There is just something about taking a hike that makes me find inner peace. Especially with the surrounding beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Haywood County boasts hundreds of miles of hiking trails within the thousands of acres of the Smoky Mountains, making for an outdoor and nature enthusiast’s dream!
Haywood County provides all levels of hiking trails from easy to moderate and difficult, and hiking can be done year-round, with each season providing differing views and plant and wildlife species depending on the time of year. Hikers can take short day hikes, weekend hiking excursions or week-long adventures. With its location in the Smoky Mountains, hikers are treated to breathtaking views, abundant natural environments and flourishing plant and wildlife species. The pristine conditions of this environment are perfect for wildlife such as black bear, elk (reintroduced into Cataloochee Valley in 2001 and are now thriving!), white-tailed deer, wild turkey, numerous species of birds, over 30 species of salamanders (the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been called the “Salamander Capital of the World”), and various fish species populate this diverse habitat. Variations in elevation, rainfall, and temperature make over 1,600 species of flowering plants, over 100 native tree and native shrub species, and thousands of non-flowering species such as moss, fungi, and ferns thrive throughout Haywood County’s natural landscapes.
Purchase Knob, at an elevation of 5,086 feet, was named by Colonel Love who was deeded the land after the Civil War. After he explored the area and realized the beauty of the land, he named it “The Purchase Property.” The magnificence of this land indeed makes this a “Purchase Property”, making the Purchase Knob hike one of Haywood County’s best hiking gems! With its accessible trails, a wide range of biodiversity and breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains, Purchase Knob really is the perfect hike!
Our hike was led by Ken Czarnomski, a Blue Ridge Naturalist and hiker extraordinaire! Not only did Ken share his immense knowledge of wildlife and plant species that flourish along the hiking trails, his stories of his 48 years + of hiking experience throughout several of America’s National Parks and international hiking trips were a delight to listen to while we hiked our way through the mountains. His passion for hiking and nature can also be found in his illustrated maps of Purchase Knob and Sam’s Summits Loop Trail Guides that he has meticulously researched and designed (maps are provided at the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority in Waynesville). Thanks to Ken, we gained more than mountain views on our hike, a sense of peacefulness that can only be found in the wilderness!
Our 7.5 mile hike took us through wooded areas, meadows, and provided broad vistas and panoramic views of the Cumberland Plateau, the Black Mountains, Cold Mountain, Pisgah National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Well known sites on the Purchase Knob Trail are the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center (research center for studying salamanders, bird migrations and air quality) which rests at 4,850 feet with Purchase Knob just to the southwest and the John Ferguson Cabin named after John Love Ferguson whom lived on 447 acres of land from 1874 to 1902 (it is the highest remaining cabin left in the national park at an elevation near 4,700 feet). We also wandered along the Cataloochee Divide Trail and hiked to the overlook of the private mountaintop resort, The Swag.
With the abundance of beauty during the hike, both myself and my camera got a workout! I constantly lagged behind, partially due to my short stature trying to keep up, but mainly because everywhere I looked there was something else that I wanted to photograph. Even in the winter the colors and the textures of the flora and the breathtaking views caught my attention and begged to be captured by my lens!
Whether you are an avid or novice hiker, nature lover or photographer, hiking the trails in Haywood County is a dream! For more hiking and trail guides, please visit www.visitNCsmokies.com. This year is the perfect time to plan your next hiking adventure, especially in a national park, as it is the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks Service!
A special thanks to Ken Czarnomski , Visit NC Smokies and Visit North Carolina! I was an invited guest of Visit NC Smokies and Visit North Carolina in exchange for writing travel posts about my experience. As always on Ohio Girl Travels, all opinions are my own!
Where is your favorite hiking spot? Please let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,