Hike to an Airplane Crash in North Carolina

We all know that North Carolina has much to offer; however, it’s home to only one known plane crash site. Tucked in the Great Smoky Mountains, Waterrock Knob Trail is your literal road to ruin. A highly-rated trail for hikers and explorers alike, the trail is two miles roundtrip, located at the highest elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The closest city being Waynesville, the area has a remote feel to it, making it the perfect spot for stargazing, bird watching and complete immersion in nature. Of course, its most unnatural feature is its plane crash site.

The Plane Crash:

Photo courtesy of Atlas Obscura

Like we said, this is the only known plane crash site in North Carolina. Since the invention of the airplane, there have been 54 recorded crashes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the majority of them being in Tennessee and Virginia. On November 24, 1983, the Cessna 414A Chancellor departed from DuPage Airport in Illinois, bound for Jackson County Airport in North Carolina. The last radar contact with the aircraft was at 6,100 feet and a mile from the crash site.

The crash was identified as an accident, possibly due to weather conditions, poor visibility and pilot error. Both the passenger and pilot were killed in the wreckage. 40 years later, hikers continue to pay homage to the past.

Getting There:

Photo courtesy of Harold Blackwood

At mile marker 451.2 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, you’ll stop at the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center in Sylva, North Carolina. This is where the trail begins. The visitor center features picnic tables and public restrooms for hikers seeking a respite. Before you reach the top of the Knob, you’ll veer to the trail on your left, following this for a half of a mile until reaching Browning Knob. Once you’ve arrived, take the third trail on your left, leading 200 yards to the site of the plane crash.

Ranked as a moderately difficult trail by hikers, visitors should be careful of challenging terrain, including several rock staircases. Along the way, stop at the breathtaking view of the Ghost Town in the Sky in Maggie Valley, a mountaintop amusement park that opened in the 1970s and closed in 2002. It’s Wild-West theme makes for eerie backdrops, with all of its original furniture still intact. This hike keeps getting spookier!

Safety First:

Photo courtesy of Journey to the Destination

For all guests, it is important to remember the lives of those who passed away in the crash, maintaining respect for both the site and the trail. Before you embark on your journey, ensure that you have enough food, plenty of water and a map.

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