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Mountains to Sea Trail: NC-181 to Blowing Rock

The Mountains to Sea Trail as it passes Grandfather Mountain.

Hiking Difficult

76 km
2.5 km
2.3 km
1 day +
Low Point
476 m
High Point
1.4 km
Mountains to Sea Trail: NC-181 to Blowing Rock Map

Beginning at NC-181, this portion of the ~1,200-mile long Mountains to Sea Trail travels through rugged wilderness before paying a visit to Grandfather Mountain.


The first portion of this hike leads through Harper Creek and Lost Cove Wilderness Study Areas. Not officially designated as wilderness by the USFS, they share several similar characteristics. According to ourwildnc.org, these areas "were set aside by the NC Wilderness Act of 1984 and have since been recommended for wilderness designation, however some have been threatened with declassification." According to their site, some of the best waterfalls in the state can be found within their boundaries and Peregrine falcons nest along the cliffs.

One of the most recognizable destinations along the Blue Ridge Parkway lies ahead on the trail. According to Wikipedia, "the mountain boasts 16 distinct ecological communities" and is the highest peak along the eastern Blue Ridge.

This area is also one of the more memorable areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway to drive. As the last piece of the roadway to be completed, the Linn Cove Viaduct faced delays in construction for nearly 20 years. Completed in 1987, its construction laid a foundation for construction techniques for years to come.

Coaligned with the Tanawha Trail, the MST then heads east towards Julian Price Memorial Park. Combined with the other areas around Grandfather Mountain, "these parks comprise the largest developed area set aside for public recreation on the Parkway," according to Wikipedia. Other day hiking opportunities are prevalent in the area, many of which also access the Mountains to Sea Trail.

This segment of trail ends after several long winding climbs and descents through Moses H Cone Memorial Park. Upon reaching US-321, follow the access road back onto the BRP to find several opportunities for roadside parking. If completing a thru-hike, Blowing Rock is just a short walk from here and a perfect place to grab dinner and resupply.

Sources: https://www.blueridgeparkway.org/poi/linn-cove-viaduct/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GrandfatherMountain http://www.ourwildnc.org/wsa



Hiking trails where obstacles such as rocks or roots are prevalent. Some obstacles can require care to step over or around. At times, the trail can be worn and eroded. The grade of the trail is generally quite steep, and can often lead to strenuous hiking.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between March and November


  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area