in The High Country

Whether it’s a crag topping out hundreds of feet above the Linville Gorge or a 15-foot-tall boulder a short walk from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the High Country is among the best place to rope climb and boulder. Seriously, the climbing in and around Boone is world-class, offering a plethora of routes and problems year-round. Check out some of the well-known climbing areas in Boone.

Most Popular Hikes

Elk River Falls

Address: Trail, TN

As one of the High Country’s most popular waterfalls, you can expect a crowd on good weather days. But it’s worth it to catch a glimpse of the impressive 60-foot falls. The falls are a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot.

Directions: From Boone, take Highway 105 South toward Banner Elk. Turn right onto Highway 184, and then turn left onto Highway 194. At the intersection of 19E, turn right. In 1.3 miles, make a sharp right onto SR 1303. Follow signs leading to the falls, making a left onto Elk River Rd.

Harper Creek Falls

Harper Creek Falls is part of the Wilson Creek Gorge, which is a beautiful, secluded area. It may take some turning around to find it, but if you’re looking for something off the beaten path, you won’t be disappointed.

Directions: Heading south on Highway 181, make a left onto Brown Mountain Beach Road. Continue for 5 miles, passing the off-road area, and make a left on SR1328. Pass the commercial campground. The road will turn to gravel and there will be several parking places.

Hebron Rock Colony

Hebron Rock Colony offers a beautiful, long slope of giant boulders, great for crawling, jumping and climbing. The river cascades down the rocks, creating numerous small waterfalls in between dozens of little swimming holes.

Directions: To access the falls, do not park on Old Turnpike Road off of Old Shulls Mill Road. You will get towed. Park at Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area off of the Blue Ridge Parkway in between mileposts 296 and 297. To reach the popular summer hotspot, hike from the parking area about 1.5 miles on the Boone Fork Trail, where you will come out above the falls.

The Linville Gorge Trail

Address: North Cove, NC

The Grand Canyon of the East, Linville Gorge is as remote and pristine as it gets. Linville Falls can be viewed from a distance by hiking the moderate Erwin’s View Trail, which begins at the Visitor Center and is a 1.6-mile roundtrip.

The Linville Gorge Trail and connecting trails within the gorge are recommended for highly experienced hikers only. These trails, often climbing and descending the V-shaped walls of the gorge, are very strenuous.

Directions: To get to the Linville Gorge Visitor Center, take Highway 181 South to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn south on the Parkway and drive a few miles to the left turn for the Linville Falls parking area. The Linville Gorge Trail can be accessed at several locations along its western edge. Take US 221 South to Highway 183. Then turn left onto SR1238 (Kistler Memorial Highway). Trailheads are marked by parking areas on the left. Overnight camping in the Linville Gorge requires a permit Friday to Sunday, from May 1 to Oct. 31. For a permit, call the Grandfather District Ranger at 828-652-4841.

Upper Creek Falls

Upper Creek Falls could be called nature’s playground. A swimming hole, complete with a rope swing, is located above the falls, and natural rock slides are found at several points below the falls. The waterfall itself is over 30 feet high, and continues for another 50 feet. The trail leading to the upper falls is less than 1 mile, but strenuous. Crowds are usually small, but sometimes loud.

Directions: Take Highway 105 South from Boone. Turn left onto Highway 181 South. After crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and passing signs for Table Rock, the parking lot for Upper Creek Falls is on the left.

Stone Mountain State Park

Address: 3042 Frank Pkwy, Roaring Gap, NC

With over 14,000 acres of protected land, Stone Mountain State Park is a nearly inexhaustible resource for hikers and campers. Trails vary from moderate to strenuous, and lead to several of the park’s landmarks – including Stone Mountain itself, a 600-foot granite dome overlooking the park. If you do not plan on camping overnight, be sure to set aside a full day.

Directions: Stone Mountain State Park can be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 229. Take Highway 21 South to Roaring Gap. The park entrance located off of SR 1002, 7 miles south of Roaring Gap.

Grandfather Mountain - The Profile Trail

Address: The Profile Trail, NC

Spectacular views and challenging terrain await at Grandfather Mountain. The Profile Trail to the top is 3 miles long and rises more than 2,000 feet in elevation. The first mile is fairly easy, but the trail becomes more challenging quickly after that. This trail requires a hiking and/or camping permit, which is free and can be obtained from the Profile Trailhead parking area off of N.C. 105 and along the Tanawha Trail before accessing the Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Directions: To reach the Profile Trail entrance, take Highway 105 South from Boone for about 12 miles. Parking is on the left, about 5 miles past Foscoe. See other entrances to the trails and more information on the trail system at Grandfather Mountain State Park here.

Glen Burney Trail in Blowing Rock

Website: www.BlowingRock.com

Just steps from Main Street in downtown Blowing Rock is the steep and strenuous Glen Burney Trail that descends 800 feet into the rugged John’s River Gorge. The two-hour round trip, 1.6 mile trail, which follows New Year’s Creek and has views of three waterfalls – the Cascades, Glen Burney falls, and Glen Marie Falls – along the way, ends at Glen Mary Falls. The trailhead is located at Annie Cannon Gardens on Laurel Lane. For more information, click here.

Mountains-To-Sea Trail Through The High Country

Website: www.NCMST.org

The Mountains-To-Sea Trail stretches 1000 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks – and includes several sections that traverse the High Country. See the sections below, and for much more information, details and maps, click here.

Section 11 – Linville Mountains and Gorge: Running from Woodlawn Park on US 221 north of Marion to Ripshin Ridge on NC 181, this 35-mile section is arguably one of the most brutal, yet beautiful stretches of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail. This section includes hiking through the Linville Gorge and gorgeous views from Shortoff Mountain and Table Rock. It also includes very steep climbs up Bald Knob, Dobson Knob and Shortoff Mountain and three small creeks that will need to be waded.

Section 12 – Waterfall Backpack Through the Pisgah National Forest: Many waterfalls and pools are passed during this 24-mile stretch of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail through the Pisgah National Forest between NC 181 and Beacon Heights on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The east trailhead is near the entrance to Grandfather Mountain.

Section 13 to 17 – Blue Ridge Parkway North from Beacon Heights to Devil’s Garden Overlooks: While this 88-mile stretch could be overwhelming just for sheer length, try biting off chunks of the Blue Ridge Parkway North section into 14 day hikes. Check out each of the day hikes below or go to the Mountains-To-Sea Trail website for much more detail on this 88-mile stretch.

Day-Hike 1: At the foot of Grandfather Mountain
Beacon Heights to Boone Fork Parking Area
Distance: 7.9 miles

Day-Hike 2: Out to pasture
Boone Fork Parking Area to Holloway Mountain Road
Distance: 3.7 miles

Day-Hike 3: Wet ‘n’ Wild
Holloway Mountain Road to Trout Lake
Distance: 9.6 miles

Day-Hike 4: A Proper Ramble
Trout Lake to Thunder Hill Overlook
Distance: 7.2 miles

Day-Hike 5: Into the Wild
Thunder Hill Overlook to Bamboo Gap
Distance: 5.3 miles

Day-Hike 6: Howdy, Neighbors
Bamboo Gap to US 421
Distance: 10 miles

Day-Hike 7: Back in the Mountains
US 421 to Cascades Recreation Area/Jeffress Park
Distance: 4.7 miles

Day-Hike 8: Enchanted by the Escarpment
Cascades Recreation Area to the Park Vista Hotel (MP 268)
Distance: 4.3 miles

Day-Hike 9: High Meadows, Great Views
Park Vista Hotel/MP 268 to Jumpinoff Rocks Overlook
Distance: 8.0 miles

Day-Hike 10: Oh, fudge!
Jumpinoff Rocks to Sheets Gap
Distance: 8.0 miles

Day-Hike 11: Mindless Wander
Sheets Gap to Laurel Fork Road
Distance: 4.7 miles

Day-Hike 12: Beginnings, Endings
Laurel Fork Road to Doughton Park: Basin Cove Overlook
Distance: 4.2 miles

Day-Hike 13: Delightful Doughton
Basin Cove Overlook to The Bluffs Restaurant
Distance: 5.2 miles

Day-Hike 14: Goodbye, Mountains
The Bluffs Restaurant to Devil’s Garden Overlook
Distance: 5.2 miles

The Appalachian Trail Along WNC & ET

Website: www.NPS.gov

While the Appalachian Trail is 2,175 miles long and runs through 14 states along the Eastern US, the AT just skirts by the High Country, traversing the Western North Carolina and East Tennessee border through the Pisgah National and Cherokee National Forests. The Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club maintains about 133 miles of the Appalachian Trail, including the section of trail known as the Roan Highlands, which some have described as the most beautiful place along the entire AT. That just happens to be the closest section of trail closest to Boone and the rest of the High Country. For more information on the AT, click here.

Grandfather Mountain

Backcountry Hiking at Grandfather Mountain

Crest Trails

The Grandfather Trail – An upper ridge trail of astonishing variety, with spruce and fir, rock walls and pinnacles, and open spaces with views of mountains in every direction. The route follows the crest of Grandfather Mountain from the Swinging Bridge Parking Area out 2.4 miles to Calloway Peak. It was along this trail two centuries ago that noted French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux broke into song thinking he had arrived at the highest point in North America.

Grandfather Trail Extension 0.3 mi (.48 km)
Underwood Trail jct. 0.5 mi (0.8 km)
MacRae Peak (2 hrs. round trip) 0.9 mi (1.4 km)
Attic Window Peak (3 hrs. round trip) 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
Indian House Cave 1.3 mi (2.1 km)
Alpine Meadow 1.5 mi (2.4 km)
Profile Jct./Calloway Gap 1.9 mi (3.0 km)
Cliffside Campsite 2.0 mi (3.2 km)
Watauga View 2.3 mi (3.7 km)
Calloway Peak (5 hrs. round trip) 2.4 mi (3.8 km)

Pace is often deliberate. There are chutes where progress is hand-over-hand and some extra steep sections where hikers use cables and ladders. An alternative to taking the ladders up MacRae Peak is to opt for the more sheltered Underwood Trail (see below).

The Underwood Trail: Splitting off the Grandfather Trail near the half-mile marker, the Underwood Trail bypasses ladder climbs on MacRae Peak, rejoining the Grandfather Trail at MacRae Gap, about a mile out. The strenuous trail makes a long, steep, rocky turn around Raven Rock Cliffs by way of one long ladder. Going out along Grandfather and returning along Underwood makes an excellent loop hike from the Swinging Bridge.

West Side Trails

The Profile trail: Beginning as a rolling pathway through seasonal wildflowers, this trail crosses the Watauga River and travels through rhododendron thickets and under a hardwood canopy. Upper sections, beginning around Foscoe View, get steeper, and there are frequent rest stops with benches and turnouts. Before the trail reaches a view of the Grandfather Profile, hundreds of large boulders were rearranged into a rock walkway called “Peregrine’s Flight”. Shanty Spring, at 2.7 miles in, marks the beginning of a strenuous segment that makes the transition out of the hardwoods and into the Canadian fir Zone, climbing 0.3 miles before joining the Grandfather Trail. It is steep and rocky and calls for some careful footwork. Your reward is the view at the top.

Foscoe View 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
Profile Campsite 2.0 mi (3.2 km)
Profile View (2.5 hrs. round trip) 2.3 mi (3.7 km)
Shanty Spring (3 hrs. round trip) 2.7 mi (4.3 km)
Calloway Gap (3.5 hrs. round trip) 3.1 mi (4.9 km)

East Side Trails

There are two points for accessing East Side trails. Most hikers use the Boone Fork Parking Area at mile 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The alternative is the Asutsi Trail which begins across from Serenity Farm on US 221–the only winter access when the Parkway is closed. From Boone Fork or Serenity Farm parking areas, hikers can follow the Tanawha Trail south to the Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trailheads. The Tanawha winds easily along the mountainside parallel to the Parkway. No fee is charged for its use and no camping is allowed on the trail.

Daniel Boone Scout Trail: Ascending about 2,000 feet over 3 miles, this hike begins at the Tanawha Trail and climbs to the summit of Calloway Peak (5,946 feet), the highest point on the Blue Ridge Escarpment. About halfway up, at Flat Rock View, hikers reach the junction of Cragway Trail. The upper half of the Boone Trail is rough going with views of Price Park and the Linn Cove Viaduct. Just before Calloway Peak, in-place ladders and cables help hikers through steep sections.

Flatrock View and Cragway jct. (2 hrs. round trip) 1.3 mi (2.1 km)
Daniel Boone Campsite 1.4 mi (2.3 km)
Briar Patch Campsite 2.1 mi (3.4 km)
Hi-Balsam Shelter 2.7 mi (4.3 km)
Raven’s Roost Campsite 2.8 mi (4.5 km)
Calloway Peak (4.5 hrs. round trip) 3.0 mi (4.8 km)

Nuwati Trail: Nu-wa-ti means “medicine” in the Cherokee language and this trail follows an old logging road 1.2 miles. It’s an easy but rocky hike, ending at Storyteller’s Rock and a view of the Boone Bowl, a valley that may have been carved by glaciers. Along the way, there are stream crossings, and a stand of Quaking Aspens.

Nuwati Spring 0.2 mi (0.3 km)
Nuwati-Cragway Trail Jct. 0.6 mi (1.0 km)
Streamside Campsite 0.7 mi (1.2 km)
Hermitage Campsite 0.8 mi (1.29 km)
Storyteller’s Rock Campsite and Boone Bowl View 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
Refuge Campsite 1.4 mi (2.3 km)

Cragway Trail: A steep, demanding hike with lovely vistas. Boulders and crags jut out with views of the Boone Fork Bowl. This trail links Nuwati and Boone Trails, and makes a fine loop hike. A hiking option coming down the Boone Trail when returning to cars is to follow Cragway Trail to the Nuwati.

Top Crag 0.4 mi (0.6 km)
Flat Rock View and jct. with Boone Scout Trail 1.0 mi (1.6 km)

Asutsi Trail: (US Park Service Trail) A-su-tsi means “bridge” in the Cherokee language. This short, easy trail (0.4 miles) links Serenity Farm on US 221 and the Tanawha Trail, providing alternative access to Nuwati and Boone Trails and winter access to the East Side Trails.

Banner Elk
Greenway Trail System

Banner Elk has about 1.1 miles of trail on two different paths that begin in Tate-Evans Park and end behind the Art Cellar Gallery.

The first path is the more challenging of the two and leads through The Cottages of Banner Elk subdivision, along Banner Road and near the renovated recreation center on the Lees-McRae College campus. This path crosses the Elk River via a footbridge just below the Mill Pond Dam. It continues along the Mill Pond Road and crosses Hickory Nut Gap Road in front of the Banner House Museum. The length of Hemlock Trail is about 3/4 of a mile.

The second pathway – aptly named Pine Needle Hill – crosses Shawneehaw Avenue in front of the Banner Elk Consignment Cottage via a wooden staircase. After traversing a hillside via a boardwalk at Jackson’s Corner, you cross Banner Road and access another boardwalk that runs parallel with Mill Pond and ends on Hickory Nut Gap Road. The two very different paths connect in front of the Banner House Musuem and then travel to another footbridge crossing behind the Art Cellar Gallery. Pine Needle Hill trail is about 1/3 of a mile.

Town of Boone Greenway

Address: Boone, NC

The Town of Boone has a paved Greenway Trail that is perfect for walking dogs or babies in strollers, hiking or jogging. Various trailheads exist. Two are near the Watauga County Recreation Complex and adjacent Clawson Burnley Park, which is located off of State Farm Road and Hunting Hills Lane near the National Guard Armory. An urban trailhead exists near High Country Host on Pride Drive that then takes you underneath Blowing Rock Road and towards the more naturesque part of the Greenway Trail. See the Greenway Trail map.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails

See list of all trails along Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina here.

Tanawha Trail

The Tanawha Trail, which parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, stretches 13.5 miles from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights. Aptly named, the Tanawha Trail, which means for fabulous hawk or eagle in Cherokee, consists of spectacular views of distant mountains. Trail highlights include an access point below the Linn Cove Viaduct.

Moses Cone Carriage Trails

Address: Park View Cir, Blowing Rock, NC

MP 292.7

Among the 3,516-acre estate that used to be owned by Moses H. Cone that is most appreciated by Blue Ridge Parkway visitors today are the 25 miles of beautiful carriage roads. In June and July, the formal rhododendron plantings featured on all the trails liven up the scenery. Before the rhodos flower, however, the Juneberry trees are one of the first woodland trees to bloom. The gently sloping carriage roads offer many leisurely hiking opportunities to the Cone Cemetery, Flat Top Tower, around Bass Lake and much more. The historic 20-room Flat TopManor House is located at Milepost 294. Other access points to the trails and Moses Cone Memorial Park are located at Milepost 292.7.

Elk Knob State Park Summit Trail

Address: 5564 Meat Camp Rd, Todd, NC
Website: www.NCParks.gov

Elk Knob State Park has a trail, which is finally completed after 6,000 volunteer hours and features breathtaking views from the summit of Elk Knob. The hike to the top is 1.9 miles (one way). Hikers will catch glimpses of the mountainous terrain of Watauga and Ashe Counties and beyond, including the peaks of Three Top, Bluff Mountains, Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Mount Rodgers and Iron Mountains. For more information about Elk Knob State Park, click here.

Hiking Trails at Sugar Mountain

Address: Sugar Mountain, NC

Sugar Mountain features three hiking trails: Overlook, Greenway and J. Douglas Williams Park trails. See the map of the trails in green.

Overlook Trail: is an easy 0.1-mile hiking trail that crosses the summit to the overlook. Be mindful of large boulders, windy conditions and the lack of guardrails at the overlook.

The Greenway Trail: is also an easy 0.6-mile hike along a gravel path that weaves through the woods and along the golf course fairways. Be mindful of traffic when the trail crosses the road at Sugar Mountain Drive.

J. Douglas Williams Park Trail: is an easy 0.4-mile hike in a mixed-hardwood forest within the 14.3-acre park. It consists of a dirt path that loops around the picnic pavilion and restrooms.

Hiking Trails at Beech Mountain

Phone: 828-387-3003
Address: Beech Mountain, NC
Website: www.HikeBeechMountain.com

Beech Mountain, the highest town in Eastern America at 5,506 feet, has more than a dozen trails for hiking. Below is a listing of most of the trails atop Beech Mountain with links for more information. Also, the Buckeye Recreation Center atop Beech Mountain offers guided hikes throughout the summer. That list has yet to be finalized, but for more information on the guided hike program, call the rec center at 828-387-3003 or visit the website.

Buckeye Gap Loop Trail: is a 5.1-mile loop and has an elevation change of 400. It is a vigorous hike that takes you over a variety of terrain including grassy paths, old logging roads and unimproved town roadways. The loop begins at the Beech Mountain Parkway Trailhead. For more details and map of loop, click here.

Other Trails on Beech Mountain include:

Falls Trail – 1.5-mile loop, elevation change of 450 feet, moderate (waterfall)
Grassy Gap Creek Trail – 2-mile loop, elevation change of 891 feet, moderate
Lower Pond Creek Trail – 1 mile, elevation change of 418 feet, moderate to strenuous (waterfall)
Upper Pond Creek Trail – 1 mile, elevation change of 371 feet, easy (waterfall)
Red Fox/Arrowood Loop Trail – 1.6 miles, elevation change of 178 feet, easy to moderate
Smoketree Trail – 2-mile loop, elevation change of 396 feet, easy to moderate (waterfall)
Westerly Hills Trail – 4.5 miles with elevation change of 200 feet, moderate
Wild Iris Loop Trail – 1.6-mile loop with an elevation change of 96 feet, moderate