One of the most scenic hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway takes you along the rocky slopes of Rough Ridge. It’s along our Scenic Loop Parkway Drive from Sugar Mountain (read more). The short but steep half-mile trail begins at an overlook at Milepost 302.8 – about 1.5 miles north of the Linn Cove Viaduct. From boardwalks and boulders, see panoramic views of Grandfather Mountain and to the southeast into the foothills. While there are no signs to identify the hike along the Parkway, it’s very popular. Go early in the day or midweek to avoid the crowds!
The total elevation gain on the hike is about 500 feet, ending at 4,773 feet elevation. This hike is just a small section of the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail, so you can continue past the summit along the side of Grandfather Mountain to the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center (another 2.5 miles). Since there are many fragile plant species on Rough Ridge, please stay on the trails.
It’s just a third of a mile to the boardwalk section with tremendous views. Many people turn around here. Continue up the trail for other outcroppings for higher views. From the trail, get a unique perspective of the Linn Cove Viaduct and see mountain views south to Mt Mitchell. Pets are not allowed on this section of the Tanawha Trail to protect vulnerable plants.
The trail starts to your right after you park as you face the mountain and stream. After a short walk, you will reach the Tanawha Trail. Turn left, crossing a bridge over the creek and up to the boardwalks. The climb is strenuous and rocky, often with muddy areas.
Fall color usually peaks here in early October, usually one of the first places for vibrant colors. See our Fall Color Guide for more.
Directions to Rough Ridge Hike
The Rough Ridge hike is 11 miles from the main entrance to Sugar Mountain, along our 55-mile Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Loop Drive. To drive direct:
- As exit the mountain, turn right onto NC Highway 184.
- At stoplight, turn right on NC Highway 105 toward Linville.
- At next stoplight, turn left on US 221 North and drive past Grandfather Mountain.
- Follow exit sign for Blue Ridge Parkway North and continue to the overlook parking area on the right at Milepost 302.8 – past the Linn Cove Viaduct.