Rough Ridge is definitely one of the most popular hikes around the Boone area of North Carolina, and after visiting, I can see why. There are few other hikes that are as short yet rewarding as this one. While the climb can be a bit treacherous, the views from the top are amazing.
The trailhead is located on the Grandfather Mountain section of the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 302.8. There is a pretty decent sized parking lot at the trailhead, and both times I have gone, the parking lot didn’t fill up. But I can imagine that during the summer and fall, it would be hard to find a space.
The hike all the way to the top is just under a mile, but if you wanted a shorter hike, you could definitely stop at boardwalk that has been built about 1/3 of a mile up. The boardwalk was built to protect the fragile vegetation that grows on the rocks, and hikers are required to stay on the boardwalk. The summit is another 1/2 of a mile up, and the views just keep getting better and better. Along the way to the summit you will find a rock jutting out which is a famous spot for photos. Be careful on the rock though. While photos make it look a bit more daredevilish, there is still quite a drop to the ground if you were to slip and fall. After just a bit more hiking, you will reach the summit at 4,773 feet.
From the summit you can see views of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct, and miles and miles of beautiful mountain scenery. There is a cable to help you get to the highest rock as it is pretty steep, but you don’t want to miss the views from the top there. You feel like you are on top of the world. There are several rock outcroppings to sit and enjoy the views which would be perfect for a little picnic on a sunny day.
The hike is an in-and-out trail, so once you have soaked up all of the views, just turn around and go back down the way you came up. There are more trails that connect to this one and is part of the larger, 13 mile Tanawha Trail and Mountains-to-Sea trail.
I have only enjoyed this hike in the winter, I can imagine that the colors are spectacular in the fall while the leaves are changing or in the spring and summer when the mountains are full and green. I’d also love to go back for a sunset when I can imagine the sky lights up a beautiful shade of pink and ends the night with a fade to purple and blue. I will definitely be visiting Rough Ridge again in the near future.
After exploring this trail with my dog, I read that dogs are not actually allowed on this trail. Pets are prohibited to protect the fragile and vulnerable plant community and keep it in tact. So, I would not recommend bringing your fluffy friend along with you especially if you are planning to hike on a potentially busy day. No one actually said anything to me, but I had the feeling I might be doing something wrong when I realized that no one else had a dog on the trail, something that doesn’t often happen.
I strongly urge you to test this hike out if you have not already. You could not ask for better views for such a quick hike, and if mountains are what you love, this hike is for you.