Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail

Whitehead, North Carolina 28675

Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail

Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"This is the best trail that never leaves earshot of a highway you’ll ever hike. The skeptical might wonder how this is possible, how you could have a classic hike playing footsy with a major motorway. Come along and see."

More Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

Hiking North Carolina (Falcon Guides)
Randy Johnson
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"The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Doughton Park rears up to bulging meadows and dramatic headlands. The ridge that carries the Parkway encircles Basin Cove, a watershed more than 2,000 feet deep. This isolated, 6,000-acre backcountry is one of only two places on the Parkway where backpacking is permitted. Descriptions of the following trails are included: Fodder Stack and Wildcat Rocks Trail, Bluff Mountain Trail, Basin Cove Circuit Hikes, and Caudill Cabin."

Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail Trip Reports

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We just completed the 13 mile circuit option - Flat Rock Ridge to Bluff Mountain Trail to Bluff Ridge Trail to Grassy Gap Road. It was an amazing and rewarding trip. I will say, following the circuit clockwise is the way to go! The first leg of the circuit, Flat Rock Ridge, was challenging but not overly difficult. We took a break at Basin Cove Overlook where we parked a second car just in case anyone needed an escape route (no one did!). We continued past Basin Cove onto Bluff Mountain Trail. This was a BEAUTIFUL relaxing trail. A great leg stretcher after Flat Rock Ridge. It meanders next to the BRP but is still secluded - it's not as though your walking along the roadside. We took another quick break at Alligator Back Overlook before climbing to the Bluff Mountain summit Boy was this a beautiful view!!! Past Bluff Mountain we merged on to Bluff Ridge Trail - this is where things got much more difficult and where the clockwise route became our saving grace. I never knew downhill could be so difficult but it still had to be better than the return direction. The majority of this trail was all down hill and very very steep. I will be purchasing a better pair of trail shoes before revisiting this section. It also started to rain while we were in this section and footing got a bit slippery at times. I highly recommend the aid of a walking stick in this section.Finally, just when I thought my poor tootsies couldn't take any more down hill action, I heard the rushing water of Basin Creek and a glimpse of Grassy Gap Road below! The remaining 1.6 miles were very level with a few creek crossings. The only obstacle of merit we encountered was an angry family of yellow jackets! All in all, even with the rain fall and the nasty bees, this was a FANTASTIC hike with some amazing forest and summit views.
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We did most of the Doughton Park trails over three days. This was a great hike. We left the car at the Longbottom road parking lot. The first day we did the Cedar Ridge trail up to the Doughton Park campground (where we did leave our tent in the morning, so we didn't have to carry it the first day when the temperature was around 90°F). Cedar Ridge is nice, with some nice viewpoints along the way. The second day, we did the Bluff Mountain trail up to Bluff Mountain, and went down on the Bluff Ridge trail. Contrary to what is written in the guide, this first half of the Bluff Mountain trail is great! The trail goes through open field areas where you have constantly amazing views of the Blue Ridge. This was our favourite part of the hike (don't miss the Wildcat Rocks view). You're never far from the parkway, that's true, but you're not hiking on the sidewalk neither, so it's not disturbing. The Bluff Ridge trail is however very steep and you don't see much. The second night we did stay at the primitive campground on Grassy Gap road (nice river). There are 8 spots there (you need a free permit that you can ask at the Doughton Park campground). The third day, we climbed the Grassy Gap road and came down to our car at Longbottom road by the Flat Rock Ridge trail. The Grassy Gap is very nice, an old and narrow gravel fire road that is now used by hikers and horses. The 1 mile on the Bluff Mountain trail was however frustrating, you're hiking below the parkway and don't see much although you just climbed 1600 feet. So don't hesitate to stay a bit at the Basin Cove overlook and climb the small hill on the other side of the parkway where you have another nice view. We were pretty tired at the end, but happy of our weekend.

Doughton Park — Bluff Mountain Trail Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
1,364 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Easy to Difficult
Skill Level
2.5 to 4 hours
Best in Spring
Trails Illustrated South Holston and Watauga Lakes; USGS Whitehead
Local Maps

Trail Log