Day Hike 5: Thunder Hill Overlook to Boone’s Trace Overlook

Into the Wild

Distance: 6.6 miles

  • Difficulty: Moderate. Easy stretches along road with rugged terrain in between.
  • Camping: No.
  • Land manager: National Park Service.
  • Volunteer Task Force Leader: Shelton Wilder,
  • Piggyback trail: No.
  • Connecting trails: No.

The trail passes under the Blue Ridge Parkway near Bamboo Gap.

This stretch starts mellow, with some up and down through hardwood forest. It spends some unavoidable time (about a mile and a half) on roads. And it drops through some terrain, most telling of the Blue Ridge escarpment.

The mellow starts early and lasts for 2.3 miles, with gentle ascents and descents through hardwoods and terrain thick with rhododendron. At the midpoint, there’s a passage along the Parkway and George Hayes Road (narrow-to-non-existent shoulder on the latter; be careful) and the section ends with a 0.8-mile leg stretcher on Bamboo Road.

Between those two road stretches you’ll find deliciously rugged hiking. Make that hiking through deliciously rugged terrain, because the trail does a good job switchbacking the steeps, letting your psyche, not your knees, absorb the terrain. An old roadbed, one of those relic mountain roads that gives you a good sense of what transportation here was like before the Blue Ridge Parkway, takes you part of the way. This stretch wraps up along a rocky, mountain creek. By the time you hit Bamboo Road, your legs won’t mind spending most of the last mile along a foot-friendly dirt road.

View on Map

To see this hike on a map, visit our Interactive Map and click “Day Hikes” to view the endpoints.


Finding Your Way

Finding Your Way (west » east) Mileage
Trailhead: From Thunder Hill Overlook (MP 290.3), cross BRP, go through a stile, and turn right on the MST. 0.0
Walk along fence and then on west (left) shoulder to reach side road on left. Enter woods on north side of side road. 0.4
Walk 450 feet uphill. At top of hill, trail bears right, going steeply uphill then leveling off. Trail goes up and down hills. At one point, it goes sharply left and downhill away from BRP. At bottom of hill, take sharp right onto old forest road. Trail goes to right around large rock. After topping a hill, log bench is on left on way down. Trail continues downhill, curving back towards BRP before turning away. One final uphill section goes to Raven Rock Overlook parking area (MP 289.5). 0.8
From north side of Raven Rock Overlook parking area, continue north on BRP shoulder for 900 feet. At “Overlook Ahead” sign, trail goes left into woods. Trail veers right, meandering through woods for 800 feet before reaching stile. Climb over stile and go through pasture close to fence, which parallels BRP on right. Follow fence line to stile in right corner. Climb stile, continue few feet to bridge and go up steps to Blackberry Rd. 1.7
Cross Blackberry Rd. and climb stile into pasture. Walk uphill, staying near fence along BRP. Skirt to left of family cemetery near top of hill. At times, there are horses here; one horse may be aggressive to dogs. Continue 250 feet to stile. 2.1
Cross stile. Trail winds through woods and wetlands, crossing 3 bridges before coming out to BRP shoulder. 2.5
Turn left and walk on shoulder for 80 feet. Cross BRP to Sampson Rd. Walk on right shoulder of Sampson Rd. for 300 feet. Turn left onto George Hayes Rd. Walk along shoulder for 0.46 mile to set of wooden steps on left. 3.1
Go down steps through pasture, bearing right to boardwalk/bridge. Cross bridge and go uphill to left. Trail winds across ridgeline. 3.7
Trail goes under large fallen tree, immediately followed by creek crossing, which requires rock-hopping and may dampen your shoes. Ascend to follow old roadbed north for 300 feet to blue-blazed Goshen Creek backcountry campsite (H2) access trail on right. 4.8
Cross impressive footbridge over cascading High Shoals Creek. 5.1
A few yards past the bridge, a well-used trail leads uphill on left to a pull-out area on BRP, just south of Goshen Creek Viaduct. The pullout can accommodate several cars. Continue straight. 5.2
Follow path along scenic creek bed. Cross stile under Goshen Creek Viaduct; BRP is overhead. Cross pasture under bridge. Cross over second stile to reach Bamboo Rd. 5.3
Turn right and walk along shoulder of paved Bamboo Rd., which becomes gravel. After walking a short distance, you pass George Hayes Rd. For the next 0.7 mile, walk on road next to fields before reaching intersection of Bamboo and Little Laurel Rds. Continue straight past intersection along shoulder of Bamboo Rd. for 180 feet before trail goes right into pasture. In pasture, trail curves right into woods. Follow trail for a short distance to BRP. 5.5
From MP 285.5, turn left and walk shoulder of BRP beside meadow until trail enters woods on left. 6.4
Trail goes through woods and back to BRP. 6.7
Trailhead: Turn left on BRP and walk shoulder about 100 feet north to Boone’s Trace Overlook on east (right) side (MP 285.1). 6.9