This 1,237-acre natural area off NC 194 northeast of Boone rises to the second highest peak in Watauga County at 5,520 feet. It was acquired with the help of The Nature Conservancy. Elk Knob was considered one of the most desirable areas for preservation from among more than 70 sites examined by a division task force in 2001-02. The mountain contains the headwaters of the North Fork of the New River, and is part of a chain of amphibolite rock mountains in Watauga and Ashe counties.
The system of peaks offers nutrient-rich conditions that often support rare plant species and natural communities. At least five of those natural communities are represented on Elk Knob, and the area is frequented by black bear, bobcat, breeding ravens and a variety of neotropical songbirds.