The sister-peak to Waterrock Knob has great views and wreckage from a 1983 plane crash just below the summit.
Next to the popular vista off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Waterrock Knob, is the less visited sister peak – Browning Knob. Browning Knob was named after R. Getty Browning who played a key role in establishing the route of the Blue Ridge Parkway through North Carolina. Today it is a hiking destination that is frequented by hikers looking for the wreckage of the 1983 plane crash that occurred just below the summit.
The trail to Browning knob starts at the summit of Waterrock Knob. To reach the summit of Waterrock Knob, you hike a short but steep 6/10’s of a mile trail up from the Waterrock Knob Overlook and visitors center that is located at milepost 451.2 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For detailed information about reaching the Waterrock Knob Overlook and Visitors Center, please watch the HD Carolina episode on Waterrock Knob.
The trail to Browning Knob starts just below the summit of Waterrock knob. It is not marked but it a fairly obvious trail just below the summit. The 1/2 mile hike across the ridge is rugged and, since you are on a ridge, will have steep drop-offs on both sides. The trail is marked with yellow blazes.
The trail will descend slightly at first and then ascend as you reach the other side of the saddle between the two knobs. While the trail is somewhat less developed and is a bit steep in some sections, it is a very beautiful hike through a gorgeous section of the forest. The trail is fairly easy to follow as the blazes are adequate and well placed. After a short bit, you will ascend on the other side and reach the top of Browning Knob.
You could just enjoy the view and remoteness of Browning Knob if you wanted to. It is a beautiful peak unto itself and you are likely to have it all to yourself when you visit. However, if you want to visit the plane wreckage, head back about 50 feet from the summit and look for a path heading into the forest and down the north side of the ridge. The wreckage will be about 150ft into the forest after a short but steep descent.
The plane was inbound from Chicago on November 24th, 1983. It was heading to Sylva, just 11 miles from the crash site, but unfortunately they did not make it. The two men onboard didn’t survive the crash. Today the wreckage is still on Browning Knob and is a reminder of the many dangers that are present in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
When you have finished exploring Browning Knob, hike safely back across to Waterrock Knob and down to the parking area.