Spencer Gap Trail -- 3,200'

Ferrin Knob Loop

Ferrin Knob is the easternmost 4,000-foot peak in the Pisgah Ranger District, rising right alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway at the southwestern edge of the Bent Creek watershed.  That, unfortunately, is about all it's notable for.  Once, a fire lookout tower rose from its summit which no doubt provided sweeping views over the French Broad River Valley and the mountain ranges surrounding it.  Today, however, all that remains are the concrete footings of the tower while the summit is once again thickly covered in forest and brush.  While this hike centers around Ferrin Knob, the peak is passed early on with the remainder basically being a walk in the woods.  The loop, after passing over Ferrin descends to Bent Creek Gap where by crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway Wash Creek Road is picked up.  This popular forest road will lead downhill to an intersection with the Spencer Branch Trail which, combined with the Trace Ridge Trial will take you back up to the Parkway not far from where you started.  It's not the most spectacular of hikes, but it allows for a loop hike in a section of the Forest where loop hikes from the Blue Ridge Parkway are hard to come by.  I'll, of course, let you be the judge.

The loop begins and ends at the Beaver Dam Gap Overlook at MP 401.7 along the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville.  Te Mountains-to-Sea and Shut-In Trails, which are conjoined in this area, pass along the edge of the woods alongside the parking area.  There's a nice view overlooking the Wash Creek watershed here, which I'd suggest enjoying for a minute as this will be the only view of the hike.  To begin, set out on the white-blazed MST/Shut-In Trail as it departs east from the parking lot.  The climb of Ferrin Knob begins immediately.  The next 2/3-mile is a pretty much continuous moderately-steep climb through a thick forest of mixed hardwoods.  Gaining 500-feet in this stretch you warm up quickly.  The trail curves around the thick grove of brush atop the summit but a narrow path cuts through it to the footings of the old fire lookout marking the top.  There's no views to be had, however, so you'll quickly move on in all likelihood.  The trail takes its time at first getting off the summit ridge but when it does, it drops quickly.  The steep descent is a short one, though, and soon the route flattens out again as the trail follows the north side of the ridge on a gently descending grade.  This section of the trail actually follows the original route of the road George Vanderbilt built connecting the Biltmore Estate and the Buck Spring Hunting Lodge near Mount Pisgah.  As the trail nears Bent Creek Gap the downhill grade gets more pronounced until, at about the 2-mile mark, the trail makes a hard left turn just before meeting the Parkway.

Instead of turning left with the main trail go straight ahead where in a few feet you'll set out alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.  To get to the next portion of the loop make a left (east) and in a few hundred yards Wash Creek Road (F.R. 5000) will be reached on the right (south).  Turn onto Wash Creek Road.  The next 1.5-miles is a downhill road-walk which, admittedly, isn't the most enjoyable option for any hike.  If there's an upside it's that this stretch goes quickly as the grade is easy and, compared to other forest roads in the area, this one is somewhat less-traveled.  A mile-and-a-half from the Parkway watch for a metal gate marked "Forest Road 5000B" on the right...this is the lower end of the Spencer Gap Trail, which you'll now turn onto.  The first 1/3-mile is moderately steep as the trail follows the gated forest road.  At a marked split the trail veers right off the road and the climb continues for a while longer.  Eventually the grade eases off again and you'll find yourself ascending along the side of the ridge winding your way in and out of numerous drainages above the head of Wash Creek.  Surroundings here continue to be thickly wooded and unremarkable, though in a few places the forest is quite stately and beautiful.  After a bit over a mile and a half you'll push your way up through a large grove of mountain laurel before reaching the junction with the Trace Ridge Trail.  Turn uphill here to make one last, brutal, climb back up to the Parkway.  When, after gaining 300-feet in 1/3-mile, you reach the Parkway simply make a right turn along it for the 1/10-mile walk back to the trailhead.  Loop complete.

This, if I'm brutally honest, isn't a hike I can recommend.  I certainly won't be returning to it anytime soon.  There's just nothing remarkable to see for the effort and as you've read already there's that lengthy road walk in the middle.  If, however, you're already in this particular area and are in need of a somewhat challenging 6-mile loop to walk then this hike might just be perfect for you.  Otherwise...I'd recommend maybe searching out another hike on my web page.  I know that's probably not going to inspire you to peruse this album...I've never claimed to be a sales person...but, if you'd like, I'll still invite you along with me.  So, without further ado, I present a loop hike around Ferrin Knob...as always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.453842, -82.680125


Route Type:  Loop                       Difficulty:  HARD  (Petzoldt Rating:  8.40 )

Hike Length:  5.9 miles                Hike Duration:  2:15

Trailhead Temp:  70'F                 Trail Traffic:  10-25 people

Min. Elevation:  2,840'                  Max. Elevation:  4,064'

Total Vertical Gain:  1,250'           Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  212'


Trails Used (blaze color):  Forest Road 5000 (unblazed), Shut-In/Mountains-to-Sea (white), Spencer Gap (yellow), Trace Ridge (orange)


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