Rough Ridge Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the best trails in western North Carolina. The views from the popular Rough Ridge trail are simply breathtaking. The Blue Ridge Mountains receive more than fourteen million visitors each year.
With spectacular displays of color in the fall, beautiful warm summers, and wonderland winters, it’s easy to see why this part of The Tarheel State is so popular among both North Carolina locals and out-of-state visitors.
Part of a much longer trail that showcases many beautiful features in the mountains, the Rough Ridge trail, and its mind-blowing overlook is something that you don’t want to miss when visiting the western North Carolina mountains. With these tips for hiking the trail, you can be sure that your visit to the best viewpoint along the Blue Ridge Parkway is a success!
What is Rough Ridge?
Rough Ridge is a stunning natural feature in the Blue Ridge Mountains that has been an inspiration and a spot of solace for millions of people each and every year. The ridge is said to be the inspiration behind many book and film locations and it has been a place for people to come to find peace, meet, and feel revitalized.
The Rough Ridge overlook is one of the best overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the overlook, you will find wooden boardwalks where you can see the full extent of the beauty of the ridge. Depending on when you visit, you are likely to see fog in the valleys of the ridge which paints such a pretty picture. Of course, we can’t talk about painting a pretty picture without mentioning the sunsets. Rough Ridge has amazing sunsets and many people enjoy visiting when the sun is going down.
Where Is Rough Ridge Overlook?
You can find the Rough Ridge overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3218 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Linville, NC 28646. The trail to the overlook starts at Milepost 302.8. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most famous and the most beautiful roads in the United States and it has many famous trails and viewpoints along its path.
There are many beautiful towns to stay in near Rough Ridge. No matter where you are staying, Rough Ridge is worth the drive! You will be an hour and a half away if you are staying in Asheville, 30 minutes away if you are staying in Boone, 15 minutes away if you are staying in Blowing Rock, and just 10 minutes away if you are staying in Linville.
How long Is The Rough Ridge Trail To The Viewpoint?
There are three viewpoints along the Rough Ridge Trail, each offering a different view of the stunning ridge. This trail is actually a part of the Tanawha Trail which is 13.5 miles long. However, the Rough Ridge trail is just a 0.8-mile portion of the Tanawha Trail. Although the whole trail comes in at just under a mile, you can take in the breathtaking views of the ridge from each of the three viewpoints along the trail.
If you are fairly physically fit, it will take you approximately just five minutes to walk to the first viewpoint. In fact, it’s only about a five-minute walk between each of the three viewpoints, making this a very nice hike for all types of hikers. If you aren’t used to hiking or being active, you may want to budget up to ten minutes between each viewpoint. However, it is likely you can walk between each viewpoint in less than ten minutes.
How Difficult Is The Rough Ridge Hike?
The Rough Ridge Trail is an uphill hike. Although short, you should be aware that it is uphill over rocky and various other terrains. That being said, it is quite easy and you can even expect to see young children and elderly people on the trail while you are there.
Many websites have this hike ranked as strenuous due to the uneven and rocky terrain and the elevation gain. Don’t let this scare you! Again, you will see people on the trail of all ages and abilities. Plus, the good thing about this trail is that it is short, so you don’t have to worry about being miles into the woods and discovering that it is too difficult. This is a really wonderful hike, even for someone without much hiking experience.
Do You Have To Go All The Way To The Top For Rough Ridge Hike To Be Worth It?
You do not have to walk the full 0.8 miles of the trail to get to experience the amazing views of the ridge. If you don’t want to walk the full length of the trail, no worries! The first viewpoint on the trail is actually the most popular and it is very easy to get to. It’s common for visitors to go to the first viewpoint for the views and leave after that. If you want to continue onward past the first overlook, it is an uphill hike, but very short to epic views of the ridge. If you don’t want to continue on past the first overlook, no worries! You can still experience the beauty of the ridge.
What To Wear When Hiking Rough Ridge
The trail is wide, so you don’t have to worry too much about your legs being scratched by thorns and other vegetation on the side of the trail. You could dependably hike in either pants or shorts, depending on the time of the year you will be hiking the trail. However, you should definitely consider wearing either good hiking boots or nonwhite sneakers.
The trail can get very muddy and it’s common for it to be foggy and cloudy. There’s a lot of moisture and a good pair of hiking boots could make your experience on the trail more enjoyable. You do not need to spend hundreds on a pair of hiking boots. A pair of sturdy tennis shoes would work just fine, but if you want to purchase a pair of reliable boots for your hike, there are many affordable options.
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Hiking The Rough Ridge Trail
Your hike will start at the parking lot near milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is here that the beginning of the trail will take you up a set of stone and wooden stairs through the shady woods. This area is full of beautiful rhododendron and fern.
You will walk for a little bit further on the rocky terrain before reaching a bridge over a Wilson Creek Tributary. The ecosystem around this area is very fragile. The area is home to many ancient plants and delicate species that the area needs to keep in order to thrive. It’s so important to avoid getting off the trail so that we can all play our part in keeping this beautiful area alive and thriving.
After ascending another set of stone stairs you will continue walking until another set of wooden stairs and a series of boardwalks greet you as the canopy opens up and you can begin to be able to see the view of the ridge at .25 miles.
At this point, you will ascend the boardwalks and you will be at the first viewpoint offering epic views of the ridge. This is the most popular feature of the trail and it’s easy to see why as it is simply breathtaking! The boardwalks cling to the side of the mountain giving you the perfect place to enjoy this iconic North Carolina view. You can’t find a view as grand as this one anywhere else in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Time and time again Rough Ridge makes it to the top of the list when it comes to amazing views in the area.
If you choose to move on past the first viewpoint you will be walking alongside the mountain. You will have a few opportunities for mind-blowing views between the first and second viewpoints and a few at the second viewpoint itself. However, it is quite small. Although small, it’s mighty, as it gives you an epic look at the Linn Cove Viaduct.
The trail will continue to gain elevation through thickets and over rocky terrain. You will again get open views of the ridge at .4 mile just before a wonderfully graded set of switchbacks take you to the top.
At the highest point on the trail, the elevation is 4,773 feet. The views from the highest point are abundant. From this point, you can see Calloway Peak to the northwest and Linville Gorge to the south. You can also catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of the architects of the parkway said that the goal was to build the road into the mountain as if it was put there by nature. From the views from the top of Rough Ridge, you can see that they certainly accomplished that goal.
Is The Rough Ridge Overlook Trail Worth It?
If you find yourself wondering if the trail is worth the effort, the answer is yes! The views from this trail are out of this world and are by and large some of the most popular and spectacular that western North Carolina has to offer. The only thing standing between you and the best views in the Tar Heel State is the hike on the short and beautiful Rough Ridge Trail.
How Long To Spend Hiking Rough Ridge
How long to plan for your hike along the trail is all dependent on your hiking experience level and how long you think you will want to take in the views. (With views like these, you may want to stay a while!) A good rule of thumb would be to plan on it taking an hour to walk all the way to the top where the third viewpoint is. This way, you can truly enjoy yourself at each of the viewpoints, take photos, and simply enjoy being in nature.
For faster hikers, you can likely go to the first viewpoint and back in roughly twenty minutes. If you get the opportunity to watch the sunset or sunrise at one of the overlooks, you should! Experiencing a sunset or sunrise here is something that you will never forget. Taking lunch or snacks with you is recommended as this is a remarkably beautiful place for a picnic. Please remember to leave no trace!
Where To Stay Near Rough Ridge Trail
If you are planning on staying around Rough Ridge during your visit, you are in luck! There are so many cool, trendy, and classic places to stay. Whether you want something more modern or something more classic like a cozy log cabin in the mountains, you can find the perfect place to rent. Luckily for everyone traveling around western North Carolina, there are many rentals to fit many different types of budgets.
Where to stay near Rough Ridge: