Beacon Heights: a Quick and Easy Blue Ridge Parkway Hike (MP 305)

Last Updated on August 20, 2021

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If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.

Beacon Heights is a short yet steep half-mile loop hike that leads to a couple of Western North Carolina‘s best mountain overlooks. A parking area that sits just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 305 is where you’ll get started.

We love Beacon Heights so much, that we included it in our NC Bucket List Book!

And as you follow our guide, you’ll learn about the impeccable views that await. Unlike many hikes in the area, this one is quite an important geographic marker in North Carolina, especially along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

For folks seeking things to do nearby, you’ll be happy to know the Beacon Heights hike is surrounded by some of the Parkway’s most impressive stops.

Beacon Heights is one of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway stops and ranks highly among all the awesome places to go hiking in North Carolina, especially in the High Country.

Beacon Heights

Beacon Heights Organization Note: If you’re searching for something specific about the Beacon Heights hike, here’s how we’ve organized this guide.

  • Overview
  • Trail Notes
  • Driving Directions
  • The Beacon Heights Hike
  • Why We’ll Be Back
  • Nearby Places to Visit
  • More Things to Do in the High Country


Put simply, Beacon Heights is a bald rock face where you can enjoy views of Grandfather Mountain and other jagged peaks. Topping 4,340 feet in elevation, this peak is a wonderful place to soak in the beauty of North Carolina’s mountains, especially in the High Country.

Trail Notes (and Access)

The Beacon Heights Overlook Trail is a short portion of the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail that parallels along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rough Ridge and Boone Fork are a couple of notable accesses to this trail, along with Beacon Heights.

This hike also represents an intersection for the ubiquitous Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs from Clingmans Dome to Jockeys Ridge. Beacon Heights is a mid-point between Segments 5 and 6 of that 1175 mile long path.

Another good thing to know is that while many nearby sections of the Parkway close for winter, Beacon Heights typically stays open throughout the year.

Driving Directions (and When to Arrive)

Hiking Beacon Heights

As we mentioned, the Beacon Heights Overlook Trailhead is specifically located at Milepost 305.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our map at the bottom of this post will show you the trailhead’s location in relation to nearby places.

You can simply search “Beacon Heights” on Google Maps or Waze and as long as you’re somewhere with service, the parking lot should pop up.

Important Note: Keep in mind that there are a limited number of parking spots, so try to arrive as early as possible.

The Beacon Heights Overlook Trail (The Hike)

Views of Beacon Heights

It’s 1,400 feet with an elevation gain of 130 feet to reach the summit. While the hike might feel steep and fast, the views here are worth every step.

And that’s a big part of why we count Beacon Heights as one of our favorite hikes near Boone and Blowing Rock. You can also easily combine it with any of the area’s nearby waterfalls.

And you can even use this as a great base for a day trip from Asheville.

Two Junctions Before the Top

Tanawha Trail at Beacon Heights

From the parking lot, you will cross a small road and start to ascend into the mountains. At the trail’s first fork, continue right to reach the top of Beacon Heights. The trail to the left marks the starting point of the 13-mile Tanawha Trail to Price Park that passes underneath Linn Cove Viaduct and through the Rough Ridge Trail.

Sign at Beacon Heights

The next junction you encounter will be the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Turn left here to continue up to Beacon Heights.

Summit Views That Await

Beacon Heights Hikes Near Boone
The left-side overlook.

Once you reach the summit, the trail will split. The trail to the left leads to a wider panorama of mountains to the north, east, and west.

Grandfather and Grandmother, Table Rock, and Hawksbill mountains can all be viewed from the summit.

Beacon Heights Right Overlook
The Right-side Overlook.

The trail to the right offers south-facing views.

What Makes Beacon Heights Unique? (And Why We’ll Be Back)

Grandfather Mountain looks lovely from Beacon Heights.
Grandfather Mountain.

Unlike most of the overlooks in the High Country, Beacon Heights is unique because its summit is two large rock faces that offer mostly 360-degree viewpoints. There is plenty of space on the rocks and is the perfect place to enjoy a romantic picnic and soak up the beauty of North Carolina.

If you’ve been to Beacon Heights, what did you think of the view from the top? Did you enjoy the hike? And if you haven’t been yet, we’d love to know when you’re going to make the trip!

Map of Beacon Heights

As you can see from our map, Beacon Heights is closest to Linville in Avery County. It’s also within a reasonable drive from Boone (35 minutes), Blowing Rock (20 to 30 minutes depending on route), and Banner Elk (20 minutes).

Nearby Places to Visit (and Hikes)

Blue Ridge Parkway Stops

Linn Cove Viaduct is a great stop just a mile away from Beacon Heights!

Beacon Heights sits in a very popular section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our all-time favorite roads in North Carolina. You’ll see why we love this area after we share a few of the nearby places you can visit (and even hike).

Linn Cove Viaduct (MP 304) is the closest landmark from Beacon Heights, at just a mile north of the parking lot. Keep going a few miles that way and you’ll run into Rough Ridge Trail (MP 302) and eventually, Moses H Cone Memorial Park (MP 294).

In the opposite direction, you’ll pass the Linville Falls Trailhead (MP 316) before running into the wonderful mountain town of Little Switzerland (MP 333) and Grassy Creek Falls around the corner. Continue for about six miles on the Parkway and you’ll reach the incredible Crabtree Falls Trailhead (MP 339).

The Little Parkway

Green Mountain Creek Falls is just one of many fun things you'll see on the Little Parkway.

The Little Parkway is another of our favorite scenic roads in North Carolina. It refers to the 18 mile stretch of US 221 that runs between Blowing Rock and Linville. It’s a short and curvy patch of highway that passes underneath Linn Cove Viaduct and rides along Grandfather Mountain.

In fact, you’ll zoom past Grandfather Mountain State Park and the entrance to the nonprofit-owned portion of Grandfather Mountain. The latter is the part with the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.

We also enjoyed the roadside Green Mountain Creek Falls for a brief stop. It’s one of our favorite waterfalls in the area.

Westglow and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park are two more prominent landmarks you’ll see before reaching (or after passing) downtown Blowing Rock.

More High Country Things to Do

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