Two of my favorite family hikes are located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC. I have to admit, however, that I will always choose these hikes with or without the kiddos. They are just that good. Both Rough Ridge and Flat Top Tower trails offer incredible vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains and are worth every step.
Rough Ridge Hike
We have hiked this short trail located on the Blue Ridge Parkway for many years. We’ve hiked it carrying our daughter as a baby in a Baby Bjorn Carrier, as a young toddler in a backpack, as a young child partially on piggy back, and recently with no extra weight at all. Finally!
This short 1/3 mile trail offers a lot of reward for minimal effort. The trail itself is uphill but manageable and follows a relatively narrow, rocky path.
Near the beginning of the hike, you’ll walk over a bridge to cross the rushing creek on your way uphill to a series of wooden platforms offering beautiful vistas of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct. You’ll find large boulders near the platforms that are perfect for a picnic or photo op. Relax, enjoy the views, and listen to the wind. It doesn’t get any better.
You can continue hiking past the wooden platforms for a longer hike to the Rough Ridge Summit. This would add approximately 1/2 mile more. Keep in mind that the trail can be muddy after recent rains but don’t let that prevent you from enjoying this wonderful hike.
Every time we’ve hiked this trail, we’ve been treated to beautiful views. Even when overcast, watching the clouds float over us is still a wonderful hiking experience. It's a well-known hike, but it has never been crowded during our week day visits.
Directions- Drive to the Rough Ridge Overlook at Milepost 302.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll see a large parking area, and the trailhead will be found at the right end of the parking lot.
The Flat Top Tower Trail
Unlike the Rough Ridge hike, this hike is completely doable with a jog stroller. It is one of the many carriage trails found on the property of Moses Cone Manor located at Milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Like Rough Ridge, I will always return to this hike to take in the phenomenal pastoral and mountain views.
It’s a gradual uphill hike on a wide gravel trail (wide enough for a horse and carriage) and meanders through the woods to an open meadow perfect for kite flying and a picnic, and eventually summits at a fire tower (which you can ascend by stairs) for additional panoramic mountain vistas.
Some years, our end point has been the wide meadow with a picnic. Other years, we’ve taken advantage of happy spirits and clean diapers and made it to the fire tower for a 5 mile roundtrip hike. Either way it’s beautiful.
Directions: Follow signs on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the Moses Cone Manor House found at Milepost 294. Park away from the Manor House and closer to the outdoor restrooms. Today, the Moses Cone Manor houses the Parkway Craft Center operated by the Southern Highland Craft Guild with handmade crafts by hundreds of regional artists. Browsing the crafts inside or sitting in the rocking chairs on the front porch is a fun pre or post-hike activity.
To begin the hike, walk down the stairs from the parking area at Moses Cone Manor towards the restrooms and turn left. You’ll see a tunnel that goes under the Parkway. Go through the tunnel and bear right at the trail intersection to begin the Flat Top Tower Trail. It’s approximately 2.5 miles from the tunnel to the fire tower but only about 1 mile to the meadows. There you’ll find large open fields and a short path to the Cone Family Cemetery. Tip: Bring a jacket as it can get super windy here.
One of the only towns located directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the small mountain village of Blowing Rock, NC offers immediate access to miles of fantastic trails. It is located within a 2 hour drive from both Asheville, NC and Charlotte, NC.