Hike to the Hawksbill Mountain summit in NC’s Linville Gorge, scaling the mountain’s craggy, jagged summit to outstanding mountaintop views and spectacular sunrises.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2.2 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: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:at Linville Gorge in western NC

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

Soaring. Or so it seems, standing on a lofty, windy mountain summit, gazing at birds of prey riding the breezy uplifts far below, and feeling decidedly on top of the world. Though many peaks in western North Carolina lofty views, few offer the truly breathtaking drop-offs, sharp terrain and incredible 360-degree panoramas as Hawksbill Mountain.

The craggy mountain rises from the angular, rugged terrain and steep-walled sides of North Carolina’s Linville Gorge, an 11,000-acre wonderland that has attained ultra-popularity with hikers, backpackers, climbers, and adventurers of all kinds. The mountain is perched on the gorge’s eastern rim, just north of the towering plateau-like Table Rock Mountain and south of the uniquely-named mountain named Gingercake.

Hawksbill MountainAbove: hike to stunning views on the mountain’s summit, with vistas extending to Table Rock and Shortoff Mountain

The hike to the mountain’s summit is a meandering adventure through a hardwood forest before a climb through a rocky, rhododendron-filled terrain. It’s a short hike, but a fantastic one, ending with view-packed panoramas from the mountain’s rugged, sharp rock outcrops that resemble a hawk’s bill in their high-altitude angularity. To the west of the summit, the Linville River cuts deep through its namesake gorge, tumbling and churning in tendrils of whitewater nearly 2,000 feet below.

There’s nothing quite like catching an epic sunrise or sunset from the mountain. The trail is moderately easy to navigate, even in dwindling light, but be sure to pack a headlamp to help navigate the trail’s curves and switchbacks at dark. A quick scramble up to the summit for sunrise is one of our favorite ways to start a day of adventuring in Linville Gorge – and the sunrise views are often nothing short of spectacular.

Hawksbill Mountain

Hike to the Hawksbill Mountain summit in NC's Linville Gorge, scaling the mountain's craggy, jagged summit to outstanding mountaintop views and spectacular sunrises. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Hawksbill Mountain: the hike

The hike begins at a trailhead off the gravel NC Forest Service 210 (view maps and driving directions), hiking southwest into a young hardwood forest with scattered pine. The trail meanders through a tight switchback at .2 mile, veering north. The hike passes a small, shallow cave at .3 mile and arcs westbound.

The trail ascends gradually, at least initially, as it winds through a rocky landscape peppered with moss and large lichen-crusted boulders. Gnarly-branched rhododendron and laurel dominate the forest as the trail climbs the mountain’s mid-elevations, passing a view off the trail’s right side at just under .5 miles.

The trail carves through a series of tight switchbacks just before meeting a trail junction at .7 mile, and the hike turns left, following the signed direction to the summit. The hike becomes suddenly more strenuous as the terrain steepens and the trail makes a final southbound approach to the summit.

The trail summits Hawksbill Mountain at just under 1 mile, meeting the site of a large campsite. The trail splits here, turning left to hike southbound to stunning views of Table Rock Mountain, and turning right to hike northbound to the mountain’s best summit views from its angular northern peak.

Hawksbill Mountain

Views from the summit are simply spectacular, stretching far and wide into Linville Gorge and the surrounding forest. Shortoff Mountain dominates the southern horizon behind Table Rock, framing the nearby Lake James. To the northeast, the far distant Linville Falls plummet through the entrance to the gorge, their thundering cascades audible from the mountaintop on a still day.

While there’s nothing better than catching a stunning sunrise from this rocky, angular mountaintop perch, foggy days can be fairly incredible as well, as wispy plumes of vapor roll through the gorge’s depths.

Hawksbill Mountain

Departing the summit, the hike retraces its outbound steps to the trailhead, completing the hike at just over 2 miles.

Nearby hiking adventures in Linville Gorge

Ready for some more classic western NC beauty? Don’t miss the towering summit of nearby Table Rock Mountain, a under-two-mile adventure with more outstanding views. Or further south, hike the Shortoff Mountain Trail to catch stunning views through the length of Linville Gorge, and stunning views of Lake James from Shortoff’s rocky summit.

On the gorge’s western rim, hike the Linville Falls Trail to stunning views of the gorge’s gorgeous waterfalls. Or for an up-close view of the falls, plummet to the gorge’s floor on the Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail, hiking to a beautiful, deep basin of water directly below the waterfall. Or check out our Linville Gorge hiking and camping guide for more adventure ideas in this gorgeous, rugged wilderness.


Hawksbill Mountain Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map reflects our route when we last followed the trail. Trails and routes change frequently – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards. 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. Trailhead access is via gravel Forest Service roads. Love the trail? Please consider a donation to Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards to help support their outstanding work in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.


GPS Coordinates

35.914517, -81.878500     //     N35 54.871 W81 52.710

Elevation Profile

Hawksbill Mountain 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.