How to Hike to an Airplane Crash - Waterrock Knob

How to Hike to an Airplane Crash – Waterrock Knob (Great Smoky Mountains)

By Olivia Williams

Did you know that several airplane crashes have happened in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park? Sadly, it is true. While these plane crashes are tragic, they can make for an enjoyable hike. Keep reading to learn how to hike to an airplane crash in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park via the Waterrock Knob trail.

If you are spending some time in North Carolina or if you are driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking this trail will make a fantastic addition to your trip. Be sure also to check out these other top destinations in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina:

Editor’s note: We ensure the accuracy of our guides through thorough fact-checking. The information in this guide reflects the most current details available as of Feb 2024.

The Airplane Crash

In 1983, this Cessna 414 was traveling from Chicago, IL, to a small airport in western North Carolina. The last recorded elevation of the airplane was about 6,000 ft. The airplane never reached its destination, and the two people on board were killed in the crash.

The probable cause of the airplane crash was the slight intoxication of the pilot, lack of experience flying in the mountains, and inclement weather that caused low visibility.

When you visit the crash site, you can tell that the airplane almost cleared the mountain. If they had only been flying a little bit higher, they probably would have reached their destination.

Note: On June 27, 2023, Remaining 1983 plane wreckage near Waterrock Knob was removed.

The Airplane Crash Waterrock Knob

Remaining 1983 plane wreckage near Waterrock Knob was removed

How to Get There

In order to reach the site of the airplane crash, you will need to start on the Waterrock Knob trail located off of mile marker 451 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Not only is Waterrock Knob the trail you need to take to get to the airplane crash, but it also offers fantastic views of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. There is a visitor center at mile marker 451, so you can park and use the restroom before your hike.

Waterrock Knob Visitor Center Parking

Once you start at the visitor center, you will climb 0.5 miles up to the top of Waterrock Knob. This trail is paved but very steep! At the top of Waterrock Knob, you will get a great view of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

After reaching the Waterrock Knob lookout, you will see a trail to the left. Hike this trail for another 0.5 mile, and you will then reach the top of Browning Knob. The Browning Knob lookout is beautiful, and you will be able to see the parking lot where you started. 

Once you are done enjoying the view from Browning Knob, be on the lookout for a small, unmarked trail to the left. This short trail will lead you down to the site of the airplane crash.

Tips For Your Hike

Before hiking to the airplane crash, it is essential to prepare. Keep these hiking tips in mind:

Be respectful of the crash site

It is important to remember that the two men on the airplane died in the crash. Don’t be disrespectful, don’t leave trash behind, don’t graffiti the airplane, and don’t take anything with you. Leave the crash site (and the trail) exactly as they were before your hike.

Pack the right day hike essentials

While this hike isn’t long, it is difficult. There is a steep ascent, and some of the trails are not well-marked. It can be easy to get hurt or lost while hiking to the airplane crash site.

Packing the right day hike essentials is super important for your trip. Be sure to wear hiking boots because the trail is rocky, don’t forget your reusable water bottle, and bring a map and compass in case you get lost.

Pack a lunch (or snacks)

Because this hike is challenging, you will more than likely get hungry! We recommend bringing lunch with you to enjoy at the top of Browning Knob.

Summary: Airplane Crash- Waterrock Knob

Unfortunately, there have been several tragic airplane crashes in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Hiking to the airplane crash on Waterrock Knob will remind you that life is precious.

There is no better way to combine adventure, history, and scenic beauty than hiking to the scene of the airplane crash at Waterrock Knob in the Great Smoky Mountains. Along with taking in the striking scenery, hiking the paths will allow you to establish a connection with a portion of history. For avid hikers and history enthusiasts alike.

Thank you for reading this post on how to hike to an airplane crash via the Waterrock Knob trail. Have you hiked to this plane crash before?

If you are interested in hiking to this airplane crash, you also will enjoy hiking to Shuckstack Fire Tower. Check out the Shuckstack Fire Tower an old fire observatory tower in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park!

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