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Fall Color along Tanawha Trail

posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:24 PM by Justin P   [ updated Oct 17, 2017, 4:52 PM ]
Saturday, I headed to the mountains of the High Country for some early fall colors.  I left around 530, taking US-421 to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Deep Gap.  Driving south on the parkway, I parked at Beacon Heights.  I picked up the Tanawha Trail/Mountains-to-Sea Trail across the street and turned left to hike away from Beacon Heights, going eastbound on MST.  After crossing US-221, I came to Stack Rock Creek.

A footbridge crossed the creek, just below the parkway bridge.  I climbed up the rocks for a view of the bridge - it was very foggy but could still spot some fall colors.

Just past the bridge were some cool cliffs just below the parkway.

Continuing on, it was less than a mile to the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center.  A short paved trail led to underneath the viaduct.

Although I've driven over the viaduct many times, this was my first time hiking beneath.  It is truly an engineering marvel.  The trail crossed under the viaduct and ran parallel next to some enormous cliffs.

It was a very rocky and scenic stretch of trail.

After climbing up a bit, the trail leveled off and I headed towards Wilson Creek.  Just before the parking area, was a balanced rock that looked like it could slide down the mountain at any moment.

A spur trail led below the bridge over Wilson Creek to the parking area.

A footbridge led across the creek for the Tanawha Trail.

Wilson Creek starts below Callaway Peak and here at the headwaters, it was barely a trickle.

The trail passed a rocky section and then gradually started heading up towards Rough Ridge.

I hadn't seen too many other people up to this point, but Rough Ridge was really crowded.  And for good reason - the colors up here were beautiful even if it wasn't the nicest weather.  Coming up from Wilson Creek, I came out at the top point of the overlook.

Unfortunately, the cloudy weather prevented good long-distance views from up here.

And from here, it started getting really crowded.  The fall colors made a break to let people pass enjoyable.

Further down the ridge, the views of Linn Cove Viaduct from a distance were great.

The whole area around Rough Ridge really had great color, and it was beautiful even in the poor weather.

But it was only at high elevations, almost all green at lower elevations.

The climb back down was crowded, but once past the Rough Ridge Trailhead, I didn't see too many more people.  I was surprised to see some nice wildflowers blooming.

In another half-mile or so, a spur trail led down to the parkway at Boulder Field Overlook.  Across the road, there were distant views of the viaduct.

It really put the hike in perspective.  Continuing on, I saw several more types of wildflowers blooming along the trail.

I went about another 2.5 miles to the intersection with Daniel Boone Scout Trail.  I took a break here and had lunch, then started making my way back.  This section of the trail was very peaceful and I didn't see anyone else for miles.

The weather had cleared a bit so I stopped for a few more pictures at Rough Ridge.

The summit of Grandfather Mountain was still hidden by clouds but it was a bit clearer than when I had passed a few hours earlier.

But there were a lot of people here now, so I didn't stay too long.

I made a quick stop at the summit, but the colors weren't as good as from the main overlook.

When I was almost back to the car, I took the short Beacon Heights Trail up to the overlook.  The rocky peak overlooks were separated by a forested section.  I went to the northern overlook first.

Looking west towards Grandfather Mountain, there was a lot of color at high elevations.

Looking east towards the Piedmont, not so much.

At the southern overlook, I had a nice view looking south towards Linville Gorge, with Table Rock just barely visible.

After some pictures, I headed back to the car and stopped for a view of the parkway before departing.

There were a lot more cars here than when I arrived in the morning.