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

Last Updated on October 20, 2021

Disclaimer: This site uses demographic data, email opt-ins, display advertising, and affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure and Privacy Policy pages for further explanation.

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.

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 foliage, sunrise, and really any Instagram-worthy occasion.

Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Stops

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 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:

  • Tips for Hiking Rough Ridge (Before You Go)
  • The Rough Ridge Trail (at a Glance)
  • The Rough Ridge Trail Hike (from Start to Finish)
  • Nearby Hikes and Things to Do

Read More: The North Carolina Bucket List

Tips for Hiking Rough Ridge (Before You Go)

Rough Ridge views Ashley
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 can oftentimes be 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.

Read More: Places to Visit in Western North Carolina

Dogs

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

Hiking in North Carolina Rough Ridge Trail Image

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.

enjoying the views at Rough Ridge
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.

The Rough Ridge Trail Hike (at a Glance)

Best Hikes in North Carolina Rough Ridge Trail Image

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 mountain towns and park at Milepost 302.8. You will notice Rough Ridge Trail’s starting point on the right side of the parking lot.

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

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 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.

Keep Going Higher!

Rough Ridge Hike 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.

Trevor rough ridge hike
Carl’s best friend Trevor getting his epic Rough Ridge photo!

It is past the boardwalk where you will reach the iconic rock and views of Rough Ridge. Almost everyone on this trail recognizes this rock and wants their moment on it.

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.

Views from the top of Rough Ridge
Views from the top of Rough Ridge.

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

Read More:

Ready to Hike the Rough Ridge Trail?

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?

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 Trail.

Read More: Day Trips from Boone

More Things to Do Nearby

More Things to Do on the Blue Ridge Parkway

2 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.

    Reply

Leave a Comment