The lofty ridge crest of Grandfather Mountain marks the pinnacle of the Blue Ridge proper (though not the Blue Ridge Mountains as a whole). Besides the impressive elevation—5,946 feet atop Calloway Peak, the tallest of Grandfather Mountain’s four subpeaks—this mighty massif is also noteworthy for its all-around ruggedness, with cliffs, ledges, and rocky ramparts that almost call to mind the Rockies more than the Appalachians. The Daniel Boone Scout Trail shows off some of this grand scenery by “peak-bagging” the summit of Calloway.
The trail is roughly seven miles round-trip and takes about four or five hours to complete, depending on how long you linger at the top (and at other viewpoints). The walk up to Calloway Peak involves some 2,000 feet of elevation gain, and the steepest reaches involve the use of fixed ladders and cables. It’s a challenging hike, to be sure, but an incredible experience with a top-of-the-world sort of feel—well worth a half-day’s jaunt off the Blue Ridge Parkway!
The Daniel Boone Scout Trail—pioneered by a Boy Scout troop back in the mid-20th century, then resurrected and improved decades later—lies in the northeastern portion of Grandfather Mountain State Park, the public acreage accounting for most of the Grandfather ridge. To the southwest lies the private Grandfather Mountain attraction. You can reach the Daniel Boone Scout Trail from that side of the mountain via the crest-hugging Underwood and Grandfather trails, but the most direct route is from the Boone Fork Parking Area trailhead just outside the state park.
From this starting point at 3,905 feet, you’ll take the Tanawha Trail—named for the Cherokee word for Grandfather Mountain, which means “hawk” or “eagle”—across the Boone Fork to the righthand turnoff, at 0.6 miles, for the Daniel Boone Scout Trail. White diamond blazes mark this route, which proceeds steadily westward up the mountain crest.
At roughly the halfway point—1.6 miles or so from the trailhead—you’ll hit the junction with the Cragway Trail heading off to the right (north). The Flat Rock View at this intersection makes a good spot for a break: The outcrops here serve up a nice prospect over the Boone Fork Bowl, where the Boone Fork rises in a deep fold along the northeastern flanks of Grandfather Mountain.
As you continue on westward along an increasingly rough and steep route, you’ll pass several backcountry campsites and shelters: Daniel Boone, Briar Patch, and Raven’s Roost, the latter situated along the final, ladder-and-cable-assisted climb up to Calloway Peak. These spots offer the chance to make an overnighter of your Grandfather Mountain adventure.
At just shy of 3.5 miles you’ll hit the top of Calloway Peak, the crown of Grandfather Mountain. While some of the other subpeaks of the ridge actually deliver more impressive views, the vistas from Calloway are plenty inspiring.
You’ll get to gaze down the rumpled spine of Grandfather Mountain toward the next subpeak to the southwest: 5,880-foot Attic Window Peak, substantially rockier than Calloway. The far skyline beyond looms with Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains. You can also look down on the meandering Blue Ridge Parkway and out to the great Linville Gorge, marked by the sharp peak of Table Rock Mountain to the south.
The Daniel Boone Scout Trail ends at Calloway Peak, but you can also continue threading along the increasingly rough and rocky spine of Grandfather Mountain via the Grandfather Trail. This route, marked with blue diamonds, travels 2.4 miles between Calloway Peak and the Swinging Bridge in the Grandfather Mountain attraction, and tops two of the other ridgecrest subpeaks, Attic Window and MacRae, along the way. (The fourth subpeak, Linville, lies just on the other side of the Swinging Bridge.)
Unless you’re tackling the rest of Grandfather Mountain—the challenge of which can be made easier by making a base camp at one of the backcountry sites along the Daniel Boone Scout Trail—turn around at Calloway Peak and retrace your steps. You can also spice up your return trek by looping back to the trailhead via the Cragway and Nuwati trails, which offer more great views of the Boone Fork Bowl as well as Calloway Peak.
– Beginning at about the 3.1-mile point from the trailhead on your way toward Calloway Peak, look in the woods to the right for the wreckage of a single-engine plane that crashed on the mountain in the 1980s.