The short, steep hiking trail to Rough Ridge Overlook has one of the most rewarding views in the Blue Ridge Parkway, especially in autumn.
As the blue smoky haze lifted, the golden rays of the morning sun lit up the brightly colored canopy below us. Strung along the ridge, the photogenic Linn Cove Viaduct sat beautifully engulfed in a sea of yellows and reds. Above us, covered in evergreens, the high stony crest of Grandfather Mountain contrasted the dramatic scenery.
North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway has so many beautiful hikes, but the short, steep trail to the Rough Ridge Overlook is one of the most rewarding. Of course, it is prettiest in autumn, but its long sweeping views across the Appalachians are stunning any time of year.
How To Find Rough Ridge Overlook
At milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina you’ll find parking for the Rough Ridge Overlook. From the front of the parking area is a small hiking trail leading into the forest.
Almost immediately the path splits, marked by a sign for the Tanawha Trail. The Rough Ridge Overlook is actually a short 1/3-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, follow the hiking trail towards Linn Cove.
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. Keep the wind in mind, strong gusts are common and dangerous.
We love doing this hike in fall. Providing a bird’s eye view of the treetops, the lookout allows a unique perspective of fall’s rainbow of colors.
Plus, it’s one of the best spots for capturing a photograph of the iconic Linn Cove Viaduct.
The other picture-perfect spot of Linn Cove Viaduct is a little obscure, but easy to find once you know where to look.
Park at the Yonahlosse Overlook pull off area. Follow the worn trail on the side of the road southbound. Before the trail goes under the viaduct, carefully cross the road so you’re on the side that goes up the mountain.
Just next to the 304 mile-marker there is a slight trail going behind some big boulders. Climb up the first set of rocks. Before going any higher, if you turn around you should be able to climb up on a boulder which gives the iconic view of the road.
If you go on a morning in fall, there will be a line of photographers waiting their turn.
A Little Beyond the 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. You may not be keen for that long of a hike, but 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, 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 platform.
After you get your photos, keep going to reach the rope lined top of the ridge. Take a seat and enjoy your rewarding view.
Where to Stay for the 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. Morning light is 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.
- Boxwood Lodge near Boone-University is clean and in a great location. Upgrade to a cabin or apartment for a kitchen.
- The Manor is a top pick for anyone looking for something a little more luxurious.
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. Many grocery stores in the area also have them in the free publishing racks at the store entrance.
However, if you plan on hiking in the area, you’ll need something with more detail. We use 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. These books are great for finding trails we wouldn’t otherwise know are there.
Other Attractions Near the Rough Ridge Overlook
Tie your visit to the Rough Ridge Overlook with seeing the spectacular Linville Falls. Only 15 miles away, they are the most popular falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway for good reason.
Other amazing spots to visit in the area include: