Dobson Knob is a Special Mountain
Looming high over Marion and the North Fork Catawba River Valley, Bald Knob and Dobson Knob form a whale-like ridge that stands separate from the mountains of Linville Gorge. Even though these peaks lie within Pisgah National Forest, this area is largely unknown to the casual hiker. The only maintained trail running through this area is North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail as leaves Linville Gorge heading west, crossing Dobson Knob, and Bald Knob before descending to North Fork Catawba River.
Rarely do you find a Mountain along the Blue Ridge that is this rugged, this steep, and this inaccessible. At 3,900 feet at its peak, Dobson is uniquely situated on the eastern side of the large, flat, Catawba River Valley. This provides many spectacular views that are normally restricted by dense forest and other mountains.
What appears to be snow on the mountain is actually exposed granite, and leafless trees, catching the late afternoon Sun. A large fire two years ago burned many of the hardwood trees that were hardy enough to grow along these rocky cliffs. That, combined with a complete lack of evergreens, gives Dobson its unique character, especially in winter, when all the hardwoods have shed their leaves. The mountain is totally undeveloped, with no logging roads to allow easy access. Going in on foot is the only way to experience the natural beauty this behemoth offers. (Hint: Save these photos to your device so that you can enlarge them to full size to get all the detail of this mountain.)
Access points for the “Mountains-to-Sea Trail” can be reached from the small community of Woodlawn, located on U.S. Highway 221 north of Marion, North Carolina. It’s an exhausting six mile climb to reach the peak, and then six miles back to your car. Do not attempt this hike alone, and carry in plenty of water and energy food. Camping opportunities are few along the trail on this western face. You must go there. It will take your breath away, as it did mine.
Below is a 3-D view of the hike to Bald Knob. The hike to Dobson Knob is on the other side of the mountain because of the dangerous terrain on the west face. The bottom to top trail will gain almost 3,500 feet.