Why Purchase Knob Trail Offers the Best Day Hiking Adventure
My friend Laurie knows the area of Haywood County, N.C., its quaint and charming towns, and its hiking trails. She had not hiked Purchase Knob Trail but recommended it when we saw the trail map at Visit NC Smokies Visitor Center. It turns out that Purchase Knob Trail offers the best day hiking adventure.
We set out at a leisurely pace on a perfect autumn day. The sky was clear and blue with puffy clouds overhead. The temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees. As we walked, rays of sunlight filtered through the trees. And, an occasional light breeze sent bursts of autumn leaves spiraling to the ground.
Purchase Knob Trail offers the best day hiking adventure for lots of reasons. First of all, it’s an easy hike with a moderate incline on a packed gravel road.
The wooded areas along the trail are thick enough to provide a sense of isolation but thin enough to offer glimpses of the panoramic views.
Also, we found the Purchase Knob Trail less crowded than other hiking trails. For much of the hike, we were the only people on the trail and it was very clean. We saw no signs of trash. Limited parking at the trailhead helps reduce crowding on the trail. While this is good, it’s important to get there early. In fact, we arrived just in time to get the last parking space at the time.
Best of all, Purchase Knob is the best trail because there is so much to see. For example, one side trail leads to the Ferguson Cabin, the family home of John Ferguson, completed in 1875. Visitors might find the cabin locked. But, all it takes is a little consideration of nineteenth-century home security and you’ll be inside in no time. We noticed a group of hikers enjoying a picnic in the clearing behind the cabin.
Leaves were at the peak of fall color during our visit. But there is also much more to see at Purchase Knob. In addition to leaves, we saw wildflowers, trees covered in furry lichens, and butterflies all along the trail. We also identified horseshoe tracks and what appeared to be bear tracks along the road.
The very best part of hiking the Purchase Knob Trail is getting to the top. The views there are breathtaking! But, that’s not all you’ll find.
The meadows there provide the best picnics spots, space for kids to run and play, or places to just sit and enjoy the scenery.
Even though we caught the peak leaf-peeping season, Purchase Knob Trail offers unique beauty year-round.
It’s easy to identify year-round sights on the hand-illustrated map by local naturalist Ken Czarnomski. His maps identify seasonal views, flora and fauna, and other trails, such as the one leading to Cataloochee Valley. In fact, his maps are so beautiful that people use them as wall hangings. Best of all, they are free! You can get this one and more at the Visit NC Smokies Visitor Center. Read more about Ken in Keen Footwear.
Purchase Knob Trail offers the best day hiking adventure. But, it also serves a larger purpose. The Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center is located at the top. There, scientists study how to help managers protect the parks and at the same time provide education and access to the public.
As we returned to the car, I thought the day couldn’t get any better. But, Laurie had one more surprise to show me! We were close to the Cataloochee Valley, at dusk when elk love to graze there. So, we drove straight there and arrived just in time.
After 21 mountain miles of hair raising twists and turns over narrow mountain roads, at last, we were in the valley. Once there, we saw what we’d come to see. Elk were grazing in the valley!
In addition to elk in the valley, the pull-off along Cove Creek Road provides the most amazing sunset over the mountains.
How we got there.
Purchase Knob Trail Head from Maggie Valley.
Drive East on US-19. Right on 276 N towards I-40. Turn left onto Hemphill Road which becomes Purchase Road.
Note. Allow time for sightseeing along Hemphill Road. There, you’ll find five miles of vintage farm scenery. There are red barns, bridges over stream beds, a one-room schoolhouse, and much more!
Cataloochee Valley from Maggie Valley.
Drive East on US-19 toward Hillbilly Circle. Turn left onto US-276 and take a slight left onto Cove Creek Road. From there, turn onto Cataloochee Entrance Road and then right onto Cataloochee Creek Road and arrive at Cataloochee Valley.
Note. The entrance to Cataloochee Valley is a very winding and narrow gravel road. There are steep drop-offs where you must stop or back up to allow oncoming vehicles to pass.
Find more beautiful mountain trails near Maggie Valley at Travel Notes and Storytelling.
About Laurie Morris
Laurie Morris is a retired teacher, the last 14 years with 5-year-old Kindergarteners. She continues to have a passion for reading and learning. She loves the outdoors and being immersed in nature. Although from South Carolina, her home away from home is the Maggie Valley area of North Carolina.