Buncombe County High Point Trip Report

Potato Knob (6,400+ ft)

Date: May 27, 2001
Author: Fred Lobdell

I originally did this one several years ago from the parking area at the foot of the Mt. Mitchell road, which is a moderately steep hike on use trails with about 1,400 feet of gain. I tried to do it again with John Mitchler in July of 1998 from the visitor center on the Mt. Mitchell road, but we took some wrong trails and were unsuccessful. This report describes a successful attempt, with Kevin Williamson, from the high side, at the visitor center. A topographic map (Montreal quadrangle) and compass, and the ability to use them, are required.

Drive up the Mt. Mitchell summit road (NC 128) from the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of miles to the visitor's center at Stepps Gap. Hike up the gated road toward the communications towers on Clingmans Peak, passing around the west side of Mt. Gibbes. Shortly before reaching the fenced installation atop Clingmans Peak, there will be a rough road on your left (east). This road goes to the towers on Mt. Gibbes. Opposite this road, on the west side, is a trail. Turn right and take this trail as it winds around the northwest side of Clingmans Peak. Within a quarter mile or so there should be a log cabin. Continue southwest from the cabin on a somewhat obscure trail. Shortly before reaching a teepee there will be another trail going off to the left. Take this trail and stick with it, bearing left at another fork. The trail drops into the saddle between Climgmans Peak and then rises to the summit of Potato Knob. If you find a second cabin, you have made a wrong turn and are north of Potato Knob and you'll need to retrace your steps to the last trail junction. Basically, every time you have a choice, take the left fork. This is a total hike of about 3.5 miles, round trip, with a total elevation gain of about 400 feet, much less than the gain from the foot of the Mt. Mitchell summit road.