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Blue Ridge Parkway to Grandfather Mountain summit

One of the Parkway's most rewarding hikes climbs 2,000 feet (one way) in 3.5 miles from the Boone Fork lot at Mile 299.5

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Strenuous
Length: 7.3 miles
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Overview :  Grandfather Mountain, the most iconic peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Asheville, N.C., and the Virginia state line, practically... more »

Tips:  This is very challenging hike with steep, craggy trails and occasionally treacherous footing. The trek to the summit and back can take... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Boone Fork Parking Area

This is at mile 299.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

From the south end of the parking lot, take the Tanawha Trail across a bridge over a stream, and continue about a half-mile to the Nuwati Trail junction.

2. Nuwati Trail and sign-in registry

Turn right at the Nuwati Trail, then stop and register at the sign-in board. Don't forget to keep a copy with you in case a ranger asks for one later.

Stay on Nuwati Trail for about a mile -- excellent views will open up on the way up.

Note: Some hikers prefer to continue on Tanawha Trail to Daniel Boone Scout Trail, turn right there, and take ... More

3. Cragway Trail

Turn left at the Cragway Trail sign.

This is a very rocky, steep trail with awesome vistas if the weather's clear. It's only a mile but it's a very vigorous mile.

It's far better to go this way first -- climbing on fresh legs at the start of your hike, rather than descending on tired legs coming down.

4. Flat Rock trail junction

Cragway Trail ends at Flat Rock, a large layered stone that offers scrambling opportunities and views of the nearby mountains.

From here, turn right and take the Daniel Boone Scout Trail toward Calloway Peak. It's about 1.7 miles up the hill.

The trail here follows an intriguing ecological transition from deciduous forest to high-country pine. ... More

5. Arrow on the rock

The trail becomes much more rugged near the summit. You'll come to a treacherous scramble with a white arrow painted on the rock.

Choose your steps carefully on the way up. (Coming back down is even more of a challenge. I've had some success with a low crab-walk.)

6. Hi-Balsam Shelter

Eventually you'll see a sign pointing to Hi-Balsam shelter, which is about 50 yards from the main trail. There's an excellent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains on clear days, but don't be surprised to find it's fogged in.

This is a nice place to get in out of the rain if a storm comes -- keep in mind that backpackers regularly use it as a shelter.

7. Ladder to Calloway Peak

You have to climb three ladders to reach the summit at Calloway Peak.

Use extra caution on the way down.

8. Calloway Peak summit

Pause on a rocky shelf at 5,964 feet, highest point on Grandfather Mountain.

There are awesome views on clear days, but it's often fogged in.

Don't dawdle at the peak -- it can be fairly busy on weekends and other people want to enjoy the view.

9. Down we go

Second of the three ladders, going down this time.

Just take your time on the way down.

Once you're back on the D. Boone Scout Trail, it's all downhill back to the Flat Rock Junction, where there's one more turn on the Scout Trail and you return to the Tanawha Trail junction.

10. End of Daniel Boone Scout Trail

Turn left here on Tanawha Trail and enjoy a flat, relaxing walk back to the parking lot.