The lofty mountains north of Boone - also known as the Northern Peaks - rise to more than 5,500 feet. Elk Knob equals the status of slightly more southerly Boone Area peaks like Beech Mountain, the East's highest town and ski resort, and Hump Mountain, one of the summits that so distinguish the Roan Highlands, an iconic part of the nearby Appalachian Trail.
Elk Knob is part of the Amphibolite Mountains, which stretch from Rich Mountain, overlooking Boone, north to Mount Jefferson and Phoenix Mountain. Eventually, the trails at Elk Knob will connect to The Northern Peaks Trail, a designated North Carolina State Trail. Conservationists continue their efforts to expand the amount of acreage protected from development in the "Northern Peaks" north of Boone.
The park's facilities include a visitor center, eleven site picnic areas with tables and grills, backcountry campsites, and a 1.8-mile trail to the 5,520-foot summit of Elk Knob. There are three other trails at the park, including a strenuous and steep backcountry trail through wildflower meadows to the park's campsites. The Maple Run Trail and Beech Tree Trail are both easy hikes under a mile near the base of the mountain.
In winter, the road past the park entrance is plowed and rangers make every effort to keep the park open as a focus for winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Elk Knob area is particularly snowy and it's likely the park may provide some of the best Nordic skiing in the South. The Elk Knob Summit Trail is great for snowshoeing. Keep an eye on Ray's Weather for current snowfall forecasts.
From the US 421/NC 194 junction in Boone, take NC 194 north for 4.3 miles and turn left on Meat Camp Road*. Drive another 5.8 miles through the scenic valley and in the gap between Elk Knob and Snake Mountain, turn right into the park. The office, with exhibits, information, and restrooms, is on the left. The second left leads to the picnic area. Bear right for the trail parking area with a temporary privy.
*Meat Camp was so named because Daniel Boone had a hunting camp in the area. Indeed, Daniel was a frequent Boone Area visitor and resident.
Head up this wonderfully graded trail - meaning it climbs gradually at a relaxing rise that makes this a moderately-strenuous hike, despite 1,000 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead to the mountaintop. The dramatically rocky landscape permitted the path to be lined with rocks, then leveled with an easy-to-walk gravel foot tread. In the trail's numerous switchbacks, where the path turns back to climb in another direction, there are often stone or wood benches for resting. (Hikers should not cut switchbacks and stay on the trail.)
There are impressive rock steps and stone-paved portions of the path as it switchbacks up the south slope, then slides around the ridge to zig-zag up the north face. The trail crosses to the south slope again-passing a steep road to the top for the last time. The trail gets a little steeper as it climbs stone steps at the top. Quartz crystals are seen in many places in the park - including a step of solid quartz on the trail to the top.
The stunted, wildly wind-gnarled summit covering of beech and other northern hardwood trees permit views in many directions. The last stretch of the hike to the top joins the old road where a left reaches a southern viewpoint and a right leads to the summit and views to the north.
This is a "best-kept secret" viewpoint, one of the best in the Boone Area. Elk Knob is equidistant between the highest peaks in NC and the East (Mount Mitchell, 6,684 feet, to the south) and the loftiest mountain in Virginia (Mount Rogers, 5,729 feet, off to the north). All around lay other distinctive landmarks, including Grandfather Mountain, massive to the south (5,946 feet). All three High Country ski areas are visible. Appalachian Ski Mountain, Beech Mountain, and Sugar Mountain can be showing partially snow-covered slopes, still into early spring. The pastoral beauty of Boone Area agriculture is evident in every direction. No wonder. The soil resulting from the erosion of these amphibolite peaks is particularly rich.
Elk Knob State Park is one of the newest additions to the North Carolina State Parks System. The park surrounds the headwaters of the North Fork of the New River, offering hiking trails to panoramic views, backcountry campsites, picnic areas, and snowshoeing or cross country ski trails in the...Click For More
Help preserve these incredible trails by sticking to the designated path and switchbacks to prevent erosion, respecting wildlife and others on the trail, and packing out any trash.
Click through the images below to learn more about how to help Preserve the Awe of Elk Knob's unique ecology!