Cleveland County High Point Trip Report

Benn Knob (2,894 ft)

Date: February 28, 2004
Author: Ron Tagliapietra

We went through South Mountains SP instead of going through the community. Half of the hike is the same, since the paved Pine Ridge Road in the community is also a hiking trail for the park (the only paved one). The other half in the park begins at 1700 feet on a nice trail system, passing High Shoals Falls. It also offers a backpacking site ($9) at Upper Falls Camp (it's upstream from the falls at about 2000 feet elevation) about 1.5 miles in. From there, rock hop Jacob Fork (the creek with the falls) and continue for a half-mile to the Raven Rock Trail. Take a right and follow it up a half mile to the Dogwood Trail. You will get to pavement at 0.3 mile and will see a green water tower up to your right. From the water tower is a view of Benn Knob. The Dogwood Trail is 2.6 miles long (according to the brochure and one of two trail signs) to its end at the Benn Knob Trail (elevation 2680 feet). Do not follow the Benn Knob Trail, since it does not summit. Instead follow the left fork road about 0.2 mile up to the radio tower. You will cross a couple yellow gates in this last stretch. Backtrack the way you came.

The Dogwood Trail follows Pine Ridge Road from mile 0.3 to its end. Pine Ridge Road is paved until the last 0.2 mile. The state park permits mountain biking on several trails including the Dogwood Trail. The map in the park brochure matches the one on the park's website. (Kevin Williamson got permission to ride his road bike through the community and up the road.)

A ranger told us that Benn Knob is the highest point in the State Park (though the park is in Burke County) and that it had no view. We found a partial view of the Blue Ridge to the west. I don't know the peak with the bare spot but I think the Black Mountains, including Mt. Mitchell, are visible to the north of the unknown peak. The ranger also recommended Chestnut Knob viewpoint as the best view in the park. We hiked the 2 miles to it the next morning (after camping in the snow at Upper Falls Camp). It is not at the top of the knob but it offers a great view of Benn Knob and Buffalo Knob (the Lincoln County hp). If you have binoculars, you can also see Charlotte's skyscrapers rising in the distance just right of Buffalo Knob. On the way back from the viewpoint, we also visited the Jacob Fork Gorge Overlook (0.5 mile from car). This overlook offers a view of all 80 feet of High Shoals Falls (both tiers). It's the best view of the falls, but requires binoculars to appreciate it.

Trip statistics: 10.6 miles round trip; net elevation gain 1,194 feet.