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Hiking Table Rock Mountain Trail in the Linville Gorge (Everything You Need to Know)

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

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Hiking the Table Rock Mountain Trail is an excellent way to experience the rugged Linville Gorge Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest, even if you aren’t an expert hiker.

The Linville Gorge is home to some of North Carolina‘s toughest hiking trails. However, the short but sometimes steep Table Rock Mountain trail is about 1 mile (0.9 miles during a recent hike), with an elevation gain of 600 feet.

Its rocky peak offers stunning views of the Linville Gorge below, including surrounding highlights such as:

It’s just over a mile to the top, but we want you to be as prepared as possible, so we’ve included everything you’ll need to know about Table Rock Mountain NC.

Here’s how we’ve organized this guide:

  • Table Rock Mountain Overview
  • Where is Table Rock Mountain?
  • Leave No Trace Reminder Before You Hike
  • Safety Reminder
  • When to Visit
  • Hiking the Table Rock Mountain Trail (from Start to Finish)
  • Is Table Rock Mountain a Kid-Friendly Hike?
  • Where to Stay Nearby
  • More Linville Gorge Things to Do and Hikes (Our Picks and Related Posts)

Read More: Western North Carolina (and 100+ Wonderful Places to Visit)

Note: This is different than Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. Be careful not to confuse it with other state parks.

Table Rock Mountain NC Overview

Table Rock Mountain NC

Table Rock Mountain is a picturesque peak with a distinct and seemingly flat top from a distance. You can see it from many spots in the Linville Gorge, including Wiseman’s View, and the mountain is also viewable from downtown Morganton and some spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

You can reach the top via a strenuous, but not technical, trail.

A sign at the parking lot says that the Table Rock Summit Trail is 1 mile, but we’ve tracked it to about 0.9 miles. During the Table Rock Summit Trail, you’ll gain about 600 feet in elevation, which makes it a moderately steep trail.

Whether it’s 0.9 miles or 1 mile (1.8 miles or 2 miles roundtrip), the trail takes you to the summit at 3,930 feet, with incredible sweeping views.

On a clear day, you can see ridges for miles and miles! We’ll share more details about the Table Rock Mountain Trail shortly.

Read More: 25+ Amazing Restaurants in Morganton and Nearby! (Map Included!)

Where is Table Rock Mountain?

Trailhead Address: National Forest Rd, Morganton, NC
Official Trail Map

view at Table Rock Mountain

Table Rock Mountain sits in Burke County, about 70 miles from Asheville. It’s within a two-hour trip from quite a few places in Western North Carolina and driving directions to Table Rock Mountain parking area vary depending on where you’re traveling from.

If you’re driving up from Morganton, you’ll follow NC-181 N to Gingercake Rd, which we’ll mention shortly. From Boone, NC-105 will lead you to NC-181 S, which is the same way you’ll arrive at Gingercake Rd if you’re traveling from Asheville.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of driving directions from downtown Asheville to Gingercake Rd if you’re traveling east on I-40 from Asheville:

  • Take exit 72 (Old Fort) and follow US-70 to US-221 North to Linville Falls.
  • Next, you’ll take Highway 183 S to NC-181 S.
  • Continue three miles south to Gingercake Rd.

Read More: 80+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (The Asheville Bucket List)

From Gingercake Rd:

  • Half a mile down from Gingercake Rd, you’ll see a Table Rock sign directing you to Road 1264. The pavement only lasts for one mile and will become a bumpy gravel road* for the next 7 miles to Table Rock Mountain.
  • You will pass the Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead (another popular hike) 3 miles into your drive. 
  • If you drive 9.5 miles from NC-181 on a service road, you will reach a paved road to the Table Rock parking area. There are port-a-potties and camping sites available at the base of the trail. 

*note that 4WD vehicles are preferred, for the safety of your car and for personal entertainment. However, our Prius has successfully navigated this road with much caution.

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

Leave No Trace Reminder Before You Hike

While enjoying the Table Rock hiking trail and other places in the Linville Gorge, we ask you to PLEASE leave no trace. Pack in, pack out, and please do not ever litter in our beloved public spaces.

If you’d like to lend a helping hand, bring your own grocery bag and pick up any trash you see!

Safety Reminder

Safety is your responsibility when enjoying a hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain in Linville Gorge. Please stay on the trail, as steep dropoffs could lead to serious injury (or worse).

Another reason to stay on the trail is to protect the delicate ecosystems that can suffer damage from informal trails (or social trails).

Because Table Rock Road is a long series of bumps and curves, emergency workers would have a tough time reaching you in case of an emergency, especially during inclement weather conditions. 

Caution is heavily recommended in the Linville Gorge as it is not as well-marked or as well-maintained as other parks. 

If you’re unsure about the hike, the weather, and/or your ability to complete it or the drive up, the kind folks at Discover Burke County will be happy to answer your questions.

When to Visit

Table Rock trail

The last 1.5 miles of road that leads to the Table Rock Mountain trailhead is only open from April through December. The Table Rock Summit Trail is a beautiful place to hike throughout the year, especially during the fall when the leaves are beginning to change color.

Table Rock Mountain Overlook View Sunset Hike NC

We also love hiking up to the Table Rock Mountain overlook for sunset, as the entire Gorge lights up with colors, thanks to the beautiful sun as it goes down.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Hiking the Table Rock Summit Trail (From Start to Finish)

  • The hike to Table Rock Mountain’s peak is a strenuous, not technical trail. It’ll take you 0.9 miles or 1 mile to reach the top, which stands tall at 3,930 feet.
  • The trail is steady with several steep inclines. Hikers will need to navigate several forks on the path, but as long as you keep going up, you will be fine.
Table Rock Mountain Trail Exposed Boulder
  • About 0.2 miles into the hike, there are some huge exposed boulders worth stopping to check out.
  • The most notable trail fork is approximately half a mile up. To the left is the Devil’s Cellar Trail.
  • Keep to the right and move uphill toward the Table Rock Mountain Overlook.
Top of Table Rock Mountain North Carolina Linville Gorge Wilderness Area Pisgah National Forest
  • When you reach the top of the Table Rock hiking trail, there are several places to wander off and picnic along the rocky ridge. Large pieces of exposed granite dot the summit.
  • You can also explore the stone foundation that was once used as the base for a fire tower. 
Hawksbill Mountain view from Table Rock Mountain Summit
View of Hawksbill Mountain from the Table Rock Mountain Overlook.
  • From the Table Rock Mountain Overlook, incredible sweeping views await of the surrounding mountains to the north, including Hawksbill Mountain, the Linville River, and other prominent Gorge highlights.
  • You can also see Grandfather Mountain, the top of Sugar Mountain, and Roan Mountain in the distance.

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

Chimneys Table Rock Mountain
  • To the south, you can see the Chimneys, Shortoff Mountain, and Lake James.
  • For a thrill, try climbing the boulders to the right–they offer amazing views of the rock climbers at the Chimneys.

Read More: 25+ Great Lakes in North Carolina (+ Our Top 5 Picks)

Is Table Rock Mountain a Kid-Friendly Hike?

Blazes at Table Rock Mountain

The Table Rock Mountain hike is manageable for kids, as long as they have proper guidance and can handle heights. Our then-4-year-old daughter walked half of the way until it became too steep and rocky for our comfort.

We personally wouldn’t call this a kid-friendly trail since the top has ledges that could be dangerous. That being said, you know your children and their limits, so use your best judgment, and always feel free to ask us more questions!

Ready to Hike the Table Rock Mountain Trail?

No matter who you bring along, the views at Table Rock Mountain overlook are absolutely impressive. With rocky terrain and 360-degree vistas, we think every experienced hiker should check out Table Rock at least once!

Have you ever been lucky enough to hike Table Rock Mountain North Carolina? We’d love to know about your experiences here and elsewhere around the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area!

Let us know in the comments or by email. Don’t forget to share your Linville Gorge adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

Where to Stay near Table Rock North Carolina

trails Table Rock Mountain

There are plenty of great accommodations in Morganton, but camping is allowed inside Linville Gorge for those looking for a more rustic experience. A permit is required on weekends and holidays, obtained from the Grandfather Ranger District Office in Nebo. 

Other excellent camping spots nearby include Lake James State Park or South Mountains State Park.

Read More: 10+ Great Things to Do at Grandfather Mountain (and Nearby!)

More Linville Gorge Things to Do and Hikes

Linville Falls

Many people come to the Linville Gorge for rock climbing, hunting, and fishing, but hiking is probably one of the most popular outdoor activities in Burke County.

Other popular hikes in the Linville Gorge Wilderness include Hawksbill Mountain, Shortoff Mountain, and Linville Falls. If you’re looking for a view without a hike (but a bumpy drive!), check out Wiseman’s View.

Morganton is the gateway to the Linville Gorge and Table Rock. Ride the Catawba River Greenway, enjoy a beer at Fonta Flora, or paddle around Lake James. 

These NC travel guides share more about the area that includes Table Rock Mountain.

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