Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on December 18, 2023.
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.
- 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
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)
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)
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)
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.
Read More: Day Trips from Asheville
Two Junctions Before the Top
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.
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
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 trail to the right offers south-facing views.
What Makes Beacon Heights Unique? (And Why We’ll Be Back)
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!
Nearby Places to Visit (and Hikes)
Blue Ridge Parkway Stops
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, 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). Both of these are among our favorite and most colorful fall hikes in North Carolina!
- 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).
Read More: Waterfalls near Asheville
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.