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On the crest of the Plott Balsam range, at an elevation of 6,292’, stands the majestic Waterrock Knob. The Blue Ridge Parkway climbs high up the sides of Waterrock Knob to within a few hundred feet of its’  summit. Where the Parkway crosses the ridgeline, on Waterrock’s southern shoulder, an easily accessible recreational area awaits your visit. The recreational area provides picnic tables, restrooms and a large grassy field to entertain yourself and your furry hiking companions. A short, yet steep, trail gains 400’ in elevation as it leads visitors to the incredible long-range views atop the summit. The easily accessible beauty of this mountain makes the destination a go-to spot on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What Makes It Great

The recreation area on Waterrock Knob is a mountain top playground with stunning views and easy access to ridge-line hiking atop the prominent Plott Balsam range. Around the turn of the 19th century a family of German emigrants made their way, with hunting dogs in tow, to the foot of these noble mountains. The family settled in the area and gained infamy through the hunting prowess of their “Plott hounds.” Today, the range bares the family’s name, and the Plott hound is North Carolina’s official state dog.

Looking westward from the recreation area, the eyes are rewarded with a panoramic view of the eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Appalachian Trail follows the prominent ridge line on the western horizon. From here, on-lookers get a real life “trail profile” of the highly acclaimed 70 mile section of the AT which bisects the National Park. After letting your eyes gaze upon the National park look southward to see the beautiful Tuckaseegee River Valley and the sprawling Nantahala National Forest.

A half mile trail leads from the parking area to Waterrock’s summit. The first .2 miles of trail are paved and lead to a pedestrian overlook. After the overlook the trail becomes rocky and picturesque as it climbs the final .3 miles to the prized summit.  Venture just past the actual summit to gain the mountain’s best available view from a perch atop a rock outcropping on the southern side of the peak.

Who is Going to Love It

Drive to access makes Waterrock Knob a great place to bring the family along for a mountain top experience. Bring your loved ones up for a quick hike and a picnic before enjoying a sunset. The short trail, which leads to the summit, provides hikers stunning views with minimal exertion. The area makes for a perfect place to introduce novices to the wonders of the outdoors. Fans of astrological events will find Waterrock Knob a dreamy place to observe the heavens with its high elevation and lack of ambient light.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Head towards Waynesville NC, From Asheville on interstate 40. Take exit 27 (Maggie Valley) onto US-74. Follow this highway for 13 miles; past the town of Waynesville and to the top of Balsam Gap. A well-marked entrance to the Parkway will be on your right. Once on the Parkway, follow the signs towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Heading south on the parkway, and upwards on you altimeter, you will climb 3,000’ in 7 miles before reaching the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center on your right.

There are no fees required to visit Waterrock Knob.

The area is very dog friendly and the grassy area by the parking lot provides a great place to play with your pup while drinking in the beautiful scenery.


Featured image provided by Patrick Mueller