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Rocky Knob

View from Rocky Knob
Rocky Knob is a recreation area along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Markers 167 through 169.  The closest major city is Roanoke, about 50 miles north along the parkway.  Just off the parkway are several overlooks providing scenic views over the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Rock Castle Gorge just below Rocky Knob and the rolling hills of the Piedmont in Virginia and North Carolina.

Directions:

Rocky Knob Recreation Area is located at mile markers 167 through 169 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 50 miles south of Roanoke, VA and 50 miles north of the VA-NC state line.  Parking is available at the Rocky Knob Campground at mile marker 167; at Saddle Overlook at mile marker 168; at the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook and Twelve O'Clock Knob Overlook at mile marker 169; and on the opposite side of the parkway at the Visitor Center and picnic area at mile marker 169.

To reach the fire road parking area in Rock Castle Gorge, take US-58 to Stuart, VA.  In Stuart, take VA-8 north where the road splits from US-58 and go about 13 miles.  Just after crossing Rock Castle Creek, turn left on CC Camp Road (Route 605).  Follow the gravel road to the end at the fire road gate and park.

Map:

Rocky Knob Recreation Area

Hiking:

The main hiking trail at Rocky Knob Recreation Area is the Rock Castle Gorge Trail, designated as a National Recreation Trail.  This is a great trail with a little bit of everything; read the description below for more details.  However, it's a strenuous trail, so if you're looking for something a little shorter, check out the Black Ridge and Picnic Loop Trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway for an easier hike.

Black Ridge Trail:

Length: 3 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Moderate
Blaze: Dark Blue

The Black Ridge Trail is a 3-mile loop starting from the Visitor Center.  Going in the counter-clockwise direction, the trail crosses the parkway and joins the Rock Castle Gorge Trail between the Rock Castle Gorge and Twelve O'Clock Knob overlooks.  The trail follows the Rock Castle Gorge Trail for about a mile and splits near Grassy Knoll.  After crossing the parkway again, the trail descends through a forested area and crosses a creek before heading back up to the Visitor Center.

Black Ridge Trail

Rock Castle Gorge National Recreation Trail:

Length: 10.8 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Blaze: Turquoise/Light Blue

Rock Castle Gorge Trail is a loop and there are several places to start the trail from, but I always start from the end of CC Camp Road as described in the second paragraph under Directions.  The trail starts out crossing the gated bridge and turns right to follow Little Rock Castle Creek.  Initially, the trail is not steep, but gets steeper and steeper as it diverges from the creek and gains about 1800 feet before reaching Rocky Knob along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  As the trail approaches the parkway, it leaves the forested area and goes through grassy fields with cows grazing near the Rocky Knob Campground.  The trail passes The Saddle Overlook before the final ascent up Rocky Knob and an old Appalachian Trail shelter is near the summit.  At one point, the AT went through this area, but was diverted with the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Coming down from Rocky Knob, the trail passes the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook with views of the gorge below and then crosses Grassy Knoll, another grassy hillside, before descending back into the gorge.  There are several rocky draws with small streams flowing into Rock Castle Creek and this area is great for viewing wildflowers in the spring.  At the bottom of the gorge, the trail follows an old logging road along side Rock Castle Creek as it makes its way back to parking area.

Scenic Overlooks:

Rock Castle Gorge Overlook:

Located just before mile marker 168, Rock Castle Gorge provides great views of the gorge below and of the rolling hills of the Piedmont just beyond the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

View from Rock Castle Gorge Overlook

Saddle Overlook:

Located at mile marker 167, Saddle Overlook provides great views of the gorge below and of the rolling hills of the Piedmont just beyond the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

View from Saddle Overlook

Looking in the other direction from Saddle Overlook, one can see Buffalo Mountain, an interesting "hump" mountain in the distance.

Buffalo Mountain from Saddle Overlook

Twelve O'Clock Knob Overlook:

View from Twelve O'Clock Knob

Wildflowers:

Rock Castle Gorge is a great place to see wildflowers in the spring.  The best place to see them is along the Rock Castle Gorge Trail between Grassy Knoll and the Rock Castle Creek crossing on the west end of the gorge.  There are literally entire hillsides of beautiful trillium and many other wildflowers growing in this area.

Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum)

Purple Trillium

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

White Trillium

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Crested Iris (Iris cristata)

Dwarf Crested Iris

Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

Fire Pink

Blog Entries:

26Apr2014: Rocky Knob Wildflower Hike

Videos:

Here's a video I made of a wildflower hike along Rock Castle Gorge Trail in April 2014:

Photos:

Rocky Knob Recreation Area


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