Sam’s Summits Loop Trail
SAMS’ SUMMITS LOOP TRAIL
Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness is an area full of powerful, stunning landscape contrasts. Rich in cultural history, it has been shaped through the devastation of ecological disasters, evolving into one of the most heavily traversed wilderness locations in the United States. Still, while visiting off-season or walking on weekdays, you can find yourself alone, especially if you leave the trail to satisfy your curiosity. Delightful in the winter under bright skies, it offers easily visible knobs, cascades and tributaries. In the spring and summer, a hiker is treated to trails that echo with the sounds of tumbling water and exotic flora covering the slopes. Autumn brings the contrast of the pines and the red fruited mountain ash with crisp backgrounds of Carolina clear blue skies. The Sams’ Summits Loop Trail is not a single trail but is composed of up to six different trails combined in a manner to create a loop if you are inclined to do so. If you do not have the time to walk the entire distance, shorter trails can be selected and looped by referring to the TRAIL TABLE. Two trails are definitely worth the winter walk, if the parkway is closed. The first would be the Mountain to Sea Trail from the parking area to Devil Courthouse and back. The second is the easier walk along the Flat Laurel Creek Trail to the cascades located along Flat Laurel Creek.
TRAVEL DIRECTIONS: Starting from Downtown Waynesville, take 276 S (Pigeon Street) 6.2 miles. Turn right onto State Road 215 S toward Brevard. Continue for 2.8 miles. At the next intersection and stop sign, turn left to continue on State Road 215. Continue for 14.5 miles, where you will see a gravel parking area on your right hand side. Park here. You will be located about¼ mile north of where the Blue Ridge Parkway intersects State Road 215 at Beech Gap. For additional directions, refer to the
WALKING DIRECTIONS. WALKING DIRECTIONS: Park your vehicle in the trail head parking area located just below Beech Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway on the right side of 215, [when arriving from Waynesville (highlighted in yellow on the map)]. Be aware that during winter, even though the Blue Ridge Parkway will likely be closed to travel, this parking area still provides an accessible location. On foot from the parking area, cross over 215 heading northeasterly or slightly downhill. Look for a set of stairs on your right going uphill with the Mountain to Sea Trail, with white blaze indicated. This is the start of your route.
TRAIL LENGTH, GRADE AND CONDITIONS: There are several hikes here but the full loop is about 9.5 miles. Allow 4.5 to 6 plus hours with some stopping for views and observations. Extended walks from here are possible. Refer to the map. Ascents vary from easy to moderately severe grades. The largest ascent, at Sam Knob, is around 1450 ft. Old logging roads forge the trails in several locations where evidence of logging and mining is obvious. Trails are well marked at all intersections. The walk is composed of shaded forests, streams (requiring rock hopping), open meadows, and some rocky ascents. Good walking, although weather conditions here can be extreme on rather short notice. Accessible in all seasons. No restroom facilities.