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Trail of the Month: Wells Knob Section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Wells Knob Trail Sign
Wells Knob Trail

Trailhead: GPS coordinates 36.33939, -80.94693, ‘Wells Knob Trailhead’ in Google Maps

Length: approximately 3 miles out-and-back

Difficulty Level: Moderate/Strenuous

Rising 1,865 feet above sea level, Wells Knob may sound like a modest mountain in the shadows of the Blue Ridge, but drive north of Elkin and find an open view, chances are you’ll see the prominent little peak. In fact, to the Mountains-to-Sea (MST) hiker it is the highest point between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain State Parks - a distance that’s upwards of 50 miles respectively.

What to Expect:

For the day-hiker who wishes to get the introduction to this historic countryside hill, a 3-mile out-and-back summit hike is in order. That’s around a mile and a half of the MST for those who like to ‘section’ hike. The trailhead begins at Wit’s End Road, a virtual ‘driveway’ off of Roaring Gap road. Be sure to park in the area before crossing the bridge - no vehicles are allowed across. Going up the driveway, be on the lookout for wooden MST signage on the right that veers off (one can easily miss it - this writer has before!). Now that you’re on the MST, simply follow the well-marked path all the way to the summit. You’ll likely notice the white circles marking the trees along the MST as well as the reinforcing directional signs crafted by the Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA). After a shallow [barely even a] stream crossing, the trail takes a gradual elevation gain of over 700 feet with a few switchbacks. Predominantly shaded, you’ll still want to bring water and perhaps sunscreen and bug repellent in the warm months. 

The summit is forested but a panorama of the rural Wilkes and Surry landscapes along with the Blue Ridge Mountains is afforded particularly in the cooler months. To the summit and back to the trailhead is approximately 3 miles. Continuing downhill from the summit along the MST is an additional 0.2 miles that will require you to climb back up. 

About this Trail:

Wells Knob is protected through a 159-acre conservation easement of Piedmont Land Conservancy, made possible through the donation of Dr. Charles and Marion Classen in order to preserve exceptional wildlife habitat, scenic value and watershed resources that it provides for the surrounding community. The trail is maintained carefully by the EVTA and although it receives foot traffic from the MST pursuers, it’s generally quiet and sees very few crowds. The trail straddles the west fork of Elkin Creek before ascending into a mixed conifer and deciduous forest. Winter is best for long views of the valley around, spring is a hotspot for wildflowers, summer affords this as a shadier hiking option and fall is a great time to spot migratory raptors followed by leaf color. Please respect private property as much of it is adjacent to the trail and surrounds this easement. Private property is often marked with well-defined signage and/or purple blazes on trees. Please leave everything as you found it (pack out trash, dog poop, etc.) Please follow the Leave No Trace principles!


If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with plenty of solitude, Wells Knob summit is a great option. As long as you don’t mind sweating in the warmer months, the hike is rewarding with views, bird songs, and ecological features unique to this region. 

Our Notes:

  • Foot traffic only

  • Dogs should be on leashes

  • Respect private property

  • Enjoy the authentic feel of walking in the woods!

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