Local Hiking Expert: Mast General Store
630 W King St, Boone, NC
Profile Trail, Grandfather Mountain State Park (Banner Elk): The Grandaddy of all High Country hikes is this 7-mile round-trip trek to Calloway Peak, 5,646 ft. The views from the summit or nearby Watauga View are astounding and reach from the mountains to the Piedmont. Campsites are available for backpackers. The first mile is easy along the Watauga River, then you’ll climb steeply at times to views of Grandfather’s profile “face” and on to the evergreen-clad peak. Hikers must register at the trailhead.
Directions from Boone: Take Hwy 105 S for 12.2 miles to left into the trailhead parking area.
Beacon Heights on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Linville): This nearly 1-mile, easy to moderate hike puts you in the middle of the big picture – with awesome views of Grandfather Mountain, and the dizzying drop to the Carolina Piedmont below. Cross the road behind the overlook, enter the woods and go right where the Tanawha Trail goes left. Head left at the next junction to emerge at another split at the top. A left here reaches craggy views of Grandfather Mountain. A right reaches a dome of rock with views to Grandmother Mountain and Mount Mitchell.
Directions from Boone: Take Hwy 105 S for 16.9 miles to left on US 221. Head 3 miles to turn onto the Parkway. Head south 0.1 mile to left into the Beacon Heights Overlook at milepost 305.2.
Elk Knob State Park (Todd): This hike takes visitors through high-elevation hardwood forests on their way to the wooded summit of the 5,520 foot peak. The hike to the summit, with an overall elevation gain of 1000 feet, follows a newly constructed trail before taking a final push up a steep and rocky road. On the way, be on the look out for rare plant species such as Gray’s lily, Rattlesnake root, Flame azalea, and Purple fringed orchid. Elk Knob is also home to black bear, bobcat, wild turkey, white tailed deer, and a number of smaller mammals that thrive in this rugged mountainous area.
Directions from Boone: Take Hwy 194 N for 4.3 miles to left at Meat Camp Rd. Follow for 5.4 miles to Elk Knob State Park on the right.
Glen Burney Trail (Blowing Rock): This spectacular waterfall hike in downtown Blowing Rock follows New Year’s Creek past homes and into a wild chasm. The top of The Cascades is at 0.8 mile (a 1.6 roundtrip). You can also see this waterfall from below on your way to the main observation deck atop Glen Burney Falls, at 1.2 miles (2.4 miles roundtrip). This is a rugged, awesome waterfall walk that was popular a century ago, before falling into disuse and then being reopened in 1991 (Do not stray beyond observation decks; watch children closely near falls).
Directions from Boone: Take Hwy 321 S 6.8 miles to right onto 321-Business into downtown. At the T-junction traffic light on Main St., turn left. In 0.1 mile, turn right on Laurel Ln. In 0.2 mile, go straight at the Wallingford Ln. stop sign, then immediately left into the parking lot.
Boone Fork Trail (Blowing Rock): For those seeking a challenge, the 5 mile Boone Fork Trail is one of the High Country’s most stimulating and unique hiking experiences. The trail covers a combination of creek crossings, large boulder fields, and steep terrain – intertwined with one of the most beautiful forest settings the area has to offer – which make it a trail that is not to be missed.
Directions from Boone: Take Hwy 321 S for 6.4 miles to right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Head south to the Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area at milepost 296.5. Cross the footbridge leading from the picnic area over Boone Fork Creek to the signed trail head.