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

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on May 28, 2024.

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Beacon Heights (near Banner Elk) is a short yet steep half-mile loop hike leading to 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.

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.

Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List

Beacon Heights NC

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

Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Overview

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.

Beacon Heights Trail Notes (and Access)

Trailhead Address: Beacon Heights Trail, Linville, NC
Website

The Beacon Heights Overlook Trail is a short portion of the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rough Ridge Trail and Boone Fork Trail (home to Hebron Falls) 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.

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Driving Directions (and When to Arrive)

two large stone steps leading to Beacon Heights overlook trail

As mentioned, the Beacon Heights Overlook Trailhead is 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 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.

Read More: Day Trips from Boone

The Beacon Heights Overlook Trail (The Hike)

the view on the north carolina mountains

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.

Read More: Day Trips from Asheville

Two Junctions Before the Top

a trail market pointing to Linn Cove, Price Park, and Beacon Heights

You will cross a small road from the parking lot and 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, which passes underneath Linn Cove Viaduct and through the Rough Ridge Trail.

Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Pisgah National Forest.

Beacon Heights Mountains to Sea Trail sign

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

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

Summit Views That Await

The left-side overlook from Beacon Heights

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. You can view all of these mountains from Beacon Heights:

The Right-side Overlook facing the south mountains

The trail to the right offers south-facing views.

Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Boone (Hikes, Eats, and More in App Town)

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

Grandfather Mountain looks lovely from Beacon Heights.

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. Plenty of space on the rocks 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 will make the trip!

Read More: How to See Waterfalls Park in Newland (near Banner Elk)

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).

Read More: Waterfalls near Asheville

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 the 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.

Read More: 20+ Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

More High Country Things to Do

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