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While we were in North Carolina almost every hike we did was to a waterfall. This wasn’t totally on purpose but I did like it a lot. Well, today I’m sharing our one non-waterfall hike: the Rough Ridge trail!
This is a nice moderate hike to one of the best views on the Blue Ridge Parkway with views of the Linn Cove Viaduct (the bridge thing that shows up when you Google images Blue Ridge Parkway) and Grandfather Mountain.
We set off in the late afternoon which I think was perfect because the lighting wasn’t super harsh (that mid-day lighting, ya know?) but could have been better (give me some clouds, right?)
The trail starts off in the woods and is a little muddy. It takes you up the side of the mountain and through what feels like little magnolia tunnels. The trail is pretty narrow so you kind of have to do a Homer Simpson sliding into the bushes to let people pass. It can get annoying but what can you do?
There are a few lookouts on the way up to the main big overlook rock (that’s what I’m calling this thing because I’m not sure if it has a better name) and you go in and out of the little plant tunnels.
The trail was pretty busy, but it was a Friday afternoon in October, like, the busiest time to be here other than a Saturday or Sunday in October. This meant the overlooks were also pretty busy.
We hung out at the big overlook rock for a bit then kept going on the trail instead of heading down. I think it officially ends at the rock though.
After walking a little further we hung out in the woods for a bit. It seems like the big views kind of end after the rock so if that’s what you’re interested in, you can just turn around there.
While I tend to like the waterfall hikes in North Carolina a little more, this one was still really cool and totally worth doing. If you’re looking for a shorter hike with rewarding views, look no further! The Rough Ridge trail is for you.
Where is the Rough Ridge trailhead?
The Rough Ridge trailhead is on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone and the Linn Cove Viaduct. The parking area and trailhead are at mile post 302.8. You’ll probably want to get there early in the day (like really early) because it isn’t as busy then, at least in the fall.
If it’s a weekend I would recommend doing it first thing in the morning or later in the evening. Mid-day will be packed and you’ll be lucky to find a place to park.
How long is the Rough Ridge trail?
I’ve been having a hard time figuring out exactly how far it is but I believe from the Rough Ridge trailhead to the big overlook rock is 1.2ish miles round-trip, so to the rock and back. The trail keeps going though so you can either stop there or continue.
I don’t know exactly how far we went on this trail, but according to my phone we hiked 2.7 miles that day. I don’t remember what we did before this but I don’t think all 2.7 were on this trail.
I think it’s worth going past the overlook rock as least a little bit because the crowds thin out a lot after that.
How long do you need for the Rough Ridge hike?
I would plan two hours for this. You can turn around at the big rock overlook or you can keep going. As usual, how long it takes will depend on how fast you hike, how much you stop, and how far past the rock you go, if you do.
Is the Rough Ridge trail hard?
I would say it’s moderate. It has about 400-500 feet of elevation gain in a relatively short distance which can be tough, but I don’t think it was the hardest hike we did on this trip. If you’re not used to elevation (it’s around 4300-4700 feet above sea level) it may be a little tough.
What is the Rough Ridge trail like?
It’s rocky and muddy and kind of steep. At the beginning there is a cute little bridge with a small waterfall under it. The mud wasn’t like, thick, deep, feet-getting-stuck mud but it can make it a little slippery and it’s just generally wet ground. It’s a little rocky so watch your footing. It’s also very narrow.
What to bring on the Rough Ridge hike?
Water bottle – It’ll be hot and you’ll need to stay hydrated. Even if it’s not hot you need to stay hydrated. A Hydro Flask will keep your water ice cold all day long.
Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes. A baseball hat should be fine but a bucket hat or sun hat could help keep the sun off your neck.
Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are. Sunglasses are best paired with a hat on those really bright days.
Sunscreen – If you plan on being outside, you’ll want sunscreen. I like the Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch a lot AND it’s reef safe! If you’re sensitive to fragrance though, it’s not a good choice. I also like the same one but specifically for your face.
Light Jacket – Because you just never know. Weather can change quickly depending on where you are, time of day, and season. I usually use my rain jacket for this.
Good hiking shoes – If you’re hiking when it’s warmer, Chacos will be good. If it’s fall, muddy, or a little cooler out, you’ll want closed toe shoes.
Is the Rough Ridge hike worth it?
Yes! This is a great view of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a great way to really see all the fall foliage around you. It is busy but it’s still worth it since it’s not too tough.
Have you hiked the Rough Ridge trail? What did you think of it? What is your favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hike?