Epic views of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct can be had from this short trail to the top of Rough Ridge.
There are no shortages of great views on the Blue Ridge Parkway and one of our favorite spots is the easily reached summit of Rough Ridge which is at milepost 302.8, just north of the Linn Cove Viaduct. Rough Ridge has a couple of viewing areas with the first section being only 1/3 of a mile from the parking area. The summit, which offers up the best views, is only about 8/10’s of a mile from the trailhead although it is all uphill. Even with the uphill climb, this pleasant moderate hike to the summit is well worth the effort.
The parking area for Rough Ridge is located at milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of the Linn Cove Viaduct. It is a moderately sized parking area on the uphill side of the road and is easy to spot although this is a very popular hike and can fill up quickly if you don’t get there early. There are no restroom facilities at the Rough Ridge Overlook but there are nice facilities at the Linn Cove Visitors Center just on the other side of the Viaduct. Rough Ridge is about 1 hour from Johnson City Tennessee or 90 minutes from Asheville North Carolina.
The trailhead starts in the middle of the parking area at the steps on the left side of the informative signboard. Very quickly you intersect the Tanawha Trail which connects Beacon Heights to the South with Price Lake to the North. To reach Rough Ridge you will want to continue straight on the trail and go over the very nice wooden bridge that crosses Tumbling Creek. After the bridge the trail is very straight forward and you walk towards the boardwalk that covers the lower section of the ridge. From here you will get you first views of the area landscape which include Grandfather Mountain and the Viaduct off in the distance. There are numerous spots with views along the trail and there are benches to rest on along the way if needed.
The trail continues up the ridge with the views getting even better as you continue up the mountain. You’ll pass a few large boulders along the way that offer up some great photo opportunities.
It isn’t too far until you reach the summit of Rough Ridge where the best views are found. There is a cable in place to help you reach the very top of Rough Ridge but make sure you are careful if you go all the way to the top. There are no railings present along the edge, it’s just you, the rocky Rough Ridge, and almost endless views.
The trail continues another 3 and 1/2 miles to Beacon Heights but the Rough Ridge hike is typically an out and back experience. So when you have finished enjoying the views from atop the ridge, hike safely back down to the parking area.