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Big Butt Trail – Pisgah National Forest, NC

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
15.5 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
8 hours and 30 minutes with 2 hours of breaks
4,365 ft
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Park at Cane River Gap. 35.81020, -82.34838

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins (Contact Zach)

The Big Butt Trail, despite its comical name, is a tough hike along the western peaks of the Black Mountains. Most hikers begin at the Balsam Gap trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the easier way to reach the viewpoints. This is seasonal access however, since the parkway is typically closed all winter in this section. Year-round access is possible at Cane River Gap, deep in the backcountry of the Big Ivy section of the Pisgah National Forest.

You may think of the Big Butt Trail as the little cousin to the Black Mountain Crest Trail. It is shorter, not as difficult, and crosses peaks just below 6,000 feet. At the beginning you’ll face a long, switchbacking ascent through beautiful hardwood forests to the mile-high ridgeline between Big Butt and Little Butt. The Black Mountains form a U around the Cane River Valley, but all of the tall, well-known peaks are on the east side of the range. That doesn’t diminish the hike though, it provides arguably the best views of the eastern Black Mountains from Little Butt. After Little Butt the trail continues south past Point Misery then ends at Balsam Gap. From here you have the option of following the Mountains-to-Sea Trail east to a great view below the 6,320-foot Blackstock Knob. Once you reach the summit turn around for a tiring 7.6-mile hike back to Cane River Gap. There are also multiple options for a shuttle hike. Leave a car at Balsam Gap for the shortest possible shuttle. You can also follow the MST east to the crossing on NC 128 below Potato Knob, or west to the Glassmine Falls Overlook or Graybeard Mountain Overlook.

Alternate Parking: Walker Knob Overlook (Balsam Gap) – If the Blue Ridge Parkway is open to Walker Knob Overlook at Balsam Gap you can do a shorter, easier version of this hike. You can hike out to Big Butt, turn around, and choose to add Blackstock Knob if you wish. This hike is 9.7 miles with 2,850 feet elevation gain. 

Mile  Summary and Highlights
0.0 - Big Butt Trailhead at NC 197 (Cane River Gap)
3.2 - Big Butt summit (5,920 feet)
4.1 - Little Butt summit with views east of the Black Mountains
5.0 - Pass by the summit of Point Misery (5,715 feet)
6.5 - Big Butt Trailhead and Mountains-to-Sea Trail junction at Walker Knob Overlook (Balsam Gap)
7.8 - Northeast view of Black Mountains from Mountains-to-Sea Trail
8.1 - Blackstock Knob summit (6,340 feet) and hike turnaround point
Late August
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