This loop off the Blue Ridge Parkway on the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness is ideal because it is on the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness, the big, flashy wilderness that draws loads of foot traffic. Meanwhile, Sam Knob sits largely unappreciated next door. Mile-for-mile this may be the most scenic hike around, taking in just about every type of southern Appalachian landscape — from balsam forest to rocky knob to open meadow and tight rhododendron passage — imaginable. Some good water, too.

More info: USDA Forest Service, Pisgah Ranger District, 828.884.8670; “Backpacking North Carolina,” Trip No. 14.

Map: “Shining Rock & Middle Prong Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest,” USDA Forest Service.

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: Sam Knob Loop and Investor Gap/Shining Rock Wilderness in a larger map

sam knob
Location: Off Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 420
Nearest town: Brevard
Latitude: N35 19.836
Longitude: W82 53.645
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.2 miles
Loop/one-way: Loop
Time to complete: 3-6 hours