Big Firescald Knob

  • Highlights: Appalachian Trail, amazing views
  • Distance: 4.6 miles out and back
  • Elevation Change 980 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with numerous rocky sections
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate/strenuous (rocky surfaces and scrambles)
  • Trailhead Parking: Viking Mountain Road parking area, Greeneville, TN
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Vinyl Pies, Hot Springs—El Guapo Larger & 13 Rebels ESB 

Trail Map:

The Hike:

This section hike on the Appalachian Trail straddles the North Carolina/Tennessee state line. The open ridge provides spectacular views of both states. The road to the trailhead is paved for a few miles and then turns to gravel/dirt. We had no problems with our AWD Subaru and it should be passable with 2-wheel drive if the road isn’t muddy.

The trailhead is at the end of Viking Mountain Road. The dirt road has a small loop and a parking area for 6-8 vehicles. The trail begins at the north end of the parking lot. It is unnamed and unmarked (use AllTrails maps to find it). The trail passes through Jones Meadow before entering the forest where it joins the Jones Meadow Access Trail.

Reach the AT at .3 miles. Stay left here following the white-blazed AT northbound. Rhododendron, ferns, and moss blanket the sides of the trail and this section looks like a rainforest. About 100 yards after going the AT, reach a hard to see spur trail on the left. 

A sign about 15’ up on a tree indicates this is the trail to Blackstack Cliffs. This short, unmarked spur leads to some great views so it is worth searching for. AllTrails calls this Little Firescald Knob. Follow the spur through a rhododendron thicket for about 75 yards to a rock ledge with a U.S. Forest Server marker. Climb down the ledge and continue through the rhododendron to reach the cliffs. Great views to the north and west of Tennessee and Cherokee National Forest lie before you.

Return back to the AT and bear left to continue heading north. Reach a junction at .7 miles with the Jerry Miller Trail. Stay left here on the white-blazed AT. In a few hundred yards, reach another junction with the blue-blazed Bad Weather Trail on the left and the white-blazed AT “Exposed Ridgeline Trail” on the right. Both trail merge in 1.4 miles. Assuming the weather cooperates, stay right on the AT. 

Exposed Ridgeline:

The AT continues through a dense covering of evergreens and rhododendron before emerging to a rocky ridge with expansive views. Tennessee and the Cherokee National Forest are on the left and Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina are on the right. Mountain laurel, rhododendron, and blueberries line this windswept section of the trail

There are several small rock scrambles and stone steps wind through the exposed ridge. The expansive views continue for over .5 miles. Take your time on the rocks for safety but also to enjoy the views. Howard’s Rock honors one of the many volunteers who helped build this magnificent section of the AT.

At 2.2 miles, the AT rejoins the blue-blazed bad weather trail. The blue trail is actually the route of the old AT. AllTrails continues this hike for another 1.7 miles to the Jerry’s Cabin trail shelter. This is a nice section of the AT; however, there are virtually no views. It’s just a nice walk through the Big Green Tunnel. 

Continue on to the shelter or return on either the white-blazed  AT or the blue-blazed bad weather route. We decided to return via the bad weather trail; rejoining the AT in 1.4 miles and then taking the Jones Meadow Access Trail to return to the parking area. 

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Hot Springs NC is located about 45 minutes from the trailhead. Vinyl Pies is the local pizza joint and they have really good pizza along with eight taps of craft beer. Vinyl Pies is popular with hikers and music fans. They also make some great brick oven pizzas. The AT passes right through Hot Springs and the front door of Vinyl Pies is 5′ from the AT, certainly worth the hike.

Pete really liked 13 Rebels from French Broad River Brewery (5.2% ABV • 42 IBU). This medium-bodied Extra Special Bitter has a perfect combination of East Kent Golding hops and malts. It also pairs perfectly with pizza. Kathy enjoyed a cold pint of El Guapo (5.5% ABV) from Big Pillow Brewing. This Vienna-style lager has a great copper color and is brewed with German Hallertau Mittelfreuh hops.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.