Ascent of Benn Knob on 2011-01-01

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, January 1, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Benn Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:2880 ft / 877 m

Ascent Trip Report

On two previous occasions, I tried the road used by Peter Barr in his 2005 COHP trip report, only to find the gate closed. So with nothing else to do on New Year's Day, I decided to defy miserable weather and bag the Cleveland County HP the old-fashioned way.

There are two approaches from the road in South Mountains State Park. I came up from the campground (aka the Cicero Branch parking lot) on the Raven Rock trail. The alternative would be the High Shoals Falls loop trail from the Jacob Fork parking lot. The second gives you a closeup view of the waterfall and increases the round trip distance by about a mile. Since you'll be walking at least 10 miles either way, why not?

From Cicero Branch, the entire walk is on roads. Don't be dismayed by that. It's mostly gravel roads that are closed to cars. Up on the ridge, where the trail follows two miles of pavement in the gated Pine Mountain development, I saw only two houses and no cars. In fact, the only traffic I met was a mountain biker about a quarter mile from the summit of Benn Knob. Yes, you can bag Benn by bike.

The trail is well marked (white blazes) and has good directional signs at all junctions. If you can make it the first two miles (climbing 1200 feet), the rest is easy. The round trip is 10 miles. It took me 2:15 up and 1:55 down.

From Cicero Branch:

0.2m upstream on River Trail. Cross bridge to Raven Rock Trail.

1.7m on Raven Rock trail past jct with High Shoals Falls trail to jct with Saddleback horse trail. Trail changes name from Raven Rock to Dogwood but continues uphill on the same gravel road.

2.8m on Dogwood Trail, including about 2 miles of pavement along Pine Ridge Drive. Just after the pavement starts, you crest Dogwood Stamp Mountain (walk behind the water tower to bag this 2520 peak). The next two miles coast along the ridge. When the pavement ends, continue on the dirt road until you reach the jct with the Benn Knob trail, just beyond a yellow gate.

0.3m on the Benn Knob trail. When you come to a fork, take the L road uphill past another yellow gate, and in just a couple hundred yards, you'll reach the top.

The communications tower on top is fenced (complete with razor wire) and surrounded by trees. If you were looking for views, you came a long way for nothing. On the other hand, you have the satisfaction of completing a climb that's comparable to many on the South Beyond 6000 list, in terms of elevation gain (1560) and distance (10 miles).

Best of all, when someone asks why you climb obscure mountains, you can point at Cleveland County NC, paraphrase Mallory, and declare, "Benn there? Done that."

My 51st COHP.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1960 ft / 596 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1960 ft / 596 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10 mi / 16.1 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Weather:Raining, Cool, Windy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1760 ft / 536 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1560 ft / 475 m; Extra: 200 ft / 60m
    Loss on way in:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Route:Raven Rock Trail, Dogwood Trail, Benn Knob Trail
    Start Trailhead:Cicero Branch parking lot, South Mountains State P  1320 ft / 402 m
    Time:2 Hours 15 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1760 ft / 536 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 1560 ft / 475 m; Extra: 200 ft / 60m
    Gain on way out:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:5 mi / 8.1 km
    Route:Benn Knob Trail, Dogwood Trail, Raven Rock Trail
    End Trailhead:Cicero Branch parking lot, South Mtn State Park  1320 ft / 402 m
    Time:1 Hours 55 Minutes

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