Rough Ridge is a short hike that leads to wonderful views of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct and the valley below.
After we finished our short hike around the Linn Cove Viaduct, we drove a short distance north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike Rough Ridge. This short hike is one of the Parkway’s most popular – understandably, because the views are truly breathtaking. The trail starts with a small series of log stairs that climb steeply into the woods. Shortly after the steps, there is a small footbridge over a chasm. Perhaps in wetter conditions, a small stream might flow under the bridge. When we visited it was dry.
The trail climbs uphill for about .3 mile, across muddy and rocky trail, until it reaches a series of boardwalks. The wooden pathways are intended to keep hikers off the fragile terrain. This part of the parkway is home to numerous rare species, and careless footsteps can do all sorts of damage. From the rocks beside the boardwalk, hikers are treated to a wonderful panoramic view of the scenery. The viaduct is almost always visible off in the distance.
After leaving the boardwalks, the trail continues a little more steeply uphill. There are more rocks to climb and more mud to traverse. At the top, you’ll reach a giant, sheer-faced boulder with a line of affixed cable. Use the cable to pull yourself to the top of the boulder. You’ll be treated to another amazing view. The impressive face of Grandfather Mountain looms above and pristine nature spreads out below. It’s nothing short of spectacular.
We stayed atop the boulder for a very short while – just enough time to take in the view and snap a few photos. The wind was so strong, it could almost blow a person of their feet! The hike down went very quickly, and simply retraced our steps.
After this short hike, we headed into the little town of Blowing Rock for lunch. What an adorable town! If you visit the area, don’t miss a visit to the nearby town.
Rough Ridge was one of the hikes we were most excited to do on this trip. When we were at the Linn Cove Viaduct, we were hoping that the Rough Ridge hike would give us great views of the viaduct and we were not disappointed.
The trail starts from the parking lot by going up a few log steps. At the top, you reach a junction of the Tanawha Trail. Take the trail to the left and follow uphill until you reach the boardwalk at .3 miles. Interestingly enough, while they tell you to stay on the trail, they have left an opening to climb out onto a large flat rock. Just be careful if you have any children, since the edge has a large dropoff. From this viewpoint, you can see the Linn Cove Viaduct which looks quite straight from this perspective as you are looking at it straight on. After the boardwalk, the trail continues to climb and then takes a sharp turn leading up to another rock formation that daring people could climb onto. Continuing on, at .6 miles, you reach a junction with the Tanawha Trail again and see the trail blocked off to protect vegetation. There are a few different rocks to get great views, with the best being from the rock Christine mentioned above with a cable to hold to guide yourself up. There are some great spots here to have a quick snack and enjoy the views all around you. From the summit, you can see Grandfather Mountain rising above the Linn Cove Viaduct (which you can see snake from the summit) and views down into the Linville Gorge. On a clear day, you should be able to see for miles
One of the more popular rock climbing spots in the South lies below Rough Ridge in an area known as Ship Rock. If you are a skilled rock climber, I could see this being a way to do some climbing on the rocks before taking this trail to hike to the top.
This is definitely an easy hike for most people that has a huge payoff for minimal effort. If you are traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I would make this a must-do hike along the way for a short 1-1.5 hour break.
- Distance – About 1.2 miles
- Elevation Change – 480 ft
- Difficulty – 2. This is a fairly easy hike. It’s mostly uphill, but never steep. The final viewpoint at the top requires a short, rope-assisted climb to a boulder top.
- Trail Conditions – 3. The trail is good condition, but it can be muddy and slick.
- Views – 5. AMAZING!
- Waterfalls/streams – 0. There are no streams on this hike.
- Wildlife – 0. This area is heavily traveled, so it’s unlikely you’ll see wildlife.
- Ease to Navigate –4. This trail is an easy to follow out-and-back.
- Solitude –1. We saw quite a few people on this hike.
Directions to trailhead: Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile marker 302.8 Park at the Rough Ridge overlook.