Beacon Heights Trail isn’t a long hike, but it’s easy to get to, and the views are spectacular.
Located about 70-miles northeast of Asheville, Beacon Heights Trail is at mile 305.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A parking lot conveniently situated off of the parkway has a good view of Grandfather Mountain. But don’t settle for this teaser. We encourage you to don those walking shoes or boots and hit the .8-mile trail for far-flung, awe-inspiring views.
You’ll find the trailhead on the eastern side of the parking lot close to the woods. Beacon Heights Trail is rated moderate since it ascends 180 feet over rocks and root-covered ground. The trail levels near the summit with better footing. While the hike may be challenging for some, visitors reported hiking with people of all ages and abilities. The path is well-marked, and we suggest you allow 45-60 minutes to complete your trip. Be sure to pack water and plenty of snacks to enjoy while basking in the sun and taking in the astonishing scenery.
Beacon Heights Trail winds its way through a dense forest full of boulders, moss, and rhododendron. As you hike, you’ll spot the leafy evergreen plant, galax. It carpets the ground, and its pungent onion-like aroma is very distinct. Near the summit, the trail splits. The northern path is to the left and leads to the first overlook. The left trail journeys south to the second cliff. These granite faces are massive, and they’re also flat, which makes them relatively safe. Even on busy days, there is plenty of room to enjoy yourself without feeling cramped or endangered. The cliffs sit at 4,340 feet and face east with panoramic, unencumbered views of Grandfather Mountain, Grandmother Mountain, and the Wilson Creek basin.
Here is a breakdown of what you can expect on your hike.
- Mile 0.1: Beacon Heights Trail converges with the Tanawha Trail and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST). You’ll bear right and follow these trails.
- Mile 0.2: You’ll reach a T-junction. Follow the sign for Beacon Heights and turn left. MST veers to the right.
- Mile 0.3: You’ll come to a benchmarking another trail split. Both lead to one of the rocky outcroppings. The first overlook is to the left and is a mere 100 ft walk to the cliff. This is the most popular destination with grand views of Grandmother Mountain, Wilson Creek basin, and, off in the distance, the peaks of Linville Gorge.
- Mile 0.4: When you’re at the bench, bear to the right and follow the unmarked trail to the second overlook. From this spectacular cliff, you’ll have a different perspective of Grandfather Mountain and Grandmother Mountain. Many hikers preferred this vantage point over the first lookout. You’ll also spot MacRae Peak and Attic Window Peak jutting above the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Mile 0.4-0.8: After exploring both overlooks, reverse the process to make your way back to the parking lot.
The trail is open all year, while most visit between March-October. Peek season is early October when fall colors arrive. Dogs are allowed, but only if you have them leashed.
It’s no surprise that Beacon Heights Trail is a popular spot for tourists. With its easy access from the Blue Ridge Parkway, moderate hike, and breathtaking views, we feel Beacon Heights Trail will be a trip you’ll be talking about for years to come.
The second overlook isn’t as popular as the first overlook, which is larger. If you desire more solitude, we suggest bearing to the right at the bench to enjoy all this cliff has to offer.