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Grandfather Mountain/Profile Trail - Linville, North Carolina

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.3 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

8 hours and 40 minutes with 2 hours and 50 minutes of breaks
4,035 ft
Grandfather Mountain State Park
Printable Topo Hike Map (grandfather.com PDF)
Printable Trail Directions (PDF)
Linville Weather Forecast
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Park at Profile Trail parking area on NC105. 36.12174, -81.82987

By Trail Contributor: Zach Robbins ()

Grandfather Mountain is one of the most beautiful, rugged landscapes in North Carolina but hiking it for free is an all-day affair filled with grand views, steep climbs, and some physical hardships. If you’d rather take the easier route, you can drive up to the tourist attraction for $20/person and hike the Grandfather Trail out-and-back for a hearty mountain experience of only 5 miles (Grandfather.com). Otherwise the bold hikers can hike the mountain via the Profile Trail below or the previously described Daniel Boone Scout Trail.

Although shorter, the Profile Trail is arguably the toughest ascent due to the steep inclines and long stretches of boulder-strewn paths. You can cut 1.2 miles by avoiding the out-and-back to Calloway Peak which has the least impressive views, but you’ll be missing out on the high point of this famed mountain. Unlike the Daniel Boone Scout Trail the biodiversity isn’t as impressive on this side of the mountain as you continuously climb due to the western exposure. However, the trail adds a few different flavors like an initial stroll along the peaceful Watauga River, massive boulders trailside, and a bird’s eye view of the Grandfather Profile. Just make sure to hike as far as Attic Window Peak and MacRae Peak, which offer some of the best views and exciting rock scrambles in the region.

Parking Note: The Profile Trail parking lot is small and fits no more than 20 cars. This lot fills up quickly, especially on the weekends and during the summer. It is advised to park here very early or carpool/get dropped off to minimize vehicle space. Otherwise you may have to park half a mile away at local businesses with their permission. Some allow it, others tow. If you cannot park then consider hiking the Daniel Boone Scout Trail starting with the Asutsi Trail or the Boone Fork parking area.

  • Mile 0.0 – Profile Trail (orange diamond blaze) begins at the end of the parking lot. The trail dips and immediately crosses the Watauga River and follows the river on the right side.
  • Mile 0.3 – Trail leaves the Watauga River.
  • Mile 0.4 – At a U-turn an unmarked side trail continues straight.
  • Mile 0.9 – Rock crossing over Shanty Spring Branch. On the other side the trail passes through large boulders.
  • Mile 1.6 – Arrive at the Foscoe View, a window through the trees with a view north of Snake Mountain and Elk Knob. The trail begins a steep climb from here towards the Profile Campsite.
  • Mile 1.9 – Profile Campsite offers a few spaces for tents below the towering Grandfather Profile. From here it is difficult to discern the unique features of the Profile through the trees.
  • Mile 2.1 – Reach the Profile View, a bird’s eye perspective of the Grandfather Profile for which the mountain got its name. From this planar view the massive cliff looks like a craggy, old face. After the Profile View the tread becomes rockier as the trail begins climbing through spruce forest.
  • Mile 2.5Historic Shanty Spring is one of the only reliable water sources near the crest of Grandfather Mountain. Fill up here if you did not pack in much water. The next 0.3-mi is a rough ascent over a jumble of large boulders.
Interactive Hike Map Below Printable Topo Hike Map (grandfather.com PDF) Printable Trail Directions (PDF)
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Mid March
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