Tanawha Trail

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

Distance12.2mi
Elevation Gain6,975ft
Trailhead Elevation4,244ft
Top4,682ft
Elevation Min/Max3454/4682ft
Elevation Start/End4244/4244ft

Tanawha Trail

Tanawha Trail is a hiking trail in Avery County, Watauga County, and Caldwell County, North Carolina. It is within Blue Ridge Parkway. It is 12.2 miles long and begins at 4,244 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 23.7 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,975 feet. Beacon Heights and another parking are near the trailhead. There is also a theatre. Wilson Creek Overlook, Rough Ridge, and other parkings and the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center information can be seen along the trail. There are also restrooms, a parking, viewpoints, and meadows along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Nuwati Trail, Price Lake Trail, Asutsi Trail, Beacon Heights Trail, Daniel Boone Scout Trail and Boone Fork Trail.

Tanawha Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"The Tanawha Trail—the Cherokee word means “great hawk” or “eagle”—lies along the entire length of the Grandfather Mountain “missing link” portion of the Parkway. The trail reaches all the way to Julian Price Memorial Park campground and is the crowning achievement of the Blue Ridge Parkway trail network.

Hikers won’t fail to notice the trail’s intricate stone stairways, rock-paved treadways, and arching wood bridges (lowered here by helicopter), all designed to minimize hiker damage to this scenic environment. The federal government spent almost $750,000 on the 13.5 mile trail."

"Two opportunities—a circuit hike and an out-and-back walk—sample the Tanawha and Mountains-to-Sea Trails in an area noted for outstanding meadow views.

The circuit hike to the east patches together an easy sampling of the Tanawha Trail, Boone Fork Trail, and Mountains-to-Sea Trail without requiring you to completely retrace your steps."

"Quite possibly the Parkway’s easiest path to a spectacular view, here the Tanawha Trail traverses the alpine-appearing crest of a leading ridge to Grandfather Mountain. The cliff-lined alpine crest of Rough Ridge offers startling vistas atop a stone face visible to Parkway motorists.

From many places on this part of the Tanawha Trail, including boardwalks just 0.3 mile from the Rough Ridge Parking Area, the vista engulfs you. As you’re standing on the boardwalks, Rough Ridge rises to the three loftiest summits of Grandfather Mountain—a rocky, dramatic climax at nearly 6,000 feet. The Wilson Creek drainage drops like an expansive chute past the Linn Cove Viaduct and Parkway, snaking to the south."

"Costly trail and road-building techniques were required to minimize impact when the Blue Ridge Parkway finally crossed the fragile side of Grandfather Mountain. The road opened on September 11, 1987, and, with it, the Tanawha Trail, a crowning achievement of the Blue Ridge Parkway trail network.

The hikes described below focus on the grandest vistas from the trail, but hikers can hike the Tanawha end to end, and beyond, as this is now part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Camping is permitted only at designated sites on the Parkway; to make a multiday trip possible, backpackers must camp in Grandfather Mountain State Park and at either Price Park Campground or the Price Park backcountry campsite. (Reservations for either of the latter are required from the campground check-in kiosk at Price Park.)"

"This trail wastes little time impressing as it travels the southeast flank of Grandfather Mountain. In less than two-tenths of a mile from the visitor center, the trail ducks under the viaduct, then climbs a boulder field and passes through a short tunnel created by the boulders. Cross one of several impressive footbridges along this stretch into a forest carpeted by ferns and pungent galax.

More boulders, more galax, more rhododendron. More up, more down. At mile 1.4, you’ll encounter a spur trail down to the Wilson Creek Overlook. Continue another mile down the trail and you’ll encounter one of the most gorgeous spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Rough Ridge heath bald, covered with huckleberry, mountain ash, and Catawba rhododendron."

"This is a rugged yet beautiful trail that will make your legs hurt while walking but will deliver a huge payoff—views to make your heart hurt. Take this hike on a clear, sunny day, preferably in fall—the perfect time of year.

The Tanawha (Cherokee for “great hawk”) Trail stretches 13.5 miles, paralleling and crisscrossing the Blue Ridge Parkway from Beacon Heights at milepost 305 to the Price Lake Campground at milepost 297. To take in some of the trail’s highlights, unless you are up for a marathon hike, try this 5.4-mile round-trip of the Tanawha from Beacon Heights to the Linn Cove Visitor Center, ending at Wilson Creek and then back."

Tanawha Trail Reviews

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5/24/2011
easy hike with a awsome view. some great rock climbing oportunities
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3/23/2011
This is a really nice trail that you can make as short or long as you'd like. We went in late March and the Linn Cove Visitor Center was closed, so we parked at the Stack Rock Parking Area, adding 10-15 minutes to the described trail. The trail is well-maintained and easy to follow. Difficulty is moderate due to some of the climbs. We only went as far as the Rough Ridge Parking area (about 3 miles), but the highlight was definitely the views from the top of Ship Rock. Breathtaking, and this was in March. Can only imagine summer and fall views. We walked back to our car via the Parkway (except for using the trail past the viaduct...stay left, go under the viaduct and intersect the main trail), an easy 40 min. walk. The trail map from Grandfather Mt was excellent (we went the day before) and really all the guidance you'll need.
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7/17/2009
We did Stack Rock to Raven rock via Tanawha trail, then hitched back to stack rock, and i gotta say this was one of the most challenging hikes I have done in this area. Trails is very Rocky, constantly climbing, going back down, climbing some more, but the payoff is spectacular (Very rare plant species, Rough Ridge overlook) I only have two complaints; This trail runs right along BRP and all day you hear loud motorcycles going by...might not bother some but i was annoyed..and 2: This trail defiantly need to be re-blazed...The only time you ever see a blaze is when it is blatantly obvious your on the trail. In many sections you wll stand there looking around for the trail, and inevitably go the wrong way, and have to backtrack. Other than that i would recommend this hike for anyone up for a little half day challenge, or whole day stack rock to price park. Just be prepared for an onslaught of ill prepared "casual" hikers in flip flops and no water getting themselves lost!!! Ive never been asked for directions, or "does the trail get better?", or seen more people in flip flops in all my hiking days :)
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8/6/2008
After coming over Grandfather Mountain on the Profile Trail/Daniel Boone Scout Trail, hiked the Tanawha Trail to Holloway Mountain Road. It was an amazing contrast to come down off of the rugged and rocky mountain, then through beautiful forest divided only by flowing streams, and then hiking through peaceful pastures with views of Grandfather. There were even horses waiting for us at the Holloway Mountain Road gate. They were a little pushy, I think they were telling us we were supposed to bring them something to eat! Very nice hike overall. I'd love to go back and do the other parts of the Tanawha that we just didn't have the time nor the energy to hike...
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7/3/2008
WE did this trail all 13.5 miles started at 8am finshed at 6:30pm same day this trail is difficult in places trail was hard to follow poorly marked in some locations still was a great trail. take lots of water it is not recamented to drink from streams but if you must look for water running down rocks with moss this is an natual filter. I would recmend this trail but go prepaired. food,water,first aid,phone or 2 way radio stay on the trail easy to get lost. ncgrayfox
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8/17/2007
Great landscape, but noisy because of the proximity of the road.
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6/17/2006
Ran this trail from Price park up to Rough Ridge Summit. Was my first time on the trail. It was well marked. As a runner, it was a nice slow climb, not too steep, with good footing. Was also well protected from the sun and a few nice creek crossings to cool down.
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Tanawha Trail Photos

Trail Information

Blue Ridge Parkway
Nearby City
Blue Ridge Parkway
Parks
Dog-friendly
Accessibility
Moderate
Skill Level
USGS Grandfather Mountain; Tanawha Trail handout map available in season at Linn Cove Information Station/Visitor Center and online at nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/tanawha-trail.htm. (Map does not show the first hike described below; rely on the map provided here.)
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Nov 2018