4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
This all-seasons route takes you to the summit of Green Knob, known for its bald, grassy summit among a vast balsam-fir forest.
Due to its remoteness, this area sees very little traffic, making it a distinct possibility that you could have the trail to yourself—a huge contrast to the often busy area near Black Balsam and Sam Knob.
Green Knob can be accessed from a trailhead at the bottom of NC-215 near Sunburst Campground, but is most often accessed from the gravel pull-off near the Blue Ridge Parkway. To begin the hike, walk downhill along the road and look for the white-dot-blazed Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
A single car pull-off lies in front of the marker and can sometimes be hard to see.
The trail crosses a creek shortly after it begins, and this creek crossing serves as a popular spot to camp or picnic. Not far into the trail, the path enters the Middle Prong Wilderness, where "...trails are neither signed nor blazed, and are maintained at a low level that results in their treads being difficult or impossible to see at times," according to the USFS. Passing through a grassy clearing, the trail merges onto an old railroad grade formerly used for logging in the early 1900s.
The next portion can become quite disorienting as it makes its way to an obscure 4-way intersection in a dark and dense stand of spruce, fir, and birch trees.
Again, there are no markings to denote the junction. To the left, a spur trail leads to Mount Hardy, where you can find a nice view from a vantage point above 6,100 feet—one of the highest points in the area.
To the right, you'll begin the Green Mountain Trail and the path to the bald and beautiful summit of Green Knob.
To reach it, the trail gradually climbs across a ridge, offering views all along the way.
Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and even blackberry bushes bursting with fresh berries can be found, depending on the season. At the grassy clearing atop the knob, you'll be rewarded for your efforts.
Take in the phenomenal views and spend some time relaxing or eating lunch from atop this dominant vantage point.
From here, you can view the Balsam Mountains heading northwest and the Pisgah Ridge heading to the northeast.
Camping is also available near the summit should you wish to make an overnight trip of it.
While the Green Mountain trail continues down the ridge to Sunburst Campground, retrace your steps back to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and turn left to return to the trailhead and complete the hike. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=48250 https://www.hikewnc.info/besthikes/middle-prong-wilderness/green-knob