We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
We headed to South Mountain State Park on a quest to find the yellow lady slippers. We thought the Chestnut Knob Trail might be a likely spot but we stopped at the visitor center to inquire about them. We were directed to a spot near the parking lot where they had bloomed two weeks earlier. There were three blooms that hadn't turned brown yet. They bloomed early this year..
This hike starts from the parking lot at the end of the park road. After viewing the lady slippers we followed the main trail past the restrooms for .2 miles and turned right on the Chestnut Knob Trail. We usually like to take the Hemlock Trail along Jacob Fork when we start out in this park but it meets the main trail further down then our turn.
Most of the elevation gain for this hike occurs in the first .7 mile. There are switchbacks and steps in the trail but this section will get your heart pumping. At the top of this section is a right turn for a short spur trail to the Jacob Fork River Gorge Overlook. From here you can view High Shoal Falls in the distance. Retracing our steps we continued along the Chestnut knob trail.
From here it is a .9 mile walk through the woods to the next intersection. There were flowers blooming here and there along the trail. Almost all the way there were blueberry bushes. Some were blooming, a few already had green berries growing, but most had only leaves. There is still some elevation to gain but the trail is gentler here and sees much less traffic then the trails around the falls.
This trail goes up a final set of steps and appears to suddenly end at a cross trail. Actually a right turn is the continuation of the Chestnut Knob Trail and a left turn leads to the Chestnut Knob overlook in .2 miles. This intersection as with all the intersections in this park is well marked. After a short distance there is a wider area with a hitching post for horses that have come up from the Sawtooth Trail.
From here the trail is narrow and goes downhill as it rounds the end of the knob. This is the most difficult part of the trail with rocks and roots to negotiate but it is short and worth the effort. At the end are a number of boulders to climb on and take in the view. We sat on the rocks and enjoyed our lunch and the view before retracing our steps back to the parking lot.