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Summit Trail



1.7 mile 2.7 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 955' 291 m
Descent: 0' 0 m
High: 5,531' 1,686 m
Low: 4,576' 1,395 m


Avg Grade: 11% (6°)
Max Grade: 25% (14°)


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A smooth trail with a gentle, continuous climb. See 3 states from the airy summit perch!

Eric Heistand

Features Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Open year round, closed Christmas Day.


The Summit Trail was completed with the help of over 6,000 hours provided by many volunteers over a five year span. The beautiful and well-maintained trail is a big part of the adventure but the breathtaking view from the top is the icing on the cake. Upon reaching the summit of Elk Knob hikers have spectacular views of The Peak, Three Top, and Bluff Mountains, Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Mt Rodgers (Va.), and the Iron Mountains in Virginia and Tennessee.

Looking for a mountain 5k with a continuous, but manageable ascent? The Elk Knob Summit Trail is calling you. Follow the main gravel road through Elk Knob State Park until it dead ends at the large trailhead parking area. The Backcountry Trail descends to the left. You'll ascend the Summit Trail to the right.

This trail took over five years to build and you'll see why - it's the smoothest, most bomber trail in the NC mountains. Expect grades of less than 10% for the majority of the trail. You can catch your breathe and take in long distance views at an overlook around the 0.75 mile mark.

On the final push, the trail steepens as you power out the last bit of vertical on perfectly spaced steps onto the old jeep trail/doubletrack. From here there are two summit options to take in: the North Summit with views of Mount Rogers and Virginia, and the South Summit with views of Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain, and Mount Mitchell. For a faster, albeit more knee-knocking descent, you can take the old jeep trail straight back to the parking area.

Flora & Fauna

This is an amphibolite mountain range. Look for Gray's lily, trailing wolfsbane, purple fringed orchids, and flame azaleas along the trail.

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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know


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Sep 9, 2019
Jennifer Marquardt
Different view in late summer. Lots of things that buzz at the top. 4mi — 2h 20m
Jun 14, 2019
Jacqueline Sinicrope
Great hike to the summit, beautiful, clear day so we could see all the listed peaks 3.8mi — 1h 40m
Jun 10, 2019
Michael Taylor
Khris & Michael: Foggy, mid 60s, wet ground, great hike 3.8mi — 2h 20m
Oct 13, 2018
Jeff Roark
Great hike, lots of elevation to climb! 3.8mi
Nov 27, 2017
Jennifer Marquardt
The view in the winter is spectacular!!! 6.2mi
Sep 7, 2017
Perry Shaw
Great hike. It's a little over 2 miles including the hike back to the trailhead/parking lot 2.4mi
Aug 25, 2013
KM Clewell

Trail Ratings

  4.2 from 13 votes


  4.2 from 13 votes
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in North Carolina


41 Views Last Month
696 Since Jan 15, 2016



Spectacular view and I'm not even at the top!!
Jul 30, 2018 near Boone, NC
Late summer view from north-facing overlook halfway up the Summit Trail.
Sep 9, 2019 near Boone, NC
View from the top of Elk Knob (in winter) looking north.
Jul 30, 2018 near Boone, NC
Grandfather Mountain from Elk Knob summit trail
Aug 9, 2019 near Boone, NC
The view from the top of Elk Knob (in winter) looking south.
Jul 30, 2018 near Boone, NC
South view from summit of Elk Knob State Park Trail, June 2019.
Jun 17, 2019 near Boone, NC