We have a lot of favorites along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but the short, steep hiking trail to the Rough Ridge Overlook is probably one of the most rewarding. Especially in fall when the morning light illuminates the extremely photogenic Linn Cove Viaduct and the impressive Grandfather Mountain. The overlook also provides some of the best long sweeping views across the Appalachians.
How To Find The Rough Ridge Overlook
At milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is the Rough Ridge Overlook parking lot. Take the hiking trail that leads from the parking lot.
Almost immediately there’s a split in the path with a sign for the Tanawha Trail. Rough Ridge Overlook is 1/3 a mile section of a much longer 13-mile hike, Tanawha Trail. This sign always confuses folks as it oddly says nothing about the Rough Ridge Overlook. However, you’ll want to follow the hiking trail towards Linn Cove.
Head over the pretty wooden bridge with a stream running under it. From there the trail gets rough. Large tree roots traverse the path, and jagged stones create makeshift stairways up the hiking trail.
Enjoy The View From Rough Ridge Overlook
After a short hike, a wooden boardwalk climbs up and over an area of large rocks. Welcome to the Rough Ridge Overlook.
Elevated above the tree line, the lookout platforms provide visitors with safe and gorgeous views across the mountainside. Alternatively, carefully head out on the large rocks. Just keep the wind in mind, strong gusts are common and dangerous.
Personally, I love doing this hike in fall. Providing a bird’s eye view of the tree tops, the lookout allows a unique perspective of fall’s rainbow of colors.
It’s also one of the best spots for the iconic photograph of the Linn Cove Viaduct.
A Little Beyond Rough Ridge Overlook
As Rough Ridge Overlook sits along the Tanawha Trail, the path continues roughly 4 more miles to the Beacons Heights Overlook Trail. Though you may not be keen for that long of a hike, we do recommend continuing for an additional 1/2 mile beyond the lookout. This extra 1/2 mile will bring you to the summit of Rough Ridge (4,773 feet) and is definitely worth the investment.
From Rough Ridge Overlook, take a look up towards the mountain ridge. You’ll notice another set of boulders sticking out. This is the first viewing area you’ll come to as you make your way to the summit, it’s also our favorite. It’s never crowded and gives a great view back of the Rough Ridge Overlook.
Though, keep going to reach the rope lined top of the ridge. Take a seat and enjoy your rewarding view.
Where To Stay For Rough Ridge Overlook
Staying in Boone or Blowing Rock in North Carolina, makes the most sense if you want to catch the blue smoke sunrises this area is famous for. It’s also when fall’s colors around the Linn Cove Viaduct look their best.
Boone is the largest of the two towns and is home to Appalachian State University, so there are a lot of accommodation options. Blowing Rock is small and cute, and closest to this area of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Meadowbrook Inn in Blowing Rock is always our top pick when it’s available.
- Boxwood Lodge near Boone-University is another option we love. Upgrade to a cabin or apartment for a kitchen.
However, this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway also makes a great day trip from Asheville, NC.
Best Books On The Blue Ridge Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway releases a free seasonal travel planner. Pick up these useful books at any visitor center, and many grocery stores have them in the free publishing racks at the store entrance.
However, if you plan on doing hiking, you’ll need something with more detail. We have the larger Falcon Guides Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Ultimate Travel Guide and the smaller pocket size Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway.
What Else Is There To Do Nearby
Tie your visit to Rough Ridge Overlook with seeing Linnville Falls. Only 15 miles away, they are the most popular falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Other amazing spots to visit in the area include: