Asheville, NC: Green Knob

In the shadow of Mt. Mitchell, this 5.6-mile ridgeline hike climbs through hemlock and chestnut oak to a watchtower overlook of Blue Ridge and Pisgah peaks.

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Climbing 2,000 feet to a watchtower overlook of Blue Ridge, Pisgah, and Black Mountain peaks, this 5.6-mile out-and-back to Green Knob offers dayhikers all the views of its mammoth northwest neighbor, Mt. Mitchell, without the crowds. Beginning from a forest service road trailhead off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the signed trail to Green Knob begins with a stiff ascent to the spine of Lost Cove Ridge. Tracing the ridge, the trail continues on an undulating climb through a diverse forest mix of hemlock, chestnut oak peppered with mountain laurel, rhododendron, and magnolia.

Roughly 2 miles in, the approach to the Green Knob summit becomes more exposed, revealing intermittent views of the Black Mountain Range and Pisgah National Forest. The hike’s highlight, though, is the Green Knob observation tower. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1932 (restored in 1996), the tower offers uninterrupted views of the Black Mountain range and Mount Mitchell State Park to the northwest, views of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the northeast, and views across the surrounding Pisgah National Forest. Soak it all in before backtracking to the trailhead.



The hike begins behind trailhead information board and ascends through cool, open Hemlock forest. Look for the smooth bark of American beech trees mixed in among the hemlocks.


At an intersection marked with double yellow blazes, turn right and continue uphill. The unique bark of young striped maples can be found next to the path.


Stay left at Y-intersection with River Loop Trail. Continue southwest among rhododendron. Just ahead, the trail makes a sharp left turn and continues south along the spine of the ridge. Views open up to the west among scattered mountain laurel and chestnut oak.


Follow the level winding trail through tunnels of mountain laurel. The pungent-smelling, evergreen leaves of galax dot the ground.


Begin a steep ascent up a well-worn path. Chestnut oak seedlings litter the ground with their wavy-edged leaves. Sourwood trunks lean over the trail reaching for sunlight. The interesting yellow flowers of witch hazel bring some color to the forest in the winter when views of Pisgah National Forest can be seen to the east.


Catch your breath at a clearing near the top of the ascent. The evergreen leaves of early blooming trailing arbutus can be found here. Descend steeply on the trail to a short, level ridge passing a large boulder and trees.


The trail begins an ascent of Lost Cove Ridge. Walk by a large chestnut oak located beside the trail. These slow growing trees are found on dry ridges in the southern Appalachians. For this reason, trees this large would easily be over a hundred years old. Shiny flecks of mica dot the ground.


Take a break as the trail reaches the top of the ridge and levels out once more. Continue descent through open hemlock woods along Lost Cove Ridge.


Two large chestnut oaks guard the trail on either side. Pass through and continue a ridgeline ascent among northern red oak.


Again the trail levels out at the top of an ascent. The high-pitched calls of kinglets can be heard above as they flit about. The sharp pointy needles of red spruce trees are more common at this higher elevation.


Ascent steepens as the trail moves to the west side of the ridge. The whorled leaves of Indian cucumber identify it among other small plants on the forest floor. The smooth gray bark and earlobed leaves of Fraser magnolia can also be seen here.


Continue steep ascent and look for views of the knob before the forest closes in again. As you reach the top, views open up, and exposed rocks and stunted plant growth serve as a reminder of how harsh the weather can get up here.


The Green Knob Fire Tower adorns the summit of this 5,080-foot peak. The 32-foot tower was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1932 and restored in 1996. The tower affords awesome views of the Black Mountains, Mt. Mitchell State Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Snap some pictures and enjoy the solitude from the catwalk before backtracking down the ridge to the trailhead.

From 2022