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Devils Courthouse, Black Balsam Knob and Sam Knob – Pisgah National Forest, NC


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
12.1 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Resources:
7 hours and 30 minutes with 2 hours and 15 minutes of breaks
2,205 ft
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Richland Balsam, NC Weather Forecast
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Two pullouts on N.C. 215 near the Mountains-to-Sea Trail crossing. 35.30374, -82.90872

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins ()

This loop hike in Pisgah National Forest, tucked between the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness Areas, is one of the most scenic hikes in North Carolina. The nearly mile-high plateau around the Flat Laurel Creek watershed offers views upon views from many prominent peaks. You’ll begin your hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail heading east from N.C. 215 and hover between 5,000 and 6,000 feet for the most of the hike. Devils Courthouse is the first notable summit you’ll visit just above the Blue Ridge Parkway. The tall cliffs offer 270° views of surrounding mountains in three states. Next you’ll pass by sheer cliffs below Chestnut and Silvermine Balds with in-your-face views of Pilot Mountain and Looking Glass Rock. The highlight of this hike, and the region, is the grassy expanse of Black Balsam Knob. At 6,214 feet this is the 2nd tallest peak in the Great Balsam Mountains and is comparable to the Roan Highlands.

The double-humped Sam Knob is the third noteworthy peak on this hike. Both north and south knobs have grand views of the region. During the final leg of the hike you’ll drop into the high-elevation Flat Laurel Creek bowl following the creek beside campsites and waterfalls while Little Sam Knob and Sam Knob tower above. Before the hike ends you’ll get a last-second treat passing below Wildcat Falls. This loop is perfect for a full-day or a weekend backpacking trip and truly one of the most stunning hikes in the state.

ParkingThere are two pullouts on N.C. 215 near the Mountains-to-Sea Trail crossing. The larger parking area is 100 feet south of the trail crossing. In order to complete this loop you’ll have to walk 0.4 mi on N.C. 215 between the Mountains-to-Sea and Flat Laurel Creek Trails. You can also park at the Flat Laurel Creek Trail, but the parking entrance is steep and is tough for small cars.

Backcountry Camping – There are many great campsites to choose from along this hike. Most of them are not beside water sources, so packing in water or a hiking to a water source will be necessary. Bear canisters are required in this area.

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