This 1.5-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain (elevation 4,009 ft) has an amazing payoff with panoramic views of the "canyon" of Linville Gorge Wilderness Area - with the valley floor and Linville River 2,000 feet below you. On a clear day, you can even see the skyline of Charlotte - about 90 miles away! The strenuous hike climbs about 700 feet in elevation, so allow plenty of time to hike uphill.
The 360-degree views from the top are some of the most spectacular you'll find in the North Carolina mountains. There's several great vantage point on the summit. It's an amazing spot for a picnic. Views include Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock and Shortoff Mountain. This remote area is accessible April-December (the road is closed January-March). Peak fall color views into the gorge are normally the third week of October.
The trail to the summit of Hawksbill begins from the parking area on a unpaved Pisgah National Forest service road 1264. After about an half mile, the summit trail turns left just before reaching the Jonas Ridge Trail (it's an obvious turn with a sign). From here, the summit trail gets progressively rockier and steeper. After 1/4 mile, you arrive at the ridge. Just before you reach the ridge, the hike splits. Either trail will take you to the top. The trail to the right is longer and more gradual. Go straight for a short, steep climb. At the top (at a popular camping spot), go to the right for the best views. Go to the left for a better view of Table Rock.
The Hawksbill Mountain hiking trail is about 65 miles from Asheville in Burke County. The shortest route is via I-40 east to Marion. Then U.S. Highway 221 north to the Linville Falls area, then Highway 183 to Highway 181. Go south three miles on Highway 181 to Gingercake Road (the second intersection with Gingercake Rd). It's about four miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection with Highway 181. One half mile down Gingercake Rd, stay left (follow Table Rock sign) on road 1264. The pavement ends in a mile. Continue about 2.8 miles to the Hawksbill parking area on left. Trail starts on right side of road (look for the trail sign there). The road is closed January-March.
After hiking Hawksbill, you can drive about five miles down the road for the trail to the top of Table Rock Mountain, the other dominant peak on the rim of Linville Gorge. On the other side of the Gorge (near the trail to Linville Falls), you can see both of these peaks from the panoramic perch at Wiseman's View. For another great view of Linville Gorge, hike to the top of Shortoff Mountain.