Jones Knob & Whiterock Mountain (11-19-13)
Jones Knob and Whiterock Mountain are a pair of peaks that, until only a few weeks before this hike, had somehow managed to stay below my hiking radar despite their relative closeness to my home. Located just to the west of Highlands, these two peaks lie along a rather tame stretch of the venerable Bartram Trail, one of North Carolina's premier long distance trails. Though rather middling in height for these parts (both sit well beneath 5,000') what sets this pair apart is what makes many of the peaks in this area unique, they're plutons...mountains comprised of erosion resistant rock sporting massive open cliff faces. Add to this fact that its a relatively easy 5-mile round trip hike to visit both and you have yourself a truly spectacular place to go for a day hike.
Though you can reach the peaks from either direction on the Bartram Trail, the most popular starting point is at Jones Gap which is where I'd begin. Despite my ignorance of these peaks they do tend to be popular hiking destinations so in the summer they can be quite busy. However, my visit was on a sub-freezing morning in mid-November so, to my delight, I had the peaks completely to myself. Sometimes such highly touted hikes tend to disappoint...on this day that would not be the case...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.076040, -83.287930
Hike Length: 5.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:00
Trailhead Temp: 29'F
Min. Elevation: 4,150' Max. Elevation: 4,622'
Total Vertical Gain: 980' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 196'