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Foggy Day at Elk Knob and Mount Jefferson

posted Oct 11, 2017, 4:35 PM by Justin P   [ updated Oct 21, 2017, 2:33 PM ]
Sunday morning, I headed to Elk Knob State Park, arriving at 8.  It was very cloudy and lightly drizzling, but I didn't actually get rained on.  I started on the Summit Trail, heading up the mountain.


The trail is a little steep, gaining about 1000 feet in under 2 miles, but switchbacks keep the slope reasonable.  There was an overlook about two-thirds of the way up the mountain, but visibility was only a few feet.


At the top of the mountain, it was even cloudier.  I first went to the South View; on a clear day, I could see Roan Mountain and Grandfather Mountain, but today, I could barely see the shrubs right in front of me.


The actual summit of the mountain is at the North View and not much to see here either.


So I headed back down the mountain.  At the trailhead, I took the short Maple Run Trail to Beech Tree Trail and hiked the short loop.  Despite the dreary weather, the trail was really scenic in the fog.


Then I took the Backcountry Trail down towards the campsites.  The first part was very steep until I reached the headwaters of North Fork New River - it was barely a trickle up here.  I continued on to Mine Branch and then hiked back out.  At one spot near the park boundary, a break in the trees provided nice views of fall colors on an adjacent ridge.


After crossing North Fork, it was a gruelingly steep climb back up, much steeper than the Summit Trail as there were no switchbacks.  Back at the car, I left Elk Knob and headed to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.  It's been a while since I've visited and since my last visit, they built a trail from the park entrance up to the top of the mountain.  So I parked at the visitor center and started hiking up the Mountain Ridge Trail.  The trail switchbacked up and came out at the road near Sunrise Overlook.  There was no seeing the sunrise or anything else from here today.  I missed the turn and just walked the road up to the next overlook - Jefferson Overlook.


I couldn't see much from the overlook, but did find where to pick up the trail on the way down.  It was really hard to find the trail going the other way, so I again walked the road up to the upper parking lot.  With the cloudy weather, I didn't have to worry about much traffic.  At the picnic area, I took the Summit Trail up to the top, where there is a radio tower.  The summit of Mount Jefferson is here, but not much to see.  So I hiked along the Rhododendron Trail following a ridge along the summit.


The trail itself was quite scenic in the foggy weather.  Near the end, I went out to Luther Rock.


There certainly wasn't much to see so I finished up the Rhododendron Trail loop and started heading back down.  At the end of the parking area, I picked up the Mountain Ridge Trail heading back down.  It's easy to follow going down.  Near Jefferson Overlook, I had to climb down some rocks and there was no indication that this was the trail at the base - it would be really hard to find coming up.  I picked the trail back up at Jefferson Overlook and followed it back down the mountain.  Driving home the rain picked up, but I managed to miss the rain for my entire hike.