Enjoy One Of The Best Blue Ridge Parkway Views On The Rough Ridge Trail In North Carolina

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Looking to hike the Rough Ridge Trail in Blowing Rock?

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.

Linn Cove Viaduct

Our experience on the Rough Ridge Trail in Blowing Rock

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?

Most of the trail is like this

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 in Blowing Rock?

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.

I believe we started from the Tanawha Trailhead and looking at Google Maps it has about 20 parking spaces.

It’s about 30 minutes from Boone, 20 minutes from Blowing Rock, and just 2 minutes from the Linn Cove Viaduct.

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.

rough ridge

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 busy?

Yes! 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.

Parking is pretty limited at the Rough Ridge Trailhead so you may want to have a backup plan in case you can’t get a spot and have to come back later.


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.


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.

Rough Ridge Trail opening hours

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Rough Ridge Trail are open all the time (pending weather closures).

Rough Ridge Trail entrance fee

There is no fee for the Blue Ridge Parkway or for the Rough Ridge Trail.

The big overlook rock

What to bring on the Rough Ridge hike?

Hiking poles – These will be helpful on longer hikes that are on the steeper side.  They’ll be good if you have bad knees for when you’re going downhill and will give you something to lean on going up the hills.

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.

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.

Hat – You’ll want some kind of hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, or a visor.  A baseball hat should be fine but I like my giant sun hat, too.

Sunglasses – This is a must no matter where you are.

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.

Headlamp – I tend to carry my headlamp around all the time when we’re hiking, just in case. 


Where to stay in Boone and Blowing Rock

TownePlace Suites (Boone) – This one is outside of the busy area of Boone, just south of town on 321. It has breakfast and mountain views in some rooms.

Graystone Lodge (Boone) – This recently renovated hotel in South Boone is close to town without being in the busy area. It’s part of the Choice Hotels chain.

Hampton Inn & Suites (Boone) – This is a great chain option in just outside the center of Boone. It has breakfast and is pet and kid friendly.

Homestead Inn (Blowing Rock) – This is a cute, rustic, pet friendly option near Blowing Rock city center. It even has a basketball court!

The Manor (Blowing Rock) – This is a beautiful modern option in Blowing Rock with breakfast. Some of the rooms have balconies, too.

The Victorian Inn (Blowing Rock) – This looks like a bed and breakfast but without the breakfast, just a bed. It looks so cute hand has a garden, terrace, and parking.

Meadowbrook Inn (Blowing Rock) – This is just one block from the Main Street city center. It looks really nice and is super close to the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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Have you hiked the Rough Ridge trail? What did you think of it? What is your favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hike?

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