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Fall Color along Tanawha Trail

posted Oct 10, 2017, 4:24 PM by Justin P   [ updated Oct 11, 2017, 4:20 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 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.  Continuing down, it was quite crowded.  At a lower overlook, the views of Linn Cove Viaduct from a distance were great.  The climb back down was crowded, but once past the Rough Ridge Trailhead, I didn't see too many more people.  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.  I continued on 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.  The weather had cleared a bit so I stopped for a few more pictures at Rough Ridge.  When I was almost back to the car, I took the short Beacon Heights Trail up to the overlook.  The rocky peak overlooks separated by a forested section.  Looking west towards Grandfather Mountain, there was a lot of color at high elevations.  Looking east towards the Piedmont, not so much.  At the other overlook, I had a nice view looking south towards Linville Gorge.  After some pictures, I headed back to the car.