Little Sam Knob is a trailless summit in the Shining Rock/Middle Prong high country of North Carolina. Presenting a strange two-toned profile, Little Sam Knob has been on my to-do list for several years. The western side of the peak was obviously
planted in red spruce some time after it was logged, and these trees have reforested those slopes rather effectively. The steeper eastern slopes were allowed to reforest themselves naturally and are a hardwood/shrub mix.
At 5,862 feet above sea level, Little Sam is one of a large number of “almost sixers” sprinkled across the high country. Lacking the one hundred or so feet of elevation that puts them in the exclusive sixer club, many of these peaks are ignored by the hiking community. The area that is home for Little Sam contains a fairly large number of 6,000-foot peaks that form a series of high ridges leading from Cold Mountain on the western edge to Richland Balsam on the eastern side.
This area has long been one of my favorite places, although if you’re searching for solitude, it’s best to avoid the country within the Shining Rock Wilderness and head toward Middle Prong instead. On an average weekend, the parking lots at Shining Rock/Sam Knob are packed beyond capacity and there are endless teams of hikers strolling around the exposed high country. I still have a few peaks in that area to bag, so I’ll have to return a few more times to add them to my list. If you hike for solitude, I’d suggest going to this area in mid-week rather than on weekends or holidays.
The open nature of the high country around Little Sam Knob is due to voracious logging practices on the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Narrow gauge railways were built across the summits and into the valleys allowing easy removal of the virgin forests, which were clear-cut, and the
land mainly allowed to lay fallow. Fires that followed these clear cuts burned through the logging detritus and some of these conflagrations burned right through the forest loam right down to the mineral soils. Subsequent storms did a thorough job of scouring off the land and recovery to a normal Southern Appalachian forest system will be a long time coming.
The views from the cliff just below the summit of Little Sam Knob offer the best views I have ever seen of its larger namesake, Sam Knob. So I highly recommend the bushwhack to the top, regardless of the route one takes to get there.
The best access is via the parking area on Forest Service Road 816 (Black Balsam Road) at miles post 420.2 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Drive to the parking area and take the Sam Knob Trail to Flat Laurel Creek Trail and, after crossing Flat Laurel Creek, bushwhack to the summit from the gap between Little Sam Knob and Sam Knob.
Sam & Little Sam
None. This Pisgah National Forest area has practically no regulations whatsoever. Open camping wherever you wish to set up a tent or lash a hammock. No fees at all. Access is only limited by the weather.
You can camp anywhere you wish in this area of the Pisgah National Forest. Great campsites abound all around the Sam Knob/Little Sam Knob vicnity. There are no camping fees, and plenty of springs and several reliable streams, most notably Flat Laurel Creek.