View – The trail goes through a highland meadow of grasses and wildflowers to the base of Sam Knob. Sam Knob has two summits a short distance apart. Both summits have only low brush which affords 360 degree views of the entire Black Balsam area and beyond. Flat Laurel Creek is a very scenic clear, rocky mountain stream.
Hike Profile – this hike is a long loop with gentle ups and downs on the Sam Knob and Flat Laurel Creek trails plus an out and back moderate ascent to the summit of Sam Knob at 6050 ft.
Trail Surface – The trail out to Sam Knob goes through a meadow where the surface of the trail is mostly grass and dirt with some deep ruts. The ascent of the summit(s) of Sam Knob is by a well worn narrow trail, rocky in places, with switchbacks. The Flat Laurel Creek trail can be eroded and muddy in places and does cross Flat Laurel Creek. This crossing involves rock hopping and many people require assistance to get across. The creek is shallow, however, so wading is always possible.
Environment – The approach to Sam Knob and the Flat Laurel Creek Trail goes through a highland meadow grasses and wildflowers more typical of areas of a more northern latitude. Flat Laurel Creek Trail follows the creek for a while through thicker stands of low trees.
Navigation – The Sam Knob Trail from the parking lot comes to a T intersection at the base of Sam Knob. The summit trail is on the right and the trail to Flat Laurel Creek is on the left. Take the right to complete the out and back hike to Sam Knob summit. The Sam Knob Summit Trail forks near the summit to provide a trail to the southern summit and a trail to the northern summit.
After returning from Sam Knob, continue on the trail to Flat Laurel Creek. This trail descends gently to the creek crossing but enters a large, muddy area just before the creek. There is a side trail that swings left from the trail, but continue through the muddy area to the creek crossing. On the other side of the creek, go left on the Flat Laurel Creek trail. This trail will eventually lead back to the parking lot. The trail to Little Sam Knob intersects Flat Laurel Creek trail so stay to the left at the intersection.
Directions to Trailhead – At BRP milepost 420 turn onto FS 816 and drive 1.3 mi. to the end of the road to a paved parking area for the Sam Knob and other Black Balsam area trails.