Ascent of Dobson knob on 2012-02-04

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, February 4, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Dobson knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:3680 ft / 1121 m

Ascent Trip Report

Dobson Knob is a formidable climb on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST), over 2,000 feet up from the Linville River crossing to the east or the North Fork Catawba River footbridge to the west. In terms of prominence, it is one of 95 P1Kers in NC.

In 1780, the Overmountain Men crossed the NE flank of Dobson Knob (which they called Linville Mountain) on their way from Tennessee to Kings Mountain, where they won one of the most significant battles of the American Revolution. The MST follows part of their route.

Nowadays, you don't have to climb Dobson Knob from the valleys. You can approach the mountain along a spur ridge from the Kistler Highway, which follows the west rim of the Linville Gorge.

Kistler is a 14-mile gravel road that is a little rough and steep in places, but cars can make it. Along the way, Linville Falls and Wiseman's View are must-see destinations, and several trails descend from the road into the gorge. If "highway" makes you expect pavement, you'll be disappointed. But if you think "high way"--rollercoastering along the ridgetops--you're in for a memorable drive.

From US221 north of Marion and just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn east on NC 183. At the NFS sign for Linville Falls/Wiseman's View, bear R onto the Kistler Highway. On some maps, Kistler is shown as Old NC 105, but it should not be confused with the current NC 105 near Boone.

Head south on the Kistler Highway for 9.7 miles and then turn R onto the unsigned Dobson Knob road, passing through an open gate. Continue 2.7 miles (crossing the Overmountain Victory Trail along the way) until the gravel ends. About 100 yards further, there is room to park 3 cars on the R just before a second gate that was recently installed. This gate was locked when I arrived and open when I left. The road beyond is passable for 4WD for another mile or so, but I wouldn't want to risk getting locked in.

The white-blazed MST follows the road here and eventually crosses the southern summits of Dobson Knob. There are actually three distinct peaks, all of them topping out in the 3680 contour.

Hike 1.65 miles along the road and then continue 1.0 on the MST to reach the southern "peaks"--nothing more than brush-covered outcroppings along the S side of the trail.

The northern summit is marked as Dobson Knob on the topo and is probably the highest. Two miles into the hike (0.35 beyond the end of the road) look for an unmarked but obvious path on the R that leaves the MST and climbs 250 feet up the ridge. There is a NC Geodetic Survey triangle on a tree at the top. The summit is wooded, so views are limited.

The roundtrip hike is 4.6 miles if you're just going to the off-trail summit and 5.8 if you tag all 3 HP candidates. I did not go as far as Bald Knob (3475), which would probably increase the round trip to about 6.5 miles.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1160 ft / 353 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1160 ft / 353 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.8 mi / 9.3 km
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Drizzle, Cool, Calm, Overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1060 ft / 323 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 760 ft / 231 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:MST westbound
    Start Trailhead:Dobson Knob road  2920 ft / 890 m
    Time:1 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:860 ft / 262 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 760 ft / 231 m; Extra: 100 ft / 30m
    Gain on way out:100 ft / 30 m
    Distance:2.3 mi / 3.7 km
    End Trailhead:2920 ft / 890 m
    Time:1 Hours 

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