Tanawha Trail

The Tanawha Trail is a 13.5 mile trail that runs from Beacon Heights to Julian Price Memorial Park.  The trail runs roughly parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway along the flank of Grandfather Mountain and is a section of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  Tanawha is the Cherokee word for fabulous hawk or eagle, an appropriate name for this high elevation trail.  Highlights along the trail include Beacon Heights, Linn Cove Viaduct, Rough Ridge, Daniel Boone Scout Trail and Nuwati Trail, and Julian Price Memorial Park.  Although the entire trail is more than 13 miles long, numerous access points from the Blue Ridge Parkway allow guests to hike any desired length of the trail.


The Trail:

I've only hiked about half the trail, from Beacon Heights to Daniel Boone Scout Trail, so the directions are incomplete.  I'll be back to finish it up eventually.  The entire trail is part of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  I start from the southwest and head northwest, which is following the MST eastbound.

Beacon Heights

The southwestern trailhead is at the Beacon Heights Parking Area at milepost 305.2 (near where US-221 crosses the parkway).  Cross the street opposite the parkway to pick up the trail and immediately there is a split.  Right goes up to Beacon Heights.  In about 0.1 miles the Mountains-to-Sea Trail goes straight and the Beacon Heights Trail goes left.  The overlooks are just a short ways past the split.  The south-facing overlook is first and a couple paths on the left go out to this point.  You can see Grandmother Mountain and Linville Gorge from this point.

Continue straight to reach the north-facing overlook.  Looking back towards the parkway, Grandfather Mountain is visible towering over the road.

Looking east there views of the Piedmont.

Beacon Heights makes a great detour, but it's technically not on Tanawha Trail.  From the first split near the Beacon Heights Parking Area, go left to start the Tanawha Trail.  The trail crosses US-221 shortly and runs between the highway and the parkway.  In just under a mile from the start, you'll pass a short spur that leads to Stack Rock Parking Area at mile post 304.8.  The trail then runs below the parkway bridge over Stack Rock Creek.

Linn Cove Viaduct:

In about 1.5 miles from Beacon Heights Parking Area, the trail passes the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center at mile post 304.4, which has restrooms, information, and a small gift shop.  The trail follows a paved walkway less than a quarter-mile to Linn Cove Viaduct.

After passing under the viaduct, the trail becomes more difficult and rocky as it passes some steep cliffs along the flank of Grandfather Mountain.

From Linn Cove Viaduct, it's about 1.2 miles to View Wilson Creek.  A short spur trail leads under the parkway to the parking area at mile post 303.6.  A footbridge crosses the headwaters of Wilson Creek, which flows down from Calloway Peak into Pisgah National Forest, where it's designated a National Wild and Scenic River.  See my Wilson Creek page for more information about this area.

Rough Ridge:

Past Wilson Creek, the trail gradually heads up towards Rough Ridge, arriving at the high point in just over a mile.

Rough Ridge is a rocky outcrop with great views of Grandfather Mountain, Linn Cove Viaduct and the surrounding mountains and Piedmont.  This is an ecologically sensitive areas so please stay on the trail.  The trail heads down from this point, at one point traversing the ridge on a 200-foot boardwalk.  An overlook here provides great panoramic views.

The trail continues down towards the parkway to Rough Ridge Parking Area at mile post 302.8.  It's about 0.6 miles to Rough Ridge from this parking area.  In about a mile, a spur trail leads down to Boulder Field Overlook at mile post 302.4.  The trail continues following the parkway around Grandfather Mountain.

At about 2.5 miles from Boulder Field Overlook, the trail intersects Daniel Boone Scout Trail.  This trail leads up to the summit of Grandfather Mountain.  See my Grandfather Mountain page for more information.  This is as far as I've hiked the trail.

Blog Entries:

07Oct2017: Fall Color along Tanawha Trail

External Links:

National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/tanawha-trail.htm