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Hike the Tanawha Trail at Rough Ridge, a rocky, angular precipice that offers exceptional summit views of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1.2 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: difficult for most dogs Difficult
for dogs
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail, but obstacles and terrain have made this hike difficult for our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers. Check out our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Blue Ridge Parkway near Grandfather Mountain

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.9/5 (7 reviews)

It’s simply one of the best, short-distance hikes off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. The Tanawha Trail ascends through a jagged, rocky terrain at Rough Ridge, soaring to simply breathtaking views. And while it’s a short hike, it’s an exceptionally rewarding one. Photo-worthy views, far-flung horizons, dramatically rocky and jagged terrain, and lush flora are abundant throughout the hike, making this one of our all-time favorites.

Rough Ridge

The hike follows a short spur to the Tanawha Trail, a 13.5 mile stretch of trail that explores the flanks of Grandfather Mountain. (“Tanawha”, translated from Cherokee, means ‘fabulous hawk’, a fitting name for a trail that scores sublime, soaring views and dips into shady coves and valleys along its length.) The hike follows the Tanawha Trail southwest, ascending through a dense, rocky forest to a series of wood boardwalks and stairs. Carving through switchbacks, the trail ascends to an immense, towering outcrop at the summit, scoring incredible vistas.

This is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular hikes, so expect fellow hikers on all but the earliest midweek mornings. The exceptional views more than make up for the trail traffic, though. And be prepared to stay awhile… with views like these, you’ll want to soak up some sun and snap more than a few photos.

Hike the Tanawha Trail at Rough Ridge, a rocky, angular precipice that offers exceptional summit views of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC. #hiking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Rough Ridge: the hike

The hike departs from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 302.8 (view maps and driving directions). The hike follows a short spur trail, hiking northwest and climbing wood and rock stairs through a shady forest. The hike reaches the Tanawha Trail and turns left, crossing a wooden span bridge over a Wilson Creek tributary. The trail climbs through a mossy, shady, rocky terrain filled with fern and rhododendron.

Tanawha Trail at Rough Ridge

The forest’s dense canopy suddenly opens, and the dramatic views begin to unfold. The hike begins to ascend a series of wooden stairs and boardwalks at .25 mile, climbing elevation to increasingly stunning views.

The Rough Ridge ecosystem is extremely fragile, filled with rare, ancient plants and lichens that thrive in this sun-drenched, windy, exposed terrain. The trail’s boardwalks, stairs and cables are designed to protect the fragile ecosystem – so please stay on the trail to help preserve the landscape’s beauty. (One wrong step could damage what took thousands of years to grow!)

Rough Ridge on the Tanawha Trail

The trail continues the climb, ducking through dense thickets of mountain laurel and climbing over rocky terrain. Views open again at .4 mile just before the trail carves through a series of switchbacks, making the final ascent to the summit.

The hike reaches the summit area at just over .5 mile, where anchored cables guide the way to the summit’s enormous rock outcrop. Views are abundant, stretching northwest to Grandfather Mountain’s Calloway Peak, west to the Linn Cove Viaduct, and south toward Linville Gorge and Beacon Heights.

Rough Ridge at Grandfather Mountain

Departing the craggy mountaintop, the hike retraces its outbound steps on the Tanawha Trail, dropping elevation to return to the trailhead and parking area. The hike reaches the trailhead at 1.2 miles, completing the adventure.

More Grandfather Mountain hiking adventures

In the area with plenty of daylight (and energy) left to burn? Climb Grandfather Mountain on the Grandfather Profile Trail, climbing to exceptional views from Calloway Peak. It’s a difficult, 6.2-mile roundtrip that requires some light boulder scrambling – but the views from Grandfather’s ridge are simply unforgettable.


Rough Ridge - Tanawha Trail Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.9/5 (7 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at MP 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)


GPS Coordinates

36.098350, -81.797027     //     N36 05.901 W81 47.821

Elevation Profile

Rough Ridge Elevation Profile
 
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.