We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
We headed up to the Grandfather mountain area of the Blue Ridge Parkway planning to hike several sections of the Tanawha Trail. The first stop was the Beacon Heights trail head at milepost 305.2. The trail enters the woods and climbs gently. It wasn't raining but it was cloudy and the trail was damp. At the first intersection we turned right on the Mountain-to-sea trail.
We turned left at the second trail intersection and were soon at a fork in the trail with a bench. Straight ahead was a large open rock outcrop with views to the south. To the left was a stone stairway to another open rock area with views of Grandfather mountain. The leaves were already starting to show color at the upper elevations. The clouds were moving over the peaks.
This was an easy hike of less then a mile round trip with nice views as a reward. There is enough of a challenge for young children to feel that they have accomplished something and some room for them to explore.. This would make a pleasant spot for a picnic on the rocks. It is a popular spot and there were quite a few people on the trail.
Our second stop was a short drive north at the Linn Cove Viaduct visitor center. The Tanawha trail passes through the parking lot here and continues north. The first section is level and handicap accessible. This section ends with a view point below the viaduct. Even this late in the season there were a variety of flowers by the visitor center and along this section.
Beyond here the trail climbs up into the rocks and roughly parallels the parkway. We passed a ranger who cautioned us to be careful on the wet rocks. This is a very rocky area with lots of small caves. After a short distance we crossed a bridge over Linn Cove Branch. The trail climbs a ridge beyond this point appearing for a short time to be leaving the parkway.
At about a half mile from the visitor center there is a very short side trail on the right. There is a sign beside the trail at this point. The side trail leads to a rock with an open view back along the viaduct. You need to climb up on the rock to get the view and there is a drop off on the other side. This trail would be fun for children but they would need to be carefully supervised.