Hiking to Rough Ridge on Grandfather Mountain in Autumn

When traveling north on The Blue Ridge Parkway toward Blowing Rock and Boone, you pass over the famous Linn Cove Viaduct along the eastern slopes of iconic Grandfather Mountain. Opened just fifteen years ago, this marvel of highway engineering finally connects the north and south portions of this national scenic roadway. Less than a mile past the Viaduct is the entrance to Rough Ridge Trail, a demanding 480 foot elevation climb that takes you to the most precarious rock outcroppings along the entire Parkway. The jagged peaks of 5,945 foot high Grandfather loom to the northwest, and the blue ridges of the eastern Appalachians unfold as far as the eye can see. The autumn colors are nearing their peak at these high elevations.

Stopping along the trail, you can find seclusion underneath the massive granite boulders that have been here for millions of years.

The Viaduct structure to the southwest is very visible from the trail toward the late afternoon sun.

After climbing for three quarters of a mile, you are rewarded with a memorable view of Grandfather Mountain over the steep rocks at the 4,773 foot elevation summit of Rough Ridge.

From the summit, you can gaze out to the east at the boulder garden you have just hiked through, and on to the mountains and valleys along the eastern escarpment of the Blue Ridge.

Below is a ten minute video made during this afternoon’s drive and hike. The music at the beginning happened to be the clearest station I could find along this remote stretch of highway, and you might want to turn down your sound for that part. After that, turn the sound back up so you can hear the sound of the wind, and the voices of the people I met along the way.

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