short, scoring stunning views of the nearby summits of Devil’s Courthouse, Black Balsam Knob, and peaks in the nearby Shining Rock Wilderness.
The hike to the summit explores a wide, wildflower-filled, grassy meadow that’s easily one of the most scenic in Western NC. The trail then scales the mountain, climbing through a forest full of fern, gnarly-branched mountain laurel, and lichen-covered birch. Nearing the mountaintop, views of the surrounding peaks open along the trail, the air tinged with the fresh, sweet scent of sun-drenched balsam fir. And at the summit, generously sized, sculpted, folded rock outcrops offer a perfect place to soak up some stunning views and a bit of high-elevation sun.
Wildflowers by the millions. Wild blueberries and blackberries. Stunning views. And cool, high-elevation breezes, even in mid-summer months, thanks to the mountain’s 6000+ foot elevation. It just doesn’t get much better.
Sam Knob: the hike
The hike departs from a trailhead located at the end of Black Balsam Knob Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 420 (view maps and driving directions). (It’s a shared trailhead with the Ivester Gap Trail, which departs northeast from the same parking area.) The hike departs northwest, following a wide, gravel road on a gradual descent. Tall wildflowers line the trail in warm-weather months, stretching toward sunlight under the forest canopy.
The hike catches views of Sam Knob at .25 mile as the forest opens to vast vistas of the grassy meadow ahead. Blackberries line the trail in mid-summer months before the landscape opens to extensive grasslands. The hike treks over course gravel, then a stretch of wooden stairs and boardwalks, as the trail arcs westbound. Gently rolling meadows and scores of wildflowers extend far into the distance.
The hike reaches its lowest elevations at .6 mile, exiting the meadow and turning right at a signed intersection. The trail begins the climb to the mountain’s summit, coursing through dense, scraggly trees, mountain laurel, and fern, and switching back through a forest of lichen-covered birch. The trail arcs through several tight switchbacks, continuing the ascent, before climbing wooden stairs and meeting a break in the treeline. Wild blueberries and sweet-scented balsam fir thrive in this sunny landscape just below the mountaintop.
The trail arcs northbound, catching views of the surrounding summits, as the sound of rushing water becomes audible in the distant valley below. The hike passes a white rock outcrop at 1.2 miles as the trail nears the summit.
The hike summits the mountain at 1.3 miles. Views from the grass-covered summit extend in all directions, visible from large, expansive rock outcrops. The sinister-looking, jagged profile of Devils Courthouse is visible far on the horizon to the south, and the grassy, rolling summit of nearby Black Balsam Knob is visible to the east. All around, stunning views of the nearby Middle Prong Wilderness, Shining Rock Wilderness and the winding meanders of the Blue Ridge Parkway wrap around the rocky overlooks on the mountain’s top.
After soaking up the views, this hike retraces its outbound steps to the trailhead, descending from the mountain and crossing back through the open expanses of the grassy meadow. The hike reaches the trailhead at 2.5 miles, completing the adventure.
Nearby hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway
Have some energy (and daylight) left to burn? Don’t miss the excellent hike to waterfalls and through rolling meadows at nearby Graveyard Fields, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 418. Further east, cascading waterfalls tumble into cool, crystal-clear pools at Skinny Dip Falls, located at MP 417. And to the west, outstanding views await at the summit of Devil’s Courthouse, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 422.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Sam Knob Trail Map, Directions & Details
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Free (but limited) parking is available at the trailhead, located at the end of Black Balsam Knob Rd at MP 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)
35.325867, -82.881800 // N35 19.552 W82 52.908