Flat Laurel Creek and Sam Knob – 10-22-2014

I recently had the chance to go to the Flat Laurel Creek area with my hiking friends Dave and Lou. This area is near Sam Knob, Little Sam Knob,  and Black Balsam Knob. It is not far from Graveyard Fields. We went in around Logan Lake and stopped along the West Fork Pigeon River to see the lower Flat Laurel Creek  Falls from the road before driving just up the road to the trail head which would lead us up by many feeder streams, each with its own set of waterfalls until it reaches the main creek which eventually becomes the river and flows to Lake Logan. Lou opted to go back before that and take the car around to the other side of Sam Knob to a parking lot there so we could walk straight through to it. You can see the high knob and its rocky outcroppings from many places on this trail and it was calling to me.

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Lower Falls on Flat Laurel Creek (as seen from the road)

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Lake Logan (shot from the car while moving)

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Nice waterfall that was right beside the road (unnamed creek but acc. to Kevin Adams book they are called Sunburst Falls )

We found the parking lot and the trail head and began our journey by crossing this creek:

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First creek crossing (Bubbling Spring Branch)

Not far from there was yet another small stream flowing across the trail:

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Second creek crossing

The third unnamed creek crossing came complete with a concrete bridge. I am told that these are called Wildcat Falls in Kevin Adams book) (Thanks Jason Horton for this info 🙂  )

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Dave standing on the bridge over a nice waterfall. No name that I know of. Sorry for the poor picture quality but the sun was blistering bright.

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Waterfall along the Flat Laurel Creek Trail (this is not Flat Laurel Creek)

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Waterfall along the trail (that is Dave and Lou on the bridge)

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Trying my best to get a pic dark enough to block out the sun

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Upper half of these falls

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Upper part of these falls

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I loved the veins in the rocks here

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Dave trying his hand at getting a shot of these falls. This creek continues dropping sharply all the way to the valley below. There would be many falls to be found by continuing down this stream.

Continuing up the trail we started gaining some elevation where we began to see some nice visuals of the valley and the mountains on the other side. Despite being past peak, there were still some nice Falls colors to be found here.

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First visuals from the trail (looking back towards where we started)

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Panning right, looking out at the valley below and awesome mountains across from us

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Looking back towards where we started

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Looking across the valley

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Bright orange tree

After about a mile or so, we could hear huge water flowing way down below us and Dave who had been here before, took me down a steep side trail that leads down to them. This was only after taking a wrong turn and going down into a trail-less laurel hell that he is so famous for ! After finding the right trail down, it soon became obvious to me that there is endless falls from there all the way down to the lower falls at the road. You can see them everywhere you look through the thick laurels that grow there, but getting to them does prove difficult. This would make a nice loop hike which I hope to do in the future. We made our way down to the main falls and I tried to find vantage points to get pictures of all of it but, it was just not possible so I got it in sections as best I could. The sun was shining with such bright intensity that getting any usable pictures was futile.

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Looking down the steep side trail that leads down to the falls on Flat Laurel Creek

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Dave negotiating the super steep trail down to the falls

I tried my best to get to a place to see the upper part of the falls and finally I managed to choose the right spot which led me out to where I could stand at the base of the top half and the top of the lower half:

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Standing between the upper and lower parts of the falls. You can see one of the rocky outlooks on Sam Knob high above. It was beckoning me to come stand on top of it.

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Looking up at the upper part of the falls on Flat Laurel Creek

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Top part of the falls, these are a cascading type and are huge !

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Looking off from the top of the lower half of the falls. I would soon be standing on that LARGE rock below looking up at where I am here !

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Standing atop the lower part of the falls looking down at the splash pool below. I would be down there soon,,,

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View from the base of the lower part of the falls. You can not see the upper part from here

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Lower part of the falls

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Lower part of the falls . That is one huge rock !

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Lower part of the falls along Flat Laurel Creek

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Lower part of the falls, however, this entire creek is actually just one continuous falls,,

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Standing beside the HUGE rock looking at the lower part of the falls

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Looking down at the splash pool from atop the huge rock. this is very deep and I would love to swim here

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Splash pool

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Looking at the lower part of the falls from the top of the big rock wishing a cloud would come by

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One last look before going back through the laurels to climb back out of there.

After seeing these falls we made the arduous climb back up to the trail where we continued up the Flat Laurel Creek trail stopping at another falls not far from there. Luckily those falls are just down a short, but steep bank just below the trail.

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The incredibly steep trail from the base of the falls has these old railroad cross ties on it. Dave thinks there was an old railroad spur here but I do not see how as it is straight up and down and there is no evidence to support that theory. It would have to be nearly vertical and pulled up and down by a cable system and I have never heard of or seen that before. It is still open for discussion.

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Almost back to the top ! Phew what a climb !

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Next set of falls upstream on Flat Laurel Creek

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Next set of falls upstream on Flat Laurel Creek

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Next set of falls upstream along the Flat Laurel Creek, and as usual, not a cloud in the sky

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My view looking downstream from the base of those falls,,, That is a small piece of Sam Knob high above me,, still drawing me closer to it,,

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View looking down Flat Laurel Creek from the base of the falls

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My view from the base of the small falls, looking downstream

The trail eventually comes out at the open valley above all falls where it is more flat and it splits into two trails. One goes a less scenic route to the parking lot above and the other goes a steeper and more visual way towards Sam Knob and across the open field on a higher level and eventually on to the parking lot as well.

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Found this very old and aged looking truck hood beside the trail

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Dave in the first flat open area where the trail splits. We would go left (the way he is facing) here

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Trail we took to the left that would cross Flat Laurel Creek and climb those steps and continue towards Sam Knob

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Flat Laurel Creek

Of course we chose the longer and slightly harder scenic route and once we started gaining elevation and getting closer to the Sam Knob Trail, Dave gave me the option to go on without him if I was interested in climbing the knob. It had been luring me all day so I knew that I would be standing on the top of it before the day was done.

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Looking up at Sam Knob,,, there must be a magnet there as I was being drawn to it,,,

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Beginning the journey around the field

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Apparently I am going the right way !

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This field is huge

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That would be the trail across the top part of the field to the parking lot, and away from Sam Knob,,, we know I wont be going that way just yet,,,

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Trail across field towards parking lot and Black Balsam Knob (which is on other side of those pines and then some)

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Looking farther to the right at the upper part of the Flat Laurel Creek Valley. The other trail goes right up the draw.

Once I made the commitment to climb this knob, I made haste as I knew it would be late evening before I got back if I did not. It is quite a climb to get to the top of the knob and I found the trail to be indirect as it winds up the Flat Laurel Creek side in order to pass by the rocky overlooks I had been seeing all day before it continues to wind even more to come out actually between what I discovered to be double summits of the knob.

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About half way up the side of the knob facing the field, I came to a set of steps,, I called this the stairway to Heaven,,, as it seems to lead right into the sky

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The stairway to Heaven,,,,I must go to the light

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After the steps I started getting views of the field and valley below

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Looking down on the field and valley, I am not even half way up this knob

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Looking down on the Flat Laurel Creek and valley from the first rocky outlook on Sam Knob (that is Little Sam Knob on the right side, covered in pines)

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Flat Creek Valley, looking down at the way we had came up (you can see the little level area that comes around the base of the dark pines trees where the trail is)

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Slight Zoom of the end of the Flat Laurel Creek Valley. You can see the road in the very bottom

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Zoomed shot of a very gnarly knob way off in the distance that I would love to stand on top of !

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Starting to get some really good views from barely half way up, I am looking forward to the top,,

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Trying to capture some of the remaining colors in the valley below

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Continuing around this knob I have more rocks to stand on, each with its own unique view as I get higher and higher on the knob

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Looking on around the knob in the direction that the trail goes as it winds around,, higher and higher we go,,,

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I would love to be here on a less sunny day to get better pics,,,

After I stopped to check out the rocks on the side of the knob, I seen the trail was not going up to some much larger rocks I could see just behind and above me (which I thought would be the summit) so I went off trail and climbed straight up these rocks to stand atop them. It was then that I seen the knob has two summits. A North one at the far end, and the South one on the end where the trail is.

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Huge rock cliffs on the Flat Laurel Creek Valley side of Sam Knob. These are below the actual summit but well worth climbing to the top of

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There are lots of huge rocks to climb on at this spot on the knob

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This was the largest rocks in this this spot so I climbed to the top of it

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About to climb this rock to get a view

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View from the top of the rocks. Keep in mind I am still not on the summit yet

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Zoomed view

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Zoomed view

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View

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View from the rocks I climbed up on

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Zoomed view of the ridge above where the parking lot is behind it

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There are several large white marble type rocks on this side of the knob

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View from the white marble rocks

I made my way back to the trail and continued out to the far end (North) summit first to get what visuals it had. It was quite amazing how far I could see from there and the colors were still pretty good considering it was well past the peak. The only bad part was the bright sun that would ruin any chances of me getting good pics.

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View from the far summit

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View from the double summit

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View from Sam Knob

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View from the double summit

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Double summit view

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Double summit view

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View from the double summit

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Double summit view

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View from near the double summit

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Looking back towards the Flat Laurel Creek Valley way from the double summit end (the dark pine covered knob is Little Sam Knob)

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Looking back towards the main summit and the Flat Laurel Creek Valley

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Looking at the main summit of Sam Knob from the double summit

From there I made my way back over to the other summit, the main one, where I finally topped out on the high point of this mountain. From there you can see down into the Flat Laurel Creek Valley and the mountains towards Black Balsam where the parking lot was that I would soon have to make it to.

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Standing on the main  (South) summit looking back at the double (North) summit where I had just came from

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The main summit of Sam Knob

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View from main summit (that is part of the double summit in left side of picture)

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View from main summit looking towards the other, double summit

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View from the main summit

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View from the main summit of Sam Knob

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View from the main summit

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Standing on the main summit

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View from the main summit

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Main summit view. I am starting to imagine what a sunset would be like from here.

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View from the main summit, looking towards the filed where I had to go to get to the vehicle beyond those pine trees

Realizing it was a ways back to the trail between the two summits and then a circuitous route to get back down, I decided to save time and instead I would bushwhack straight down to the field from the high knob. I managed to find a water drainage trail (a waist deep gully) that went exactly where I wanted to go so that is the way I chose. I had come just below a rather large and flat rock cliff on my up that side on my way up the trail and I kinda had a feeling I would come out on it but, decided I would deal with that when I got to it.

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Looking down the gully I would take to bushwhack my way straight down to the field

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I came out right on top of this cliff

Sure enough I came out right on it ! Luckily enough the water gully I was following somehow made its way right around the top of it and down the right side so I had no trouble bypassing it and low and behold I came out right above the stairway to heaven. From there it did not take me long to reach the filed where it was a ways to climb it to the top where the trail would then lead to the parking lot.

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Walking across the field

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Looking back at the summit and the side I just bushwhacked down

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Last climb of the day

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Cool tree root system beside the trail through the dark pines

It had been a good day of hiking in an area I had not seen before and I am sure I will be coming back here in the future to explore more of the falls along Flat Laurel Creek and maybe catch a sunset on Sam Knob. I took a few pics from the car on the way off the mountain from along the parkway. They are blurry since I took them while moving (we were in a hurry to get to the post hike BBQ !)

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Blurry shot of the view from the parkway , shot from moving car

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Looking Glass Rock as seen from the car at 50 mph !

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50 mph view from the car as we roll down the parkway !

Posted on 15 November '14 by , under RATtreks.

2 Comments to “Flat Laurel Creek and Sam Knob – 10-22-2014”

#1 Posted by Browns78 (16.11.14 at 09:15 )

Great report (as always) Rat. I saw these falls for the first in May of this year. As you say, it’s tough to get down there and one needs to be careful, but the falls, cascades are awesome! I love the white view in the folded gneiss rock at the base of the largest falls, at least out of the ones I visited.

[…] since a previous trip to the summit of Sam`s Knob on 10-22-2014 where I got a view of a gnarly looking cliff way off in […]

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