Buncombe County Highpoint Trip Report

Potato Knob

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.