Rough Ridge Trail is easily one of the fastest and most satisfying hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This popular spot is exactly what the doctor ordered for engagement proposals, fall foliage, sunrise, and really any Instagram-worthy occasion. Rough Ridge is less than a mile long and gives breathtaking views of North Carolina’s High Country.
This incredible trail also sits on the highest and most rugged peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway, also hosting one of the oldest ecosystems in North America. The Rough Ridge Trail is an awesome, quick hike and is easily among our favorites in North Carolina.
By the way, we added seeing the sunrise from Rough Ridge Overlook to our North Carolina bucket list because it was simply one of the most beautiful experiences one can have in our state. Also, this post is part of our series on Western North Carolina and our coverage of hikes throughout the state. It was originally created on October 8, 2019.
Rough Ridge Trail
How to Get There
Located inside the vast Pisgah National Forest, Rough Ridge trail leads to amazing views of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct. From downtown Boone, it is approximately 30 minutes and 18 minutes from Blowing Rock. Hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway going south from either of these towns and park at Milepost 302.8. You will notice Rough Ridge Trail’s starting point on the right side of the parking lot.
Things to Keep in Mind
While it is a short hike, the change in elevation happens quickly and the beginning of the trail is rather rocky and can oftentimes be muddy. You’ll go a total of 480 feet in elevation in less than a mile. That being said, we did it with a toddler in a backpack and raced to the top for sunrise, so it definitely isn’t impossible.
Dogs are allowed on Rough Ridge Trail as long as they are kept on a leash at all times. It’s for their safety but also for the next bit about respecting the area’s ecosystem.
Respect the Ecosystem
When you reach the first vista point (1/3 of a mile) you will have a nice boardwalk and railings available. The ecosystem on Rough Ridge is extremely fragile and filled with rare plants. While it is tempting to hop the rails to get that perfect Instagram shot, please don’t.
Those railings are there for your safety but also to protect the landscape and rock formations from human weathering. By trying to grab that perfect shot, you could undo thousands of years of Mother Nature’s work, so please help us preserve this magical spot for future generations to enjoy.
Rough Ridge Trail/Tanawha Trail Intersection
As the trail starts a steep ascend, you will soon see an intersection with the Tanawha Trail. The Tanawha Trail is a 13.5 mile stretch from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights and passes through beautiful thickets and mountain vistas. Stay to the left when you reach this intersection and cross the bridge to reach Rough Ridge Overlook. At the time of our climb (Fall 2019), there was no clear signage.
Since we always strive to provide the most up-to-date information, please let us know if signage improves or changes.
Views of Linn Cove Viaduct
To your right at this point in the climb, you will see Linn Cove Viaduct, which suspends 1,243 feet along seven piers and was completed in 1983. For over 20 years, seven miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway before and after the viaduct sat disconnected because of the care taken to protect the surrounding ecosystem.
Environmentalists and engineers searched for a design that would link the Blue Ridge Parkway without damaging Grandfather Mountain’s fragile environment. The most notable factor affecting construction was the fact that construction equipment could not touch the ground. That’s because it would destroy the rare and fragile plants along the mountainside.
More to Hike on the Rough Ridge Trail
At the end of the boardwalk, you can continue on for another half-mile to the Rough Ridge summit of 4,773 ft. This part of the climb has several large boulders and rocks to climb over. The final peak will have anchored cables to help you reach the summit. To the northwest is Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove Viaduct to the west, and to the south are magnificent views of Linville Gorge and Beacon Heights.
More to Explore Nearby
After you take in the breathtaking vistas and maybe even enjoy a picnic at the top, check out more of North Carolina’s High Country near Rough Ridge Trail.
- Stroll through the quaint and charming town of Blowing Rock. Explore the area for the weekend or stop through for some delicious eats.
- Head to Boone for amazing craft breweries, a wide array of restaurants, or to cheer on Appalachian State.
- Keep your hiking shoes on and head to Linville Falls for three spectacular waterfalls.
- Stop by and see the alpacas of Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk.
- Picturesque views also await in Little Switzerland, especially if you stay at the Switzerland Inn there. It’s about 50 minutes away and oh, by the way, don’t forget about Grassy Creek Falls near the Inn, too!
Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!
We loved hustling and almost instantly changing our elevation nearly 500 feet when hiking Rough Ridge Trail. Catching the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of my favorite experiences and should absolutely be on your North Carolina bucket list of things to do.
Have you ever enjoyed a hike on Rough Ridge Trail? If not, when do you plan to go and when was the last time you caught a sunrise like this one?