Segment 5: The High Country
Beacon Heights to Devils Garden Overlook
Distance: 90.3 miles (8.3 on road or BRP shoulder; 82 miles on trail)
- Difficulty: to
Easy to moderate with only a few strenuous parts
Trail Community: Blowing Rock
Check Trail Updates before starting your hike.
By Carolyn Sakowski
This section, covering almost 91 miles, offers the hiker some of the most astounding scenery in northwestern North Carolina. This part of the trail, which travels along the ridgeline where elevations range from 4,300 to 3,400 feet, offers views looking down the escarpment into the North Carolina Piedmont.
Most of this section runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and often crosses the parkway as the trail goes back into the woods and away from the road. There are a few stretches that cross fields, which will sometimes share space with friendly cows. There are also a few patches where the trail travels along a backroad or the shoulder of the BRP, but most of this segment is on well-engineered footpaths that make the ascents and descents easy to hike. Although the BRP is always nearby, you often feel that you are deep in the woods, miles from civilization.
This section begins at Beacon Heights and follows the Tanawha Trail as it travels along the base of Grandfather Mountain, which is one of only 553 certified biosphere reserves in the world. It continues past the resort town of Blowing Rock, travels near West Jefferson, and ends near Sparta in the northwest corner of North Carolina near the Virginia border.
The nearby towns of Linville, Blowing Rock, Boone, West Jefferson, and Sparta offer all amenities. They also make it easy to break this segment into several day hikes.
Thanks to the following for their assistance: Dave Bauer, Allen de Hart, Nancy Dexter Wilson, Tom Dillon, Jim Hallsey, Randy Johnson, John Lanman, Doug Smith, and Jane Wallace.
- The Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,243-foot concrete engineering marvel that carries the BRP around the base of Grandfather Mountain
- Views of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, Hawksbill, and Pisgah National Forest that can encompass over 50 miles on a clear day
- Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, where the MST uses the park’s former carriage trails and passes by Flat Top Manor, which now serves as the parkway’s craft center
- E.B. Jeffress Park with the restored cabin of farmer Jesse Brown and Cool Springs Baptist Church as well as “The Cascades” waterfall, which slides over rocks for 250 feet
- Mount Jefferson Overlook, where you have a panoramic view of Grandfather, Sugar, and Beech Mountains to the south and Mount Jefferson looming over the town of Jefferson in front of you
- Doughton Park, whose 7,000 acres offer picnic areas, camping facilities, and hiking along ridges and through meadows with long-range views of the surrounding area
- Brinegar Cabin, built about 1885, which often offers hand-loom weaving and other mountain craft demonstrations during the summer
This section of the MST can be enjoyed as a series of day hikes. Each link below provides the information you need to hike a sub-section of the trail.
Day Hike 3: Wet ‘n’ Wild
Holloway Mountain Road Parking Area to Trout Lake
Distance: 8.2 miles, plus 0.3-mile spur trail
Day Hike 4: A Proper Ramble
Trout Lake to Thunder Hill Overlook
Distance: 7.0 miles, plus 0.3-mile spur trail
Day Hike 5: Into the Wild
Thunder Hill Overlook to Boone’s Trace Overlook
Distance: 6.9 miles
Day Hike 6: Howdy, Neighbors
Boone’s Trace Overlook to Osborne Mountain Overlook
Distance: 8.0 miles
Day Hike 8: Enchanted by the Escarpment
Cascades Recreation Area to Park Vista
Distance: 4.1 miles
Day Hike 9: High Meadows, Great Views
Park Vista to Jumpinoff Rock Overlook
Distance: 8.0 miles
Day Hike 10: Oh, Fudge!
Jumpinoff Rock Overlook to Sheets Cemetery
Distance: 9.1 miles
Day Hike 11: Mindless Wander
Sheets Cemetery to South Laurel Fork Road
Distance: 4.7 miles
Day Hike 12: Beginnings, Endings
South Laurel Fork Road to Basin Cove Overlook
Distance: 5.0 miles