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Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Also See: Blue Ridge Parkway | Beacon Heights | Chestoa View | Linville Falls | Pisgah National Forest |
Asheville Hiking | Grandfather Mountain | Tanawha Trail Map | Linn Cove Viaduct | Fall Color Guide
Rough Ridge, NC

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.

This wonderful hike in the Pisgah National Forest is part of the 13-mile Tanawha Trail (download PDF of Tanawha Trail Map) and Mountains-to-Sea Trail that continues to Beacon Heights, taking you along the Linn Cove Viaduct. So you can easily extend the hike. If you have two cars, leave one at the Beacon Heights parking area (Milepost 305.2) and hike from Rough Ridge to Beacon Heights (about four miles).

Details for Rough Ridge Hike
Park at the Parkway overlook at Milepost 302.8. Even if you don't hike, enjoy the creek cascading down the mountainside at the overlook. From the parking area, the trail starts to the right. Soon, you will reach an intersection with the Tanawha Trail. Turn left on the trail, following the direction on the sign toward Linn Cove. Cross and bridge across the tumbling creek, and climb through woodlands to the dramatic expansive views via the boardwalk. The climb is a bit strenuous, but it's brief - about 1/3 of a mile - to the boardwalks. The wooden walkways protects the fragile vegetation on the rocky mountainside.

There are several benches where you can relax and enjoy the view. The section of the Parkway is frequently closed in the winter months due to snow and ice.

View of the cascading creek from the parking area at the overlook.

The Blue Ridge Foundation is currently raising money to preserve and enhance the boardwalk. Read more below about how you can help.

Nearby are other great hikes at the Linn Cove Viaduct, Chestoa View, Linville Falls and Beacon Heights.

Rough Ridge, NC

Boardwalk on Rough Ridge
Boardwalk on Rough Ridge

View of Grandfather Mountain
Grandfather Mountain summit (right) with the Viaduct, middle left

Linn Cove Viaduct
Closer view of the Linn Cove Viaduct

Rough Ridge, Blue Ridge Parkway

The summit of Rough Ridge, with Grandfather Mountain in the background.

View from the summit of Rough Ridge


Rough Ridge—A Preservation Priority of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation

Turkey Beard in bloom on the rocky ridge

Written by Randy Johnson for Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
Ever since the rough, stage coach route of the Yonahlossee Road first enticed travelers from Blowing Rock to Linville in the 1880s, countless eyes have followed Rough Ridge up to the grandiosity of Grandfather Mountain.

Today, Rough Ridge is part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the hike across this craggy crest offers some of the high road's most spectacular views. The three highest peaks of Grandfather Mountain tower above. Thousands of feet below, the western Piedmont reaches to the horizon. In the distance, cars make their winding, almost airborne way across the Parkway’s famous viaduct span.

Appropriately, the skyline vistas of Rough Ridge are the scenic high point of a trail named Tanawha, a Cherokee word that means “great hawk” or “eagle.” The 13-mile trail from Beacon Heights (Milepost 305.2) to Price Park campground (Milepost 296.9) was built in the mid-1980s and cost more than $750,000.

Many unique plants struggle to live on this fragile wind-swept, rocky flank of Grandfather Mountain. In May, low-growing mats of allegheny sandmyrtle bloom with tiny, alpine-like red and white flowers. Turkey beard, with its tall showy white flowers, occurs only in the southern Appalachians and provides a spectacular display in June. During August, massive clumps of high bush blueberry attract numerous wildlife species with one of nature’s sweetest fruits. And the seasons are special for more than just the list of blossoms. In September, the northern vegetation on these breezy spruce-fringed crags flashes red and orange long before the surrounding forests.

The scenic appeal of Rough Ridge draws Parkway visitors aplenty, so the Park Service takes special care with the area. Sections of boardwalk have been built to lift foot traffic above the fragile plants. Nearer the peak, trail-defining cables guide walkers and encourage people to avoid stepping on plants that struggle to maintain their foothold on the rocks. Even a few careless steps encourage erosion or cause the easily compacted soil to blow away from the roots.

Click once to see the views from Rough Ridge!

The National Park Service continually monitors and improves its efforts to protect the Rough Ridge ecosystem. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is launching an effort to establish the Rough Ridge Trail Fund for the needed construction materials to replace and enhance the protective boardwalk and to ensure ongoing protection for this special place on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The campaign goal is $25,000.

For the ultimate guide to Rough Ridge, and not just the reasons to preserve it, check out Randy Johnson's books Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway and Hiking North Carolina. Randy started the Grandfather Mountain trail preservation program, helped design the Rough Ridge trail system, and his books are the ultimate guides to North Carolina autumn scenery.



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