View – the view spot at Walker’s Knob provides an outstanding 180 degree view of the Swannanoa Valley looking southwest that includes the town of Black Mountain. The view from Graybeard Mountain looks north towards the Blue Ridge Pinnacle, Potato Knob and Clingman’s Peak and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Hike Profile – the out and back hike follows the Graybeard Trail to the summit of Graybeard Mountain with a short side trip at Walker’s Knob to view the shelter and walk out to the view spot. There are several distinct sections to the Graybeard Trail as described below (starting from the trailhead):
a. 0.5 miles – gentle climb through a rhododrendron forest along Flat Creek.
b. 0.8 miles – moderate climb to the Old Trestle Road that involves 3 stream crossings.
c. 2.1 miles – gentle climb on the Old Trestle Road through a series of long switchbacks.
d. 0.3 miles – slightly less than moderate climb to Walker’s Knob
e. 0.3 miles – slightly less than moderate climb to view spot at Walker’s Knob
f. 0.5 miles – moderate climb to summit of Big Slaty
g. 0.2 miles – moderate climb to summit of Graybeard
Hike options include turning around at Walker’s Knob for a slightly shorter, less strenuous hike or going all the way to Graybeard Mountain. The last 0.7 miles have some of the steepest parts of the trail and some people find it to be quite challenging after an already long hike and prefer to end the hike at Walker’s Knob.
Trail Surface – section a. through the rhodo forest is wet and slippery in many spots with numerous roots. Section b. runs along Flat Creek and it is quite eroded and uneven with exposed rocks on the trail. Section c. is flat and generally wide with small loose rocks and numerous wet and muddy spots. The rest of the hike is characterized by a narrow, rocky trail with areas of mud and roots.
Environment – much of the route goes through mountain side vegetation such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, blueberry bushes and some pine trees but mostly a canopy of hardwood trees.
Navigation -from the trailhead take the bridge across Flat Creek, turn left and follow the stream upward on the trail. After 0.5 miles, the trail will take a right onto a wide rocky trail. There is a sign at this turn. The trail continues to climb until it reaches the Old Trestle Road. Take a left on the Old Trestle Road and follow a series of switchbacks until the Graybeard Trail turns sharply to the left just before crossing a small stream. After a short climb, the trail will reach a junction at Walker’s Knob. The left fork will go to the Walker’s Knob shelter, the right fork continues up to Graybeard Mountain. You will be able to see the shelter at this point. The trail to the view spot is marked with an orange blaze and starts just on the other side of a fire pit in front of the shelter.
At the summit of Big Slaty, the Graybeard Trail intersects the West Ridge Trail that enters from the left. Make sure to turn right at this point and continue up to Graybeard Mountain summit.
Directions to Trailhead – Take Montreat Rd. north from Black Mountain. Past the Gate the road becomes Assembly Rd. and subsequently Graybeard Trail Road. Continue on this road until reaching the trailhead parking area on the right across from the Walk Jones Wildlife Sanctuary. The trailhead starts across the bridge.