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