Hiking in the High Country

Hiking is one of the best ways to see the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are countless trails in the area, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the myriad destination hikes and the 26 mile network at Moses Cone Park, to local sections of the Appalachian Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail, deciding where to start can be overwhelming. Here’s a short list of some of the most popular hikes closest to Blowing Rock, and they are well-loved for good reason. You’ll find easy parking access, well-defined trails, and sights unique to this region of the Blue Ridge. Take your pick and get out there!

 

Glen Burney Trail
Moderate to Strenuous | 3 miles total, out-and-back | Trail head inside Annie Cannon Gardens on Laurel Lane in Blowing Rock

The Glen Burney Trail is right in the heart of downtown Blowing Rock, and the beginning of the trail is less than a 5 minute walk from The Homestead Inn! The path features many beautiful views of cascades and the Glen Burney and Glen Mary waterfalls. The trail is fairly steep and is one way, so once you reach the bottom, the strenuous hike back to the gardens begins. The elevation change is worth it, however, as waterfalls and various stages of wild blooms and foliage are your companions along the way.

 

Glen Burney Trail          gb

Bass Lake Loop
Easy | 1 mile loop | Access on Hwy 221, one mile from Main Street in Blowing Rock.

Bass Lake is only a minute 5 drive or a 20 minute walk away from The Homestead Inn, and it’s a regular stop for many locals, as it’s a great place for jogging, walking dogs, or just going a lovely stroll. It’s a flat, well-maintained gravel path surrounding bass lake, and it’s a great location to see plenty of waterfowl and beavers and is a good fishing spot, too. The loop connects to the other 26 miles of carriage trails in Cone Park, and can be a place to take laps or a great starting point for a longer hike.

 

Bass Lake          Bass Lake Trail

Rough Ridge Overlook Trail
Moderate to Strenuous | 0.8 miles to view | Access at Rough Ridge Overlook parking area at MP 302.8 on Blue Ridge Parkway

Rough Ridge is an especially popular hike here in the High Country because it’s easy to find and provides one of the best views in the area. It’s located right off the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, and is about a 20 minute drive from the Homestead Inn! It’s less than a mile up to the Rough Ridge Summit, and there are several large boulders along the trail that you can sit on to take in the views. Take a picnic! The trail along the ridge is actually the Tanawha Trail, so there is plenty more to see if you want to keep following the path once you reach the summit. Keep in mind that Tanawha is not a loop, and that you’ll need to double back to return to your vehicle. The views along the ridge are incredible, with views that include Grandfather, Grandmother, Hawksbill, and Pilot Mountains, along with various communities far in the distance. On very clear mornings, you can see the Charlotte skyline!

Rough Ridge Overlook          Rough Ridge

 

Flat Top Trail
Moderate | 5.6 miles round trip | Access at Cone Manor at MP 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Flat Top Trail is off of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is a less than 10 minute drive from the Homestead Inn! It’s located at Moses Cone Memorial Park, an incredible park that preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, and that includes twenty-five miles of carriage trails that wind through the fields and forests of the 3,500-acre estate. The trails are available to horse drawn carriages, horseback riding, and hiking. Cone Park’s centerpiece is Flat Top Manor, a gleaming white 20-room, 13,000 square foot mansion built in 1901 in the grand Colonial Revival style. The Manor is now the home of the Parkway Craft Center which features handmade crafts by hundreds of regional artists. Throughout the season, local artists demonstrate crafts such as quilting, embroidery, weaving, pottery, glass-blowing, and woodcarving on the front porch of the Manor. Flat Top Trail is one of the carriage trail’s in Cone Park, and our personal favorite. This route takes you to the top of Flat Top, where a fire tower waits to provide a wonderful 360 degree view above the canopy. The distance is long, but the trail is wide and inclines are not very steep so most consider it a moderate trail. About halfway up, the trail crosses a beautiful highland meadow where the graves of the Cone family are found in a small cemetery. From the top of the firetower, the communities of Blowing Rock, Boone, and others can be easily seen. It’s incredible! The trail is out-and-back, so your return trip follows the same path.

 

Flat Top Trail          Moses Cone Trails

Boone Fork Trail
Easy to Moderate | 5 mile loop | Access at at Price Park Picnic Area at MP 296

The Boone Fork Trail is located in the Julian Price Memorial Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is about a 15 minute drive from the Homestead Inn! Following the Boone Fork River and tributaries, this loop provides an incredible and expansive look at local flora and terrain. Through hardwood forests and rhododendron thickets, the trail also passes by small waterfalls and cascades. From the Price Lake Picnic Area parking lot (not to be confused with the Price Lake pullout or Price Lake Campground), cross the foot bridge near the bathroom and get ready for some fun! This awesome loop trail gives you so many looks into the landscape of the High Country, including rivers, creeks, waterfalls, scenic views, and gorgeous meadows!

Boone Fork Trail          bf