Sam’s Summits Loop Trail
Length: 9.5 miles
Dogs: On Leash
Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness are areas 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 worth a winter walk, if the parkway is closed are the Mountains to Sea Trail from the parking area to Devil Courthouse and back and Flat Laurel Creek Trail to the cascades located along Flat Laurel Creek. You can download the free map below or swing by our Visitor Center located in Maggie Valley to pick up a free print copy.
- On foot from the parking area, cross over 215 heading NE or slightly downhill. Look for a set of stairs on your right going uphill with the Mountains to Sea Trail, with white circle blaze indicated. This is the start of your route. Trails are well marked at all intersections.
- The hike is composed of shaded forests, streams (requiring rock hopping), open meadows, and some rocky ascents. Ascents vary from easy to moderately severe grades, the largest ascent being at Sam Knob, around 1450 ft.
- Weather conditions here can be extreme on rather short notice.
- Accessible in all seasons. No restroom facilities.
There are several out and back hiking options you can refer to the map for as well as an option to extend the hike along the Mountain to Sea Trail or Flat Laurel Creek Trail to the cascades and Black Balsam.
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 about ¼ mile north of where the Blue Ridge Parkway intersects State Road 215 at Beech Gap (highlighted yellow on the map). During winter, even though the Blue Ridge Parkway will likely be closed to travel, this parking area still provides an accessible location!
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