Beacon Heights Trail: hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain

Hike the Beacon Heights Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway to wide panoramic views from two overlooks, climbing through a mossy forest to stunning views of nearby Grandfather Mountain.

 

trail info

TRAIL LOCATION: On the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D DSLR

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

 

It’s not a long hike, spanning just under a mile, roundtrip. But it’s one of the most popular trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain, and for good reason: the views from Beacon Heights are far-flung, panoramic and beautiful. Two wide, weathered gray rock outcrops at the Beacon Heights summit offer exceptional vistas to the south, east and north, including the neighboring Calloway Peak at Grandfather Mountain. The towering summits of Mount Mitchell and Table Rock Mountain at Linville Gorge can be seen on the far horizon to the south.

Hike the Beacon Heights Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway to beautiful overlook views of nearby Grandfather Mountain

Climbing from a trailhead directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Beacon Heights Trail shares a trailbed with the Tanawha Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail for the first portion of the hike, climbing through a lush, green forest filled with boulders, moss, fern and gnarly-branched rhododendron. Nearing the summit, the trail splits, hiking north and south to two enormous, curved rock outcrops and catching incredible panoramic views. Moderately difficult and spanning a relatively short distance, it’s a great hike for families with kids – and one of the best, most scenic picnic spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Beacon Heights Trail: the hike

The hike departs from the Beacon Heights parking area, located directly off the Parkway near milepost 305 (view maps and driving directions), crossing a gravel road before diving eastbound into the forest. The feather-blazed, 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail veers to the left, hiking northbound to the Linn Cove Viaduct and the view-packed overlooks at Rough Ridge on Grandfather Mountain’s lower elevations. This hike veers right, trailing southwest and climbing through a rocky, rooty forest.

Hike the Beacon Heights Trail through a beautiful forest to stunning summit views

The hike continues its southbound journey, following the white circular trail blazes of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Galax, a leafy evergreen groundcover, carpets the forest floor, its pungent, onion-like scent filling the air. At just under .2 miles, the Mountains to Sea Trail splits right; this hike veers eastbound, continuing to follow the Beacon Heights Trail and climbing over large, weathered rock outcrops. The hike reaches a split at .25 miles, veering right to hike to the southern overlook at Beacon Heights.

Catch stunning, far-flung views from the Beacon Heights summit, a short hike from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Views from the wide, southern overlook are outstanding, stretching to the nearby, antenna-topped summit of Grandmother Mountain, and southward to Linville Gorge and Mount Mitchell State Park.

Departing the southern overlook, the hike retraces back to the trail junction near the summit, hiking northbound to the northern Beacon Heights overlook.

Hike Beacon Heights in autumn for colorful views at Grandfather Mountain near Boone, NC

Exiting the dense, low tree cover near the mountain’s summit, wide panoramas unfold from the northern overlook. The mountain’s wide, gently arced summit is studded with large boulders and cratered with shallow depressions that collect rainwater. Grandfather Mountain’s sharp, angular ridge dominates the northwest horizon, rising high above the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Catch stunning views of Grandfather Mountain from the Beacon Heights Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The gently-sloped summit is a great place for a water break, or a picnic with spectacular views. Departing the northern overlook, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the trailhead, hiking the Beacon Heights Trail in reverse. The hike reaches the trailhead parking area at just under .8 mile, completing the view-packed adventure.

More Grandfather Mountain hiking adventures

Finished the hike to Beacon Heights, and looking for another nearby adventure? Ascend to outstanding views from the Grandfather Mountain summit, climbing the Grandfather Profile Trail to Calloway Peak. Or for a shorter adventure, travel north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Rough Ridge, and hike a 1.2 mile roundtrip on the Tanawha Trail to stunning vistas from angular rock outcrops, catching some of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best views.

 
 
 

Beacon Heights Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the Beacon Heights trailhead, located at MP 305.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

36.084050, -81.829950     //     N36 05.043 W81 49.797

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Beacon Heights Trail: Elevation Profile

Beacon Heights Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.