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Rough Ridge Trail Blue Ridge Parkway Hike (How to Reach It)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on April 18, 2024.

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Rough Ridge Trail (Mile Post 302.8) is easily one of the fastest and most satisfying Blue Ridge Parkway hikes, at 1.5 miles roundtrip. This popular spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains is exactly what the doctor ordered for engagement proposals, fall colors, sunrise, and really any Instagram-worthy occasion.

The Rough Ridge trail length is less than a mile and gives breathtaking views of North Carolina’s High Country.

Man with a camera looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset

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 one of our favorites near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk.

Since there is a lot of ground to cover, here’s how we’ve organized this post for you:

Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List

Tips for Hiking Rough Ridge (Before You Go)

Our sweet friend Ashley enjoying the views on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Our sweet friend Ashley enjoying the views.

While it is a short hike, the change in elevation happens quickly, and the beginning of the trail is rather rocky and is often muddy. You’ll go a total of 480 feet in elevation in less than a mile.

That being said, we’ve done this hike with our little one in a backpack. It wasn’t easy with a toddler on our backs, but we felt it was too steep and rocky for her, even at 4 years old.

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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 following the rules is also an important way to respect to the area’s ecosystem.

Respect the Ecosystem

The Blue Ridge Parkway during autumn

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 Overlook 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.

romantic couples crossing the railings to sit near the edge of a cliff on the blue ridge parkway
As tempting as it is, don’t do this!

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.

Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Stops

The Rough Ridge Trail Hike (at a Glance)

Best Hikes in North Carolina Rough Ridge Trail Image

Located inside the vast Pisgah National Forest, the 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 mountain towns and park at Milepost 302.8. You will notice Rough Ridge Trail’s starting point on the right side of the Rough Ridge Trail parking lot.

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The Rough Ridge Trail (from Start to Finish)

Rough Ridge Trail/Tanawha Trail Intersection

Hiking Trails in NC Rough Ridge Trail Image

As the trail starts a steep ascent, you will soon see an intersection with the Tanawha Trail. The 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail is a 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.

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

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.

A beautiful sunset in the blue ridge mountains.

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.

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Keep Going Higher!

The view from one of the highest points along the Blue Ridge Parkway

At the end of the boardwalk, you can continue on for another half-mile to the Rough Ridge summit of 4,773 feet. This part of the climb has several large boulders and rocks to climb over.

It is past this boardwalk where you will reach the money shot. Almost everyone on this trail recognizes this iconic rock and wants their moment on soaking in the sweeping views of rough ridge.

While it appears to be jutting out over a deep valley, it is actually just a short drop. Still remain conscious and aware while on the rock!

Also, try to be courteous and understanding that others will be waiting to snap their own memorable photo.

The view from atop Rough Ridge in the winter
Views from the top of Rough Ridge hike.

At the final peak, you will see anchored cables. Those cables are in place to keep hikers away from rare and fragile plant life.

Please do not step over these cables. You should have plenty of room to look around within the designated bounds of the Rough Ridge Trail.

colorful valley of trees near Linn Cove Viaduct

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

Ready to Hike the Rough Ridge Trail?

We loved hustling and almost instantly changing our elevation nearly 500 feet when hiking Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 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?

Nearby Hikes and Things to Do

Hiking Trails in NC Linville Falls Image
Linville Falls.

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 Hiking Trail.

Read More: Day Trips from Boone

More Things to Do Nearby

More Things to Do on the Blue Ridge Parkway

9 thoughts on “Rough Ridge Trail Blue Ridge Parkway Hike (How to Reach It)”

  1. Thank you! Do you think the trailhead parking area can fit a medium sized travel trailer? Heading there tomorrow and looking for hikes.

  2. Thank you for this!! I did the hike this morning and it was absolutely worth it for the incredible sunrise view!! Your notes helped me make my way to the top!

  3. Thanks for the great post! I will be in the area in November and am wondering what it’s like at that time of year. What are the colors like?

    • Peak for that area of North Carolina is going to be in early October, so you’ll probably have less leaves on the trees during your visit in November. We use the App State Biology Department’s Leaf Report as our guide to predict!

  4. Love rough ridge, can do this hike every time in any season, short of a fridgid winter. Next to Grandfather’s Mountain trail, the vista’s are awesome

  5. So we are going to be in the area mid May; trying to discern exactly what I am getting into with the Rough Ridge Overlook Hike (one YouTuber said it was 3/10 of a mile out and was very easy). I read your comment that in order to get the Lion King pic (I want to find the place I can stand to take husband’s pic) its another 1/5 mile strenuous climb over boulders (I’m freaking old and out of shape!).


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