Top 10 Hikes Within 1 Hour Of Blowing Rock & Boone, NC
One of our favorite places to visit when we have some free time is the Blue Ridge Parkway, specifically the Boone & Blowing Rock area. We love it so much, our family has a little cabin in Blowing Rock now that we all visit often.
We’ve been going to this area since we were kids & kept going throughout our wedding photography career often. The leaves changing in the fall always meant a lot of engagement sessions at Moses Cone, Rough Ridge, or in Blowing Rock.
One of our favorite things to do when we visit this area is going on a hike. There are SO many amazing hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway and we’ve tried to visit as many as we can (and still are!).
We’ve had plenty of time to explore most of the Blue Ridge area, but we know it can get overwhelming trying to pick a couple of hikes during a short day trip or vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains. So we wanted to compile a list of our Top 10 Hikes With 1 Hour of Blowing Rock & Boone, NC.
(Crab Orchard Falls)
How did we pick the hikes?
Every one of these hikes, we’ve hiked multiple times, and enjoy going to often. These are hikes when we are up there we try and always hit or are always at the top of our list when we aren’t exploring something new.
They also all are within 1 hour or less of Blowing Rock & Boone, NC. There are SO many hikes throughout the parkway, but if you are on a short trip, we know you don’t want to spend all day in the car. So these are easy to drive to if you are on a day trip or your home base for your vacation is in either of these two towns.
We also picked hikes that we enjoy the whole trail & that it has scenic views to enjoy. All of these give you a great taste of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all of their beauty.
Last, we sorted the hikes by skill level, so you can make sure you are experienced enough to tackle each hike & we tried to include a few for each level, so everyone has a hike to enjoy! Now… onto the hikes!
For these easy trails, almost anyone can do them from the kids to the newbie hikers. These you can wear tennis shoes or Chacos on without the need to grab your hiking boots (unless you want them!) You can finish these easily, without breaking out too much of a sweat!
Bass Lake + The Maze
Length: Lake: .9 mile loop, Maze: 3.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: Maze: 255 feet
Location: 1 Bass Lake Dr, Blowing Rock, NC
Distance from Blowing Rock: 1 mile, 3 minutes
Distance from Boone: 9 miles, 19 minutes
The Bass Lake loop is a stunning scenic loop around Bass Lake. It is maintained by the National Park Service and does have restrooms. It’s right outside of downtown Blowing Rock and super convenient to hit on your way to the parkway. The lake sits at the bottom of the hill from the Moses Cone Manor and has quite a few trails off the .9 mile loop around.
Our favorite suggestion is the Maze. The Maze is literally a looping switchback maze up to the Apple Barn. This trail is great because the switchbacks are so long, you barely notice you are gaining elevation. This trail is our favorite for a nice, quiet walk through the woods & a good workout! You can take the Bass Lake loop, by itself, or split off to the Maze or up to Moses Cone on the far-side from the parking lot when you come in.
Length: Trails range from .3 mile to 1.2 miles, Wizard’s Way (our favorite) is 1.2 mile loop
Elevation Gain: About 100 feet or less on most trails
Location: 328 N Pinnacle Ridge Rd, Beech Mountain, NC
Distance from Blowing Rock: 24 miles, 47 minutes
Distance from Boone: 24 miles, 45 minutes
The Emerald Outback at Beech Mountain is a year-round destination for hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers. The trails sit at an elevation of 5,400, so the good news is you already are at the views without having to hike up the mountain.
This trail system is one of the newer trail systems and has multiple loops and trails you can take. Our favorite is Wizard’s Way, which shows you a good majority of the trail system with a couple of overloops like the Roan Mountain Overlook.
There are a lot of mountain bikers who use the trail so always make sure to watch while hiking these trails, however, they are nice & flat for the most part, making it an easy hike. Our one tip here is to make sure to check out the trail map & memorize the colors, so you don’t take a wrong turn off into another trail.
The unique part of this hike, in addition to the overlooks, is the rich forest with gnarled trees. It looks like a fairytale, which is why the vintage theme park Land of Oz, actually is in this same area. If you are visiting in the summer or fall, they reopen at certain times as well to visit. You can read all about it in our blog here.
We’ve vlogged this trail as well, with even more information. Watch it here:
Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 82 feet
Location: Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 316
Distance from Blowing Rock: 26 miles, 39 minutes
Distance from Boone: 29 miles, 45 minutes
The Linville Falls trail is a great easy hike to see a waterfall, as many of the other waterfall trails are much more strenuous. This trail is right on the parkway & is very wide and gravel, so it’s very easy for kids and if all you have with you are tennis shoes on your trip. You won’t be climbing over rocks or up too many hills. It does have a slight elevation gain, but it’s easy if you take it slow. This is a VERY popular tourist destination since it is easy, but there is a lot of room on the trails. The first overlook is .5 miles from the visitors center and you can turn around at this point if you don’t want to go any further. This provides a small cascade and has you at the top of the larger waterfall. The next overlook, called Chimney View, is at .7 miles from the Visitors Center and provides your first look at the lower falls, plus a look at the upper falls as well. This is one of the best views of the falls! The last view is Erwins View Overlook and is .8 miles from the Visitors Center completing your trip. It’s a more distant view of the falls, but it is only .1 past the last overlook, so we say check it out before you head back as well. This trail is easy enough we’ve photographed an engagement session on it, you can see just how scenic the whole trail is.
You can also hike to the Plunge Basin from the Visitors Center, which is a great hike as well, however, it’s a moderate hike with 521 feet elevation gain that’s another 1.7 miles, so skip it if you are looking for something easy! This puts you at the base of the falls and the easier trail will give you just as good of views if you aren’t looking for a moderate hike.
These moderate trails can accommodate some kids & inexperienced hikers. However, for these make sure you bring your hiking boots or at least Chacos & are prepared for a hike, not just a stroll through the woods. These are either steeper inclines, rockier trails, or a longer length than the easy ones. These hikes will probably make you break a sweat!
Boone Fork Trail
Length: 5.2 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 528 feet
Location: Julian Price Picnic Area, Parkway Mile Marker 397
Distance from Blowing Rock: 4.3 miles, 7 minutes
Distance from Boone: 12 miles, 20 minutes
The Boone Fork Trail is the perfect trail if you want to see a perfect example of what the Blue Ridge has to offer in a hiking loop. There are meadows, there are streams, there are waterfalls, and so much gorgeous mountain beauty. Some places classify Boone Fork as an “easy” trail but it’s definitely moderate.
There are 528 feet of elevation gain throughout the trail and though it’s not all at once or very steep, after 5.2 miles it’s definitely not the easiest. Also, there are multiple stream crossings on this trail, so wear hiking boots or Chacos. We watched a lot of people struggle in tennis shoes not being able to easily cross the trails. The trail starts in the parking lot of the Julian Price Picnic Area. You can either go right or left to start the trail, either one we think is the same difficulty. If you are just wanting to take the shorter hike to Hebron Falls (1.9-mile loop, rated easy), make sure to go right to start though.
Crab Orchard Falls
Length: 1.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 370 feet
Location: Valle Crucis Conference Center, free for anyone to hike
Distance from Blowing Rock: 12.8 miles, 27 minutes
Distance from Boone: 9.8 miles, 21 minutes
The Crab Orchard Falls trail is an easy/moderate hike. We classified it as moderate because it does have a bit of elevation gain, which is all on the way up. So if you have young kids or really don’t like climbing a steep hill, maybe skip it! However, this one is more than easy for any skill level of hiker, as long as you are willing to make the trek back up after on some steep inclines!
It is a little confusing to get to, as it sits on the Valle Crucis Conference Center. However, anyone can hike it just make sure to follow the rules on parking for the waterfall. After you park, follow the signs for the waterfall trail & you will be good to go! The Valle Crucis Conference Center is right past the original Mast General Store. So if you don’t have hiking boots for your harder hikes, stop in here & grab some. The falls are multi-layered and really gorgeous. It’s one of the easiest waterfall hikes that you can actually access the base of the falls.
Flat Top Tower
Length: 4.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 606 feet
Location: Moses Cone Memorial Park, Parkway Mile Marker 294
Distance from Blowing Rock: 2.5 miles, 5 minutes
Distance from Boone: 9.2 miles, 19 minutes
The Flat Top Tower trail starts at the Moses Cone Memorial Park and Flat Top Manor, right off the parkway, which is stunning to see itself. If you hiked Bass Lake or the Maze, you will know it as the large white house you see at the top of the hill. You can also hike down to Bass Lake & the Maze from the manor if you want or to another lake called Trout Lake. All are great hikes! Flat Top Tower is a truly unique one that we enjoy though.
It’s a 4.8-mile roundtrip hike and the 606 feet elevation gain comes about mid-way through. So the first half of the hike is very easy and the second half is a little bit more strenuous. The first half will take you under an iconic parkway stone bridge, through a gorgeous meadow, past the Cone Family cemetery, and then put you at the base of Flat Top Mountain. You will take switchbacks up Flat Top Mountain and end up at the summit. However, the true views are at the top of an old fire tower at the summit. If you are scared of heights, like Heather is, this might seem scary! However, the views are too grand to miss, so definitely head up the stairs to the top. Trust us!
We had to hike it again after Heather chickened out the first hike & regretted it. This area is particularly beautiful at sunset, so it’s nice to plan your hike in the evening to catch the sunset on the meadow when you return.
Rough Ridge Trail
Length: 1.6 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 480 feet
Location: Parkway Mile Marker 302.8
Distance from Blowing Rock: 10.7 miles, 17 minutes
Distance from Boone: 18.3 miles, 33 minutes
Rough Ridge might be our most done hike on this list and it’s because it’s such a stunning view, especially at sunset. It’s also more on the easy side if you just stop at the boardwalk toward the beginning. It does get very damp & muddy so we suggest hiking boots, but we have done this hike many times just in tennis shoes as well.
It’s part of the much longer Tanawha Trail, but you can complete this shorter 1.6-mile hike starting at the parking lot for the Rough Ridge Trail. You head first over a gorgeous bridge through the woods for a bit and about .25 miles into the trail you end up at the boardwalk.
Many people just hike to this spot to catch the gorgeous views or the sunset. There is one rock here you can stand out on & take a photo, however, otherwise remain on the boardwalk.
The natural terrain has gotten hurt from years of tourists and we want it to remain open. There is a neat rock here that is off-limits, that many people think is the infamous “Rough Ridge Rock”, it’s not, you keep going up for that rock!
You will head another .5 miles up to the summit of Rough Ridge & right before the top you will see that infamous rock that looks like you are hanging off the world. Feel free to get a photo and trick everyone it’s a higher drop-off, however, still use caution as there is a drop-off at the rock, just not as much as it appears!
Right past this photo spot is a large area with great views of Grandfather Mountain and the Linn Cove Viaduct as well. After this, you can head back down if you aren’t continuing on the Tanawha Trail.
We did vlog Rough Ridge in a video we did as well you can check it out here, this hike starts at timestamp 4:30:
For these strenuous trails, we would recommend you tackle some of the easy & moderate hikes first to test your skill level if you aren’t an experienced hiker. You will definitely need hiking boots for these trails & maybe a hiking stick and of course don’t forget your water bottle for these. You will definitely be huffing & puffing by the end of these hikes.
Elk Knob State Park Summit
Length: 3.8 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 961 feet
Location: Elk Knob State Park 5564 Meat Camp Rd, Todd, NC
Distance from Blowing Rock: 18.3 miles, 34 minutes
Distance from Boone: 10.7 miles, 20 minutes
Elk Knob State Park is one of the newer state parks in NC and opened in 2003. We actually found it on our way to tube down the Todd River on a trip up to the mountains, so that’s a great option to do after this strenuous hike! This hike has a hefty elevation gain, but the view pay-off is incredible. We definitely recommend you be an experienced hiker, as there are many steep hills on this hike. At the top of the summit, you are at elevation 5,520 ft with views of The Peak, Three Top and Bluff Mountains, Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Mt Rodgers (Va.), and the Iron Mountains in Virginia and Tennessee.
The hike up is all shaded in beautiful gnarled trees and there is a lot of space at the top to take in the views! It’s one of the lesser-known summit trails as well, so we love that you won’t run into a ton of people either!
Glen Burney Falls
Length: 2.75 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 740 feet
Location: Downtown Blowing Rock, 243 Laurel Ln, Blowing Rock, NC
Distance from Blowing Rock: Located in downtown
Distance from Boone: 8.3 miles, 18 minutes
The Glen Burney & Glen Marie Falls trails are located in downtown Blowing Rock, however, they are strenuous hikes. Many people think because the waterfalls are located in downtown it’s easy & maybe it is on the way down… however, the only way back is back up 740 feet of steep elevation gain. It’s one of our favorite trails, but we don’t suggest it for kids or inexperienced hikers.
If you want to see part of the trail, go down to see the Ruins .4 miles into the trail, which is one of the first modern waste treatment plants in the mountains built in the 1920s. This is a mostly flat trail the whole way to the Ruins.
You can also continue to the Cascades at .8 miles into the trail, it’s a bit steep on the way back up but past this point is when it gets VERY hard. Also if you visit the Cascades, especially with kids, do not go out on the rocks, deaths have occurred past this point and it is very dangerous!
After you leave the Cascades you will start heading steeply downhill. You will hit a sign that says Overlook but skip this, the Overlook is no longer there. Don’t try and find it as this is the top of the waterfall and dangerous.
However, just keep continuing on to the Glen Burney Falls sign about 1.2 miles into the hike. This will put you at the base of the Glen Burney Falls which is a very wide and beautiful waterfall.
After you finish at the Glen Burney Falls, continue on the hike to the Glen Marie Falls at about 1.6 miles into the hike. This waterfall is a little higher than the Glen Burney falls and beautiful as well. At all of the falls, remember to be careful & don’t go past areas you shouldn’t, rocks are slippery and you are at the top of waterfalls. That’s why we don’t suggest kids or dogs on the trails past the Cascades. Once you take a break & enjoy the views, the climb back up is very steep and difficult, but well worth the beautiful hike down! Just make sure to take a break and bring some water.
We did a vlog about the Glen Burney trail, that you can check out here:
Length: 2.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 695 feet
Location: Linville Gorge Wilderness Nebo, NC
Distance from Blowing Rock: 28.7 miles, 50 minutes
Distance from Boone: 31.8 miles, 56 minutes
The Hawksbill Mountain trail is a little tougher to find, as it’s located in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. However, if you plug “Hawksbill Mountain Trail Head” in your GPS it will get you there. You end up on a bumpy, unpaved road but it puts you out at the parking lot for the trail. Trust us, we aren’t sending you to die, even if it looks like it and the views are worth it!
This trail ends up on a craggy summit with literally 360 views of the Linville Gorge Wilderness and Pisgah National Forest. There isn’t a better place to see the views of the Blue Ridge that we have ever found. The views are so good that on a clear day, you can even see the skyline of Charlotte that’s 90 miles away!
The summit sits at an elevation of 4,009 feet with the valley floor and Linville River 2,000 ft. below you. When you reach the top, make sure to go to the right narrow trail to get the 360 views. The left views are great too but it doesn’t have the expansive rock view.
Now go off & hike!
We hope this guide helps you on your quest to find the best hike within 1 hour of Boone or Blowing Rock, for your next Blue Ridge Parkway vacation or adventure. Have one you like more we missed? Comment and let us know, we love checking out new hikes! These are our favorites from our decades of visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway and we think they give a great taste of hiking in the NC Mountains.
(Elk Knob State Park)
Looking for more fun things to do while on your trip? Check out our other NC Mountain blogs here: