Sam Knob via Flat Laurel Creek (10-7-14)
If I had to pick my favorite short day hike near home it would unequivocally be the hike up Flat Laurel Creek to Sam Knob. Sam Knob itself is certainly near the top of my short list of favorite southern summits. Add to it a pleasant 3-mile hike up a well-worn trail through high elevation forests and fields, a few waterfalls, and long-distance views and you have yourself one absolute gem of a hike, one that will never disappoint. Sam Knob, at 6,050', is a stand alone peak adjacent to the massive Great Balsam Range of peaks. Each of it's twin summits provides spectacular views of the surrounding river gorges and something on the order of a dozen neighboring Southern 6000-footers.
On this early October day I was hoping to add to the mix some peak fall colors. The sun was shining from blue skies when I left my house but by the time I made the 1/2 hour drive to the trailhead the peaks had become solidly socked in with clouds...such is weather in the mountains. Although disappointed that my color pictures wouldn't be quite so vibrant, this is hardly a hike you can feel short-changed on in any possible way. So, off I went...the colors, while dulled by the clouds, were still fabulous (and not quite peak I was surprised to discover giving me a chance to come back) and the refreshing nature of a brisk fall day made me anxious for the fabulous "off-season" of hiking that is soon to follow. Come on along with me as I make a fall hike along one of my favorite routes in the entirety of the Southern Appalachians...enjoy...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.308036, -82.908910
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: 6.5 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 45'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 5,000' Max. Elevation: 6,050'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,050' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 323'
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Flat Laurel Creek (orange), Sam Knob (blue), Sam Knob Summit (unblazed)