McDowell County High Point Trip Report

The Pinnacle (5665 ft)

Date: July 1998
Author: Ron Tagliapietra

We parked at the Ridge Junction Overlook at Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 355.4 (at an elevation of 5160 ft.). This is in Black Mtn. Gap adjacent to the intersection with Mt. Mitchell spur road (every NC HP visitor who comes by car passes through this gap). This parking spot offers hikes to two county HPs: Potato Knob of Buncombe Co. and The Pinnacle of McDowell county.

We walked northbound on the parkway about half a mile to a gated gravel road on the right (shown on topos). There is shoulder parking as well as one trailhead closer to this gate than where we parked, so this half mile can be avoided. As soon as we crossed the gate, we noted an unmaintained path going up the embankment to the gap on the ridgeline. This path then turned north toward Pinnacle and I was delighted. Soon, however, we began to see no trespassing signs. Since I knew we were on the public property of the Blue Ridge Parkway I read them very close. The signs were Asheville Watershed boundary signs marking the edge of the restricted watershed. The trail follows the boundary between the parkway and watershed but it stays on the parkway side, so all was well.

Legally you cannot go south or west of this trail, but we did not want to. The trail follows the boundary about 0.6 miles all the way to the top!

The top is a short craggy rock scramble that offers views of Mt. Mitchell (with observation deck), Mt. Hallback, Mt. Gibbes, Clingmans Peak (with radio tower), Potato Knob, Blackstock Mtn., Bullhead Mtn., and Craggy Dome. A short path descends into a dip and splits next to some narrow standing fins of rock. The right fork descends briefly to an overlook, while the left ascends a second group of rocks which are overgrown by blueberry bushes (we ate a bunch, but the ripe ones were a minority). I poked around both rock outcrops but never found BM Montreat. By waving to each other from various rocks, we decided the first group of rocks is higher anyway, but don't miss the blueberries.