Elk Knob was considered for a housing development during the late 1990s and early 2000s, until a group of concerned citizens, land owners, and the Nature Conservancy worked together to purchase the mountain. In 2003, it was deeded to the State of North Carolina, under the management of the Division of Parks and Recreation. Elk Knob State Park helps to protect the headwaters of the North Fork of the New River, one of the oldest rivers in the world. Its many species of flora and fauna, which include several rare and endangered species, will now be protected from development.
At an elevation of 5,520 feet above sea level, Elk Knob is one of the tallest peaks in Watauga County and offers spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. Standing on the summit of Elk Knob, hikers can look out over the land with panoramic views and imagine a time many years ago when elk grazed the valleys below in abundant herds. Unfortunately, elk no longer roam these mountains as they disappeared from this region because of over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last native elk in North Carolina were believed to have been killed in the late 1700s.
Several historic mountain communities, from Meat Camp to Sutherland, surround Elk Knob State Park. From the 1850s until the late 20th century, people from near and far would bring their goods to the Winebarger Grist Mill in the Meat Camp community to be processed. Just a few miles away, Sutherland had its thriving business in the cattle industry. Each of these small, bustling, dynamic communities had at least one general store, post office, school, and church, and they contributed a rich history to this area of Watauga County.