Ascent of Graybeard Mountain on 2012-11-17

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, November 17, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Graybeard Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5360 ft / 1633 m

Ascent Trip Report

Four of NC's 5K peaks are accessible from the trailhead where the old Mount Mitchell toll road crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had previously done The Pinnacle (1.6 miles round trip) and Bald Knob (0.5 miles) and today I did the 5.9-mile round trip to Graybeard via Rocky Knob. Both of these offer wide-open summit views and mostly gentle grades.

The first half of the hike follows a century-old roadbed (originally a logging railroad and later a tourist turnpike) and the rest roller-coasters along the ridge on an unblazed but easy-to-follow path. Net gain from the trailhead is just 160 feet, though there is an additional 400 feet of up and down each way.

The trailhead is about a half-mile northbound on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the junction of NC128 ("northbound" as in headed away from Asheville toward Virginia, though this section of the Parkway actually heads SE). Look on the right side for a white gate that marks the old toll road. Park on the shoulder, taking care not to block the gate. There are a few private landowners who still drive the first half-mile of the old road to reach their land.

Milestones of the hike:

0.0 miles (5200 feet)--Trailhead.

0.6 miles (5190)--After a half mile of nearly level walking, the road curves around the east flank of The Pinnacle and begins a gentle descent, passing several old campers.

1.43 miles (5000)--Leave the road. A turnout on the right leads up to the ridge, where a No Trespassing sign marks the boundary of the Asheville Watershed. The trail leads to the left (south), staying on the safe side of the watershed.

1.91 miles (5240)--The first of the two summits of Rocky Knob. Continue along the ridgeline, working through blowdowns that have obscured the path.

2.07 miles (5260)--The southern summit of Rocky Knob is noticeably higher, even though it has the smaller of the two 5240 contours. Cliff-top views westward to the Craggies.

2.14 miles (5160)--Descending SE from Rocky Knob, watch closely for an unmarked trail junction about 400 feet off the summit. Turn right (SW) and follow the ridge across the gap toward Graybeard Mountain. (The trail downhill intersects the abandoned toll road about a quarter mile further. This trail is the steeper way to Rocky Knob but is easier to follow. See my 2014 trip report for details.)

2.95 miles (5375)--After a steep climb (300 feet in 0.2 miles), reach summit of Graybeard, a heath bald that has a grandstand view of The Pinnacle, Mount Mitchell, Clingman's Peak, Blackstock Knob, and the Craggies.

Graybeard is my 100th ranked peak on the NC highest 1000 list!
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:960 ft / 291 m
    Extra Gain:400 ft / 121 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.9 mi / 9.4 km
    Route:Old Mitchell turnpike, Graybeard trail
    Trailhead:BRParkway at Old Mitchell turnpike  5200 ft / 1584 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 50 Minutes

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