Sam Knob Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Hike the Sam Knob Trail, catching sweeping summit views and hiking through a wide, wildflower-filled meadow just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western NC.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map
Sam Knob is a towering mountain summit that tops out at over 6,000 feet. It’s situated just off the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville, easily accessed via a short drive down Black Balsam Knob Road. And it’s an exceptional, relatively short hike to the summit that scores stunning views of Devil’s Courthouse, Black Balsam Knob and mountains in the nearby Shining Rock Wilderness.
The Sam Knob Trail treks through a large, wildflower-filled, grassy meadow that’s nestled between Sam Knob and a neighboring mountain, Black Balsam Knob. The trail then scales Sam Knob through a forest full of fern, gnarly-branched mountain laurel, and lichen-covered birch. Nearing the mountain’s summit, views of the surrounding peaks open along the trail, the air tinged with the fresh, sweet scent of sun-drenched black balsam trees. 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 to rival any others on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. And cool, high-elevation breezes, even in mid-summer months, thanks to the 6000+ foot elevation. It just doesn’t get much better than the Sam Knob Trail.
Sam Knob Trail: the hike
The hike departs from the Sam Knob 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 trails northwest from the parking area on a wide, gravel road, dipping elevation. Head-high wildflowers line the trail in warm-weather months.
The hike catches views of Sam Knob at .25 mile, the forest opening to vast vistas of the grassy meadow ahead. Blackberries, ripe in mid-summer months, line the trail before the landscape opens to extensive grasslands. The hike treks over course gravel, then a stretch of wood stairs and boardwalk, as the trail arcs westbound. Gently rolling meadow littered with scores of wildflowers extends far into the distance, ending at the forest just below Sam Knob.
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 Sam Knob 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 summit.
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 stark white rock brilliantly reflecting the sun.
The hike summits the bald summit of Sam Knob 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 summit.
The hike departs the summit and retraces its outbound steps on the Sam Knob Trail, descending from the mountain and crossing back through the open expanses of the grassy meadow. The hike reaches the trailhead at 2.5 miles, finishing the adventure.
Blue Ridge Parkway hiking adventures near Sam Knob
Finished the Sam Knob Trail, and still have some energy (and daylight) left to burn? Don’t miss the excellent trails to waterfalls and through rolling meadow 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.
Sam Knob Trail Map, Directions & Details
Free (but limited) parking is available at the Sam Knob / Black Balsam Knob 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
Thank you for your support! - the Asheville Trails crew