Buncombe County Highpoint Trip Report
Date: October 18, 2006
Author: Edward Earl
I parked my truck on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the overlook near the junction
with spur road to Mount Mitchell. After a few minutes of searching, I was
unable to find the Mountains-to- the-Sea trail, so I headed directly up the
crest of the ridge toward Potato Knob. I soon found a faint but useable trail
that later intertwined with a more established trail. The good trail eventually
veers off the left side of the ridge but the use trail eventually gains the
summit of Potato Knob. I shall not give an account of all of my trial-and-error
but instead I shall proceed to give instructions for the best way to climb
Potato Knob by this approach.
From Black Mountain Gap, drive up the Mount Mitchell spur road for 1/2 mile
until a trail, which I shall presume to be the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail,
crosses the road without fanfare. There is no designated parking, no signs,
and no real trailhead. The only nearby landmark is a gravel pullout on the right
side of the road just after the crossing of the trail itself.
Park at this pullout, which has room for no more than 2 or 3 cars.
Hike the trail from the west side of the road, passing through a gap in some
wooden pickets at the start. After a switchback or two, the trail gains the
crest of the ridge and follows it upward toward Potato Knob. After a few
minutes, it veers off the right side of the ridge. Continue to follow it here;
it switches back and regains the ridge after a total gain of about 300-400 feet
from the road. Then the trail continues to the left side of the ridge.
At this point, leave the main trail and continue straight up the ridge on a faint but
consistent use trail. A few times, the trail has a T-junction where you are
forced to turn left or right because of thick brush straight ahead. When this
happens, you have to guess which way to go (it's usually left) but the trail
should resume its upward progress within 100 feet or less. If that doesn't happen,
go back to the junction and try something else. There are several spots
where you will have climb some rocks which for me were wet and slippery and
required some care because of recent rain. In dry weather these should be no problem.
The trail eventually gains the summit of Potato Knob amid an immature forest.
The highest ground is a brush-covered boulder about 8 feet high on the left side
of the trail. I found a gap in the brush, climbed the boulder, and stood up on
the flat top.
A couple of times on the descent, I veered off on a side trail that dead-ended.
Since the preferred trail always stays close to the ridge crest, it's never hard
to guess which way to go to get back to it.