Hiking Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

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There are countless hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and each offers a little something special. But the relatively short Rough Ridge hike ranks high among our personal favorites.

Starting at the Rough Ridge Overlook (Milepost 302.8), this 1.5-mile Blue Ridge Parkway hike will have you crossing a bridge over a creek, standing atop massive boulders, and beholding rare and fragile wildflowers.

At the 4,773-foot summit of the Rough Ridge hiking trail, you’ll savor spectacular view overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, Linn Cove Viaduct, and Grandfather Mountain.

The Rough Ridge Trail is part of the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail, which is widely regarded as one of the best North Carolina hiking trails. It meanders through an ancient ecosystem filled with boulders and cool caves
We hiked several sections of the trail during out visit to the Julian Price Campground (including the part that goes under the Viaduct), and it was among my favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes we’ve done. 
Read on for our guide to hiking to Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC, including an overview of the trail, the campgrounds and hotels nearby, and other great hiking trails in the area!

Top Places to Stay Near Rough Ridge NC

Mary at Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Spectacular view from one of several Rough Ridge Overlooks

Rough Ridge Trail NC Info

ADDRESS: Milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

PHONE: 828-348-3400 


HOURS: Always open

PARKING: Free parking at the trailhead



Driving Directions from Boone NC

From downtown Boone NC, head southwest on Edgewood Dr toward Councill St. In 39 feet, turn left onto Councill St/Tracy Circle and continue for 131 ft until the road turns into Hardin St.

In 0.3 miles, continue straight onto US-321 S/Blowing Rock Rd. Go 2.8 miles, then continue straight onto US-221 S/US-321 S.

After 4.2 miles, turn right onto Main St. In 0.7 miles, turn right onto US-221 S/Yonahlossee Rd, and continue for 12.4 miles. Follow signs to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Rough Ridge Lookout.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Cabin Rentals in Boone NC

Mary Gabbett hiking the Rough Ridge Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Mary Gabbett hiking the Rough Ridge Trail

Hiking the Rough Ridge Trail

The Rough Ridge Trail makes up a section of the larger 13.5-mile-long Tanawha Trail, which is also a part of the Mountains to Sea Trail in Western North Carolina.

Park at the Rough Ridge Lookout (BRP Milepost 302.8) and you’ll see the Rough Ridge trailhead to the right.

Note that this parking lot tends to fill up early, especially on weekends in Summer and peak Autumn. So our advice is to get there early or go on weekdays if you want a spot!

Hikers cross a bridge over a creek and ascend a 1/3-mile from the parking lot, then you’ll come to a boardwalk that meanders out over rocky outcrops, boulders, and mountain vegetation. 

Continue hiking for another 1/2-mile to reach the Rough Ridge summit, at an elevation of 4,773 feet. 

Hiking the Rough Ridge Trail with Peak Fall colors
Overlook on the Rough Ridge Trail in NC

There are permanent cables to help you clamber up the boulders to the very top, but this last part might be more challenging for some hikers.

While this is a short hiking trail at about 1.5 miles round-trip, the hike is somewhat strenuous due to the 480-foot gain in elevation.

This trail can also get muddy at times, and there are some rocky parts to navigate. Dogs are allowed on the Rough Ridge Trail, but they must be kept on a leash at all times.

Give yourself at least 45 minutes to complete the trail. But we recommend making it longer by stopping at one of the many great overlooks, where you can take in the breathtaking views and even have a picnic. 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Blowing Rock Cabin Rentals (1 to 4+ Bedrooms)

Blue Ridge Parkway Rough Ridge - Julian Price Campground by Maria Smith
Julian Price Campground, photo by Maria Smith

Rough Ridge Trail Campgrounds

The closest Blue Ridge Parkway campground to the Rough Ridge Trail is at Julian Price Memorial Park (MP 297), which is just over 4 miles from the trailhead.

Julian Price Campground is a wonderful place for camping, with awesome views of Price Lake and close proximity to many other Blue Ridge Parkway attractions in the area. 

This campground straddles the Parkway, with great hiking trails all around. The stunning North Carolina lake across from the campground is perfect for anyone who enjoys canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

There are often ranger-led events at the campground, such as talks on the local wildlife, plants, and wildflowers. Keep an eye on the bulletin boards that are dotted around the park for updated schedules.

Moses H Cone Memorial Park is just 2.5 miles from the campground, offering 25 miles of hiking trails, Bass Lake, and a mansion that houses a Southern Highland Craft Guild gift shop.

Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Grandfather Campground is 23 minutes from the Rough Ridge trailhead. It’s open year-round, and is only 20 minutes away from Boone and Blowing Rock

READ MORE: The 10 Best North Carolina Mountain Resorts to Visit

Fall Colors on Price Lake at Julian Price Memorial Park
Hiking at Price Lake in Julian Price Memorial Park

Other Trails Near the Rough Ridge Trail

There are plenty of other trails near Rough Ridge, including some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls.

The moderately strenuous 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail stretches from Julian Price Memorial Park to Beacon Heights and winds along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

You’ll find diverse terrain along the trail, from giant boulders to rhododendron thickets, hardwood forest, and jaw-dropping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

There are also several great trails around the Julian Price Campground: The moderate-to-strenuous, 5.5-mile Boone Fork Trail was one of our favorite hikes when we camped there last summer.

The moderately strenuous, 2.3-mile Green Knob Trail is just down the road from the campground. It starts at the Sim’s Pond Parking area and takes you through rhododendron thickets and past huge hemlocks.

We recommend you hike this trail counter-clockwise to avoid climbing a very steep hill!

Price Lake Trail is a family-friendly 2.7-mile trail that loops around the gorgeous 47-acre lake, with flat terrain and beautiful morning views of the mist crawling across the water. 

Once you’ve finished looking at Grandfather Mountain from the Rough Ridge Summit, drive 4 miles to visit Grandfather Mountain State Park, where you’ll find trails of all lengths and exertion levels. -by Emma Gallagher; all photos by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett unless otherwise noted

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

Born in Britain, writer/photographer Emma Gallagher lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC on a permaculture homestead with her husband, Jonathon. While traveling the world for 13 years, she fell in love with the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge region when she lived at an artist retreat in Burnsville NC before moving to Brevard. Today Emma lives near Stone Mountain State Park and Doughton Park volunteers at the Surry County Fiddlers Convention, and cares for the gardens at the Reeves Downtown School of Music in Elkin. She's also a volunteer for the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which maintains segment 6 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.