Waterrock Knob is located in the Plott Balsam Range just to the south of Waynesville. Rising to an elevation of 6,292' Waterrock Knob is the 16th highest peak in North Carolina and the highest of the Plott's themselves. Unfortunately, the peak is exceedingly easy to access and suffers from a similar degree of overuse as does nearby Black Balsam Knob though, arguably, Waterrock is being managed for this use better. The trailhead and visitor center that sit on Waterrock lie only a quarter mile off the parkway and the summit trail is only about a half mile long bringing it within reach of even the RV tourist. During leaf season the peak should have been overrun on a day like this. However, thanks to the recent shutdown, the Park Service had gated the road meaning folk would have to walk...I know, seriously, WALK!...the extra quarter mile to the summit and guess what? I was the only one on the mountain!
So, thanks to one of the most boneheaded moves our government has ever made, the shutdown allowed me the unique opportunity to visit Waterrock Knob in the peak of leaf season...all by myself! It was an experience I won't soon forget...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.456199, -83.142890
Hike Length: 2.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:00
Trailhead Temp: 56'F
Min. Elevation: 5,720' Max. Elevation: 6,292'
Total Vertical Gain: 572' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 572' (ascent)