Enjoy spectacular mountain views of Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove Viaduct and Linville Gorge, with distant views into the Piedmont, from the hike on Rough Ridge. Just a 1/3-mile uphill hike from the parking area (Milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina) is a boardwalk atop the rocky mountain that protects fragile vegetation. Continue hiking for another 1/2 mile to the Rough Ridge summit (4,773 feet elevation). The views keep getting better! There are several large boulders along the trail that you can stand on to take in the views. At the summit, the highest rock has cables to help you reach the top. Total elevation climb from the parking area is 480 feet.
In addition to several benches on the boardwalk, find big boulders along the way for relaxing while enjoying the views.
This wonderful hike in the Pisgah National Forest is part of the 13-mile Tanawha Trail (see Tanawha Trail Map) and Mountains-to-Sea Trail that continues south to Beacon Heights along the Linn Cove Viaduct or north to Julian Price Park. To extend the hike, take two cars and leave one at the Beacon Heights parking area (Milepost 305.2) and hike from Rough Ridge (about four miles) or Price Lake.
Pets are prohibited on this section of the Tanawha Trail to protect a critical and highly vulnerable plant community.
Rough Ridge is one of the best spots in the mountains for brilliant early fall color.
Park at the Parkway overlook at Milepost 302.8. If you don't hike, enjoy the creek cascading down the mountainside at the overlook. From the parking area, the trail starts on the right. Soon, you will reach an intersection with the Tanawha Trail. Turn left, following the direction on the sign toward Linn Cove. Cross the bridge over the tumbling creek, and climb through woodlands to the expansive views from the boardwalk. The climb is strenuous and rocky, often with muddy areas.
Grandfather Mountain summit (right) with the Viaduct, middle left