Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Rocky Knob Recreation Area is one of the few backcountry bulges along the usually narrow Blue Ridge Parkway, and this moderate 10.8-mile loop takes full advantage of the region’s mountaintop meadow scenery and bubbling streams.
Begin in the valley and hike along the Rock Castle Gorge Trail—named for the area’s abundant six-sided quartz crystals, which reminded early settlers of castle towers. You’ll soon pass an old CCC camp that’s now a backcountry site (perfect for basecamping), then the early twentieth-century Austin House at mile 1.5. The trail crosses the creek and continues past an old chimney, then climbs up to the Parkway. Continue on to 3,572-foot Rocky Knob for rolling mountain views and a peek at one of the Appalachian Trail’s oldest shelters—this spot was along the famous footpath’s original course until Parkway construction forced a reroute to the west. Continue past Rocky Knob and descend along the lightly-traveled Little Rock Castle Creek to close the loop.
Info: Free permit required for camping. (828) 298-0398; nps.gov/blri
Hike provided by Randy Johnson, author of Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway (Falcon).
Location: 36.8197059631348, -80.3419036865234
Rocky Knob (3,572 ft.)