This hike is on the Grandfather Mountain portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Linville and south of Blowing Rock. Start at either Wilson Creek Overlook (Milepost 303.6) or Rough Ridge Overlook (Milepost 302.8).
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 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 (no pets permitted, even on leash) 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 (do not throw rocks!).
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 top 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 then gradually climbs though 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).
(For more detail on this or other Boone area trails, pick up a trail guide by local outdoor expert Randy Johnson.)
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus/minus signs and directional arrows at upper left), or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols. You can literally dive down to see the parking lots and landmarks for the Rough Ridge hike. Click any map symbol and information balloons pop up. In the trailhead parking map balloon, click "Directions," add your address or location, and step-by-step directions will guide you to the hike from wherever you are!