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West Prong Hickey Fork Falls and Big Firescald Knob - Pisgah National Forest, NC

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
3.0 mls N/A N/A

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
West Prong Hickey Fork Falls
1 hour and 45 with 15 minutes of breaks
560 ft
15.7 mls

Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Camp Creek Bald, Blackstack Cliffs, and Big Firescald Knob
8 hours and 30 minutes with 2 hours of breaks
3,670 ft
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Park on FR 465/Hickey Fork Rd. 35.99423, -82.70468

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins (Contact Zach)

This hike explores many of the notable landmarks within the Shelton Laurel Backcountry Area, a remote region in the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. Located between Hot Springs and Interstate 26, these national forest trails receive little traffic year-round. You’ll start with the Hickey Fork Trail on FR 465, and follow West Prong Hickey Fork deep into the backcountry towards West Prong Hickey Fork Falls. After viewing the waterfall, you can turn around for a 3-mile hike or continue climbing to the Appalachian Trail to see many notable landmarks along the North Carolina-Tennessee border. Your first stop is Camp Creek Bald, home to the oldest original lookout tower in the state. Although the massive mountain rises high above the surrounding peaks, the summit itself is blocked by trees and communication structures. The top cab is typically locked, and the view from the stairs is limited. However, the next few miles contain some of the best views in the area.

First you’ll pass through Jones Meadow, a large clearing parallel to the Appalachian Trail and the site of the former Viking Mountain Resort. The access road ends at the old resort site, with wonderful views of Camp Creek Bald and the Blackstack Cliffs. You’ll then hike over to the Blackstack Cliffs with equally impressive views. From here you can turn around, or continue north on the Appalachian Trail to Big Firescald Knob. The extra mileage is worth it. The long, exposed ridgeline on Big Firescald Knob has tremendous 360° views of the Bald Mountains, Black Mountains, Great Craggy Mountains, and Cumberland Plateau. On your return you’ll be treated to a nice stop at Whiterock Cliff before the lengthy trek down to the parking area. This route is perfect for a weekend backpacking trip, but sturdy hikers will relish the opportunity to see so many sights in one long day.

Mid May
Big Firescald Knob Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Stephen R Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 29, 2019
My biggest recommendation for anyone attempting this hike in the summer is to wear pants! I went at the end of June, and the trail was very overgrown in many places, and there were a ton of pretty big spider webs crossing the path when I went up. My legs got pretty scraped from all the underbrush (a good amount of those plants had some small thorns). I found a nice stick halfway through, and that helped take out most of the spiderwebs and some of the underbrush. The views at the top are pretty hard to beat. Once you're on top it largely levels off and its a great walk up on top of the ridge. Also, the 5 on "solitude" was as advertised. I went on a Saturday in late June and only saw 5 people the entire day. I gave this 3 stars (really should be 3.5) because the trail was just so overgrown and kinda unpleasant for the first 5 miles. This may be better for fall or winter when that might be less of a problem. With the proper gear (read: pants), I'm sure I would've enjoyed this even more.

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