Our trip to the Western North Carolina Mountains would not be complete if we did not attempt to venture through the woods, hike up a mountain and find a super cool picture taking opportunity! After some research, it appeared that Pickens Nose was the easiest to hike to and was super close to our AirBnB. It’s a short 1.5 mile moderate hike to several rock outcroppings over the Appalachian Mountains. It is located in the Nantahala National Forest in Otto, NC.
Pickens Nose was named after a Revolutionary War General, Andrew Pickens, from South Carolina. Local legend has it that the Native Americans named this rock outcropping, Pickens Nose, due to General Pickens long angular nose. General Pickens was not kind to the Native Americans and they considered him a true menace.
There are three rock outcropping paths as you hike your way to the top: Pickens Nose Face, The Jutted Rock and the Expanse View. By the way, I just made those up for the most part since no one has named them. Our favorite was the Expanse View. More on that below but here are the three pictures that show each outcroppings view.
If you look at the top left side of the above photo, you can see what appears to be a “face.” That face is what the Native Americans called Pickens Nose. Most people believe that the infamous set of rocks that jet out over the Appalachians is the nose but this face is actually why this hike is called Pickens Nose.
The Drive Up The Mountain:
Once you leave the paved road, you will drive UP the mountain on a mostly dirt road with a little bit of gravel. This is a SINGLE lane road with just a couple of turn outs for another car to pull over to the side. The drive up on the dirt road is narrow, long (about 5 miles) and has a couple of switchbacks. Your car will get plenty of dust when dry and tons of mud when wet. I am not sure I would even attempt this road when wet. The National Forestry closes this road during severe or bad weather. I would NOT recommend a car that rides low to the ground. We used our 4 wheel drive truck and said that we would not use a vehicle that wasn’t 4 wheel drive. Is it possible to get there without a 4 wheel drive, short answer – yes.
A couple of things to note about the drive up….
There are active hunters with their hound dogs in trucks along this road. They keep to themselves and prefer it that way (or so we were very kindly told). I believe it is because they are working and training their dogs and do not want the dogs to lose focus.
At the bottom of the drive, there is a small pull over area that explains Stream Flow. An informational sign along with a tiny demonstration of stream flow makes a great stop at the beginning or on the way back down from Pickens Nose. Really great for kids to learn about “Why We Care About Stream Flow.”
At about 4.2 miles, you will come to a small parking area on your left and the road continues with a sharp right turn. KEEP DRIVING BY TAKING THAT RIGHT TURN. This small parking area is not the main Pickens Nose parking location. If you park there, you will have an arduous hard straight up hike to the trailway entrance to Pickens Nose! When we visited, this parking area was being used by the aforementioned hunters and their dogs.
Who Can Hike It:
I have read that toddlers, 80 year olds and non-active people can hike up to the three rock outcroppings. I am not sure about this accuracy so let me tell you about our family of three, show you pictures of the trail up to the three photo opportunity rock outcroppings and then you decide. We are usually not super active and rarely hike.
We used US 441 to get to Pickens Nose. It was the most straightforward way. GPS is not recommended.
US 441 to the town of Otto.
Once in Otto, look for the Coweeta Hydrologic Labratory sign on the west side of the road and turn down this road: Coweeta Lab Road.
Continue on Coweeta Lab Road for about 3 miles until you reach a dead end due to a Detour.
Follow the Detour to the right and take a left at the Forestry Building. This will have you wind around a couple of buildings (car garage, main office/campus for the Lab, the actual Lab, itself) until you reach the dirt road that goes up the mountain. The Detour signs are clearly marked and easy to follow.
Once you arrive at the dirt road, you will take a right and drive up the mountain for about 5.2 miles until you come to a small parking area (for about 5 cars) and the brown Pickens Nose directional sign. This dirt road is a single lane road with only a couple of pull overs for “traffic.” Please park responsibly. When we were there, a couple of cars took two spaces for one car which really limits parking.
NOTE: At about 4 miles, there is a parking area on your left. Skip this parking area, turn right to continue up the mountain (this part of the drive will be your steepest with a couple of switchbacks). This parking area is unofficially reserved for the hunters and their dogs.
What to Bring:
The hike is approximately 3 miles roundtrip. Although it is cooler higher up, we found that the temperature difference was not drastic. For example: It was 72 degrees at the bottom of the mountain but we found wearing shorts and t shirts or a very thin long sleeve short worked great.
- Snack Bar for fuel on the way up
- If you want to celebrate, a Bottle of Champagne & glasses when you arrive at the top. Engagements are popular here
- Camera (consider a decent camera because the views are spectaular and deserve more than your cell phone). You might want to consider a small tripod because the chances of someone being there to take your photo is rare.
- Epi Pen (we heard swarms of bees humming throughout the trail).
- Walking Stick (we found this to be VERY handy).
- Wear good shoes!
NOTE: Halfway up the Mountain, we had 4g cell service (AT&T). Once at the top, we had full LTE.
Pictures from the Side Paths:
The first defined side path will appear on your left. This is a wide range mountain view.
The second defined side path will appear on your right just a couple of yards from the first side path. This one has two photo opportunities: The jetted out rock cropping (which is a bit tricky to get to) and a cliff wall.
To get a great photo op: have someone stand on the cliff wall to take the picture of you sitting on the jetted rock… and vice versa.
The third and last defined side path is just past the second one on the right. We did not visit this one due to it being a very short area to stand. This location stands “on Pickens Nose” on the side of the mountain.
Still unsure if you should hike to Pickens Nose? One of our favorite family mottos…. Just Do It, what do you have to lose?!?!
Date of Visit: October 5th, 2017