Hike to the summit of Blackrock Mountain, climbing from Pinnacle Park in Sylva and catching breathtaking vistas of western North Carolina’s stunning Plott Balsam mountain range.
LOCATION:Near Sylva, NC in the Nantahala National Forest
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 785 Trails Illustrated Map
Blackrock Mountain is a rocky precipice that towers high above the surrounding terrain. Standing tall among the mighty Plott Balsam Mountains, this lofty mountaintop is nestled in western North Carolina just east of the Great Smoky Mountains. The views from the mountain’s top, at just under 6,000 feet, are simply incredible, extending in expansive 360-degree panoramas in every direction.
These amazing views come after a considerable effort, though: the hike to the Blackrock summit climbs nearly 2700 feet in just over 3.5 miles, making this hike an exceptionally great workout. This hike summits the mountain via the West Fork Trail at Pinnacle Park, a gorgeous stretch of forest filled with towering hardwoods, tumbling creeks and enormous rock outcrops, and best known for its access to The Pinnacle, the park’s craggy, knobby summit. (If you’re up for a view-packed, high-mileage adventure, hike this route with a side trip to The Pinnacle, adding 2.6 miles to this hike.)
With its noteworthy summit views, the Blackrock summit is well worth the climb to the top. The surrounding forest especially beautiful in autumn, when fall’s brilliant leaf colors saturate the surrounding forest in golds, reds, and oranges. And the summit views are equally stunning when autumn paints the lofty mountaintop views in a speckled array of colors.
Blackrock Mountain: the hike
The adventure begins at the Pinnacle Park trailhead in Sylva, NC (view maps and driving directions). While parking and entrance to the park are free (donations encouraged), a permit is required to hike and camp at Pinnacle Park; be sure to complete a permit at the trailhead kiosk before beginning the hike. Permit completed, the hike veers around a metal gate and passes a small spillway waterfall and pond.
The trail travels northbound, climbing through a hardwood forest entangled in kudzu and filled with fern, moss, and wildflowers. The hike veers left at two trail junctions, following the purple and gold trail blazes of the West Fork Trail towards The Pinnacle. The route passes a large boulder, split by a deep fissure, at .5 mile.
The trail crosses the tumbling Fisher Creek at .6 mile and swings through a series of switchbacks, climbing steadily. The West Fork Trail carves through a rocky forest, passing enormous, lichen-covered rock outcrops as it meanders northward. Just after crossing a trickling creek and passing a small, mossy waterfall, the hike reaches a signed trail junction at 1.9 miles, veering right to continue the climb. (Optionally veer left here, making a gently-rolling detour to the stunning views at The Pinnacle.)
From the intersection, this route veers through switchbacks and crosses Fisher Creek again at 2.2 miles. The trail offers a brief break from the calf-burning climb, winding gently through dense tunnels of gnarly-branched rhododendron and passing an intersection with the East Fork Trail at 2.5 miles.
And the intense workout begins. The hike veers left at 3.2 miles, beginning a final steep climb to the summit. The trail rises through a forest filled with oak and rhododendron, making an unrelenting, arduous, sharp climb. The hike passes a large white quartz rock outcrop at 3.5 miles, reminiscent of those on the nearby Shining Rock Mountain to the east. Rhododendron and oak give way to a high-elevation forest of moss and balsam fir as the trail swings to the northeast, following its occasional gold and purple trail blazes around several immense rock outcroppings. The hike summits Blackrock Mountain at 3.7 miles, scrambling up its sheer rocky top.
The views from the rocky, sun-drenched summit are simply incredible, stretching over the surrounding Plott Balsam range to the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway and eastern summits of the Great Smoky Mountains. The peak makes a perfect place for a mid-hike breather and much-deserved snack break, surrounded by the mountain’s vast panoramic vistas.
Departing the summit, this route follows its outbound steps in reverse, making a nearly continuous descent to the trailhead. The hike reaches the Pinnacle Park trailhead at 6.5 miles, completing the adventure.
More Black Rock Mountain adventures
There’s another mountain of a similar name just across the North Carolina / Georgia border, Black Rock Mountain, Georgia’s highest-elevation state park. Hike the park’s Tennessee Rock Trail in springtime through abundant North Georgia wildflowers, and catch beautiful views from the mountain’s overlook into North Carolina.
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.
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Free parking is available at the trailhead; please leave a donation. Permit required (free; complete the form at the trailhead).
35.422616, -83.191218 // N35 25.358 W83 11.472