Tanawha Trail

Iconic Views on Grandfather Mountain's Rough Ridge


The 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail itself begins at the Beacon Heights Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 305.5), just south of the Linn Cove Viaduct. This also serves as a trailhead for Segment 5 of the Mountains to Sea State Trail. While the Mountains to Sea continues north along the Boone Fork Trail, the Tanawha trail ends at the Julian Price Campground.

Hike right to the iconic Rough Ridge viewpoint on the Grandfather Mountain portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Start at either Wilson Creek Overlook (Milepost 303.6) or Rough Ridge Overlook (Milepost 302.8) to see awesome views of the parkway and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.


HIKE Rough Ridge

The cliff-lined alpine crest of Rough Ridge offers some of the Parkway's most startling vistas. Grandfather Mountain's peaks tower overhead, far above the NC Piedmont, for a nearly vertical-mile rise, one of the greatest drop-offs of the Blue Ridge escarpment. Mount Mitchell lies on the southern horizon.

Start at Rough Ridge Parking Area on the Tanawha Trail and scenic boardwalk views are just a 0.3 mile, moderate walk with some steep steps and rocky tread.

Leave the parking area, ascend log steps to a junction, and take the Tanawha Trail left (to the right, it leads to Price Park). Cross an arching wood bridge over a cascade to an often-soggy trail through evergreens and up stone steps. Hiking through blueberry bushes, you'll pass a distinctive stack rock formation on the right as you begin 200 feet of ascending, scenic boardwalk. Stay on the boardwalk, designed to keep hikers from trampling the low, fragile vegetation.

As you're standing on the platforms, the vista engulfs you. From the three loftiest summits of Grandfather Mountain, an expansive chute drops past the Linn Cove Viaduct and Parkway snaking to the south. Far below lie the rippling ridges of Pisgah National Forest. Climbers call the faces below Rough Ridge "Ship Rock," and the crags are among the South's most popular rock-climbing sites.

Hike another 0.3 mile up rocky but nicely graded switchbacks to the top where cable-defined pathways keep people on the paths amid fragile and low-growing mats of Allegheny sand myrtle and the tall white flowers of turkey beard. Hike back to your car for a 1.2-mile hike.

To reach the overlook from another direction, start at the Wilson Creek Overlook and hike out and back to Rough Ridge. Starting at Wilson Creek, take the side trail under the Parkway 0.1 mile and go right on the Tanawha Trail. The trail drops to within sight of the road and then gradually climbs through boulder fields with spring wildflowers and towering trees. Stone steps reach the summit of Rough Ridge, just under 1.0 mile from the Wilson Creek Parking Area (about 2.0 miles round-trip).


Help preserve this awe-inspiring scenery by sticking to designated trails and boardwalks to protect the sensitive plant and animal habitats off the trail. Respect any wildlife you encounter, pack out all trash, and be considerate of others out enjoying nature.

Click through the images below to learn more about how to help Preserve the Awe of this unique Blue Ridge Mountain environment!