The Bald Knob Ridge Trail is located in a remote area of the South Toe River Gorge, miles south of the popular Black Mountain Campground in the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. In the shadow of the Black Mountains, this trail gently climbs Bald Knob Ridge through beautiful forests. Although lacking in views, the gradient and variety of landscapes makes the hike a worthwhile destination on its own. However, if you walk south 0.2-mi on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can take the short Pinnacle Trail to cap your hike with incredible views. Pinnacle, at 5,665 feet, is encompassed by the Great Craggy Mountains to the west, and the Black Mountains to the north. Although this peak is easy to access from the parkway, you’ll probably have the mountain to yourself at any time of the year. At 7.2 miles this hike may appear long and difficult, but the only steep section is the short summit hike to Pinnacle.
Seasonal Access – South Toe River Road/FR 472 is gated late Fall to early Spring at the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection and the Black Mountain Campground. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also closed frequently throughout the winter season in this high elevation region, typically from NC 80 in the east to Elk Mountain Scenic Highway in the west. Access to either trailhead from November to March is unlikely because of these closures.
I hiked this in one direction as part of a loop I was doing connecting the Buncombe Horse Range Trail via a long road walk on the BRP and NC 128. I don't recommend this loop, but I was knocking out both trails for the Black Mountains Hiking Challenge and it seemed ridiculous to have a shuttle. First I proceeded down the BHRT from the NC 128 crossing, and then walked up South Toe River Rd to connect with the Bald Knob Ridge Trail. I believe South Toe River Rd hasn't opened all year due to landslides. If you are planning to hike this, you will not be able to drive to the lower trailhead. You can park at the gate on the BRP and walk less than a mile down the forest road.
The Bald Knob Ridge Trail was more overgrown than when I hiked it in 2017. But I hiked it in April, so what I experienced may be typical of growth after summer. It wasn't bad. I only noticed the weeds more because everything was wet from fog. Even though the entire area was covered in clouds I still hiked up to Pinnacle. The previous reviewer was correct. Someone took down the blazes going uphill, but did not take down all of the blazes looking downhill. However, the trail is really easy to follow so you should have no problems making it to the summit.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 6, 2019
The Bald Knob Ridge portion was great. The access road was still closed, but there was room to park at the top. The road is somewhat steep down .7 miles, so add that in to your hiking plan.
Additionally, the trailhead to Pinnacle is NO LONGER marked. Looks like the post was ripped out & the red trail marker is missing. There are no trail markers on trees going up the mountain, but there are several coming back down (???). The trailhead is immediately after the old gate though - pretty clearly on the right just after the gate.