Monday, June 9, 2014

The Linn Cove Viaduct and Rough Ridge

This report covers my hiking in the vicinity of Grandfather Mountain, proclaimed to be the highest mountain on the Blue Ridge.  The vision of connecting Great Smoky Mountain National Park with Shenandoah National Park with a National Parkway along the Blue Ridge, conceived in the 1930's, became a reality in 1987 with the completion of the Linn Cove Viaduct - a piece of highway engineering that was not possible in the days when the CCC construction crews built most of the rest of the roadway.  In addition to the road, the NPS built some interesting and very rugged foot trail to give the hiker a good look at the Viaduct from above and below -

- and from a first class viewpoint on a rock outcrop they called Rough Ridge (see photo up top).

The trail is called the Tanawha Trail, and its full length runs from near Beacon Heights to the campground at Julian Price Memorial Park, though both ends of it seem to have suffered neglect due to recent budget problems.  A mile of the Tanawha Trail in the vicinity of Linn Cove viaduct goes through a boulder field, and another mile of it from the Rough Ridge parking area up to the viewpoint is extremely steep and, in places, deeply eroded.  Both these bits of trail are very reminiscent of the trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, except that in the middle of Rough Ridge the park service built an elaborate section of boardwalk.

As you can see, I had a perfect day for getting those 'money shots' and for taking in the views.

I also ran across a few more exceptionally showy mountain wildflowers, none of which I've had time to identify.

Gray's Lily - a special find: Lilium grayi is very narrowly endemic to only three U.S. states—North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee—growing in sandstone and acidic soils, meadows, open areas near summits, forest meadows, and bluff outcrops. It grows in full sunlight. As of 2000, there were only 61 natural populations left in North Carolina, with some of them only having 5-10 plants—with populations in only one county in Tennessee as of 1993.

This report also covers yesterday's hike, when the weather was foggy and damp and drizzly through the morning.  But even in such conditions, this field full of sunny buttercups was there to brighten the mood.

At the end of today I hiked down from Beacon Heights through Linville and on to the little town of Montezuma.  The goal: to complete the connection of what I call my Personal Continuous Footpath (PCF) from my Topsail Island home to the Appalachian Trail.  My PCF is a long-term pet project to connect every place I've ever called home by walking between them, and I'm using my Appalachian Trail thru-hike as the spine of that connecting path.  I've already done the walk from the AT to all the places I've lived in Maryland and Delaware  including to my ultimate residence at a family cemetery burial plot.  Once I've made the connection to my new Topsail residence, all I'll have left are three major legs - to State College, PA via parts of the C&O Canal Towpath, the Tuscarora Trail and the Mid-State Trail, to Wisconsin where I was born, and to Colorado where I went to graduate school - using parts of the American Discovery Trail and other trails.

Best of all, this connection I'll be making to the AT inserts me at my overall favorite Appalachian Trail location - the Roan High Balds (my previous blog report - this link - is among the most viewed on this blog).

As you can tell, my previous visit was in winter - February 2012.  Stay tuned as I revisit these distinctive high wild places in an entirely different season.


Here's a map of the combined hikes from yesterday and today, with link to lots more photos:

Linn Cove Viaduct and Rough Ridge at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in North Carolina


  1. I recently made a similar connection to what you're doing on my High Country Loop hike. Instead of picking up the AT near the Overmountain Shelter (which is what I assume you're doing), I picked it up at 19E. I left the MST via the Daniel Boone Scout Trail to the Profile Trail to take me up and over Grandfather Mountain. Then I did the roadwalk through Banner Elk to Elk Park and the AT.

    I've really been enjoying following along!

    1. Adam - that's a great alternative to the route I chose and might be combined with my route for an even more interesting route. I bypassed Grandfather Mountain but passed the entrance gate on US 212 then took back roads - Old Yanalossee Road, Old Montezuma Road, Squirrel Creek Road and finally Roaring Creek Road to Yellow Mountain Gap - yes, at the Overmountain Shelter. Check my next blog entry for the report on the rest of that route, and thanks for your input :-)

  2. US 212 should be US 221, sorry for the typo

    1. Quite alright. I knew exactly what you were talking about.

      The route you took was my possible alternate to the one I took. When I was planning the route I looked at both and decided to choose my route because it got me back on trail quicker- a 14 mile road walk as opposed to the ~22 mile road walk. It also allowed me to hike over Hump and Little Hump Mountains, which is always a good time.

      Where to now that you've hit the AT? SOBO? Will you head south to Clingmans and pick up the MST back to 221? Or, do you have something else entirely planned?

    2. And I considered the route you took as my possible alternative - in fact it was my original plan to go that way, but the sketchy parking situation at 19E (high vandalism) and the lure of walking some less traveled roads swayed me.

      Next I'll do an out and back to Hump Mtn and go as far as Carver's Gap in the other direction. But then I'm going to get off the trail, head back to Topsail Island and give my full attention to launching my debut novel - 'Out of Crystal Ice' - see the side bar here for more info. The publisher has finished their edit and we'll be finalizing the details, cover, layout, etc. Then there's the book launch/release and all that associated hubbub.

      As far as hiking, I'll be hiking the beach as much as possible, which I always love. Then I need to spend some time up in MD later in the summer and/or fall and hope to make my Personal Continuous Footpath connection from there to State College, PA while I'm in that vicinity.