Friday, November 18, 2022

Linn Cove Viaduct Boulder Field

Tuesday August 23, 2022
Bear Den Campground                                                 Most Recent Posts:
MP 324 Blue Ridge Parkway                          A Visit from Sharon
Spruce Pine, North Carolina     Upper Creek Falls-Beautiful, but POORLY Marked

Linn Cove Viaduct is a 1243 foot long concrete segment bridge that snakes around Grandfather Mountain and over its massive boulder field.  It sits at 4300 feet in elevation.  This bad photo is a picture of a picture and came from the signage outside the visitor center.

IMG_3775The Viaduct was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed in 1987, 52 years after the Blue Ridge Parkway was begun. The Viaduct took 8 years to construct and is the first bridge of its kind in the United States. 

The S shaped structure contains 153 concrete segments.  Only one of these is straight.  They weigh 50 tons each and are joined by epoxy and massive steel tendons.  The segments form a deck nearly a quarter mile long that is supported by 7 pillars.   And Yes, as you can see from the picture, the trail goes under and beside the viaduct.  So fantastic!


Computer technology enabled engineers to design and construct this geometrically complex structure.  The technique used in its building allowed the rugged terrain and the forest of this ancient mountain to be preserved for which I am so grateful.  Worth the wait in my opinion.  Conventional construction techniques would have obliterated Linn Cove’s massive boulder field and severely altered the steep mountain’s profile.

IMG_3768I learned all of this from the sign on the path to the hike.  I took the first picture of the straight section from the sign which is quite weathered.  Unfortunately as you can see, the visitor’s center with all its information and the restrooms were closed due to a water system malfunction the sign said.  But I have read that the VC has been closed for a very long time.  Remember the one at Crabtree Falls.

But that certainly didn’t impact the wonder of this hike.   Take a look at the size of these boulders.

The trail begins at the far end of the VC parking lot and is paved for a 1/2 mile to allow access under the viaduct.  You can hear the cars rumbling over the viaduct.  That’s all most people do.  But at the end of the paved section a set of steps climbs up a hillside and  a trail runs through the woods parallel to the viaduct.  Continuing uphill you find yourself on the Tanawaha Trail which runs through the woods and climbs through the boulder field under the viaduct. 

Yes, go right through there.

The Tanawaha has a sweet white feather as its trail sign.  It is 13.5 miles one way and parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway between Beacon Heights, which I posted about here, and Julian Price Memorial Park, which I visited after hiking this trail.  If I’d had a shuttle, I’d have hiked the whole Tanawaha but 26 miles round trip is too much for me.   So if you’d like to hike it with me, let’s make plans.   Oh and the Tanawaha is part of the Mountains to Sea Trail, North Carolina’s State Trail stretching 1175 miles from the Outerbanks to the Great Smoky Mountains.  The MTS is only 700 miles complete at this time.

I was continually amazed at the trail construction which included stone steps


and ledges under boulders braced by other boulders.


Up and Over


No, I didn’t have to crawl through there but I wondered who might be in this pile of huge rocks.


Two trees holding on to each other and the rock.  Nature is amazing.

The trail weaves closer to and then further away from the viaduct.

The size of the boulders is just amazing.

Glad I thought to get a picture of the sweet trail marker.  Love the feather.  The dot is the symbol of the MTS trail.


Amazingly, this is one of only two fungi pictures I took on the hike.  I was so absorbed by the boulders and the trail required careful watching.



This and so many of the boulders were so big, I could not get the entirety of them  in the picture.  There was no way to get far enough away from it.


Look closely and you can see the viaduct through this narrow section of the trail.


Finally I came as far as I was going to go on the Tanawha.  I arrived at what I later learned was the Wilson Creek Bridge.   After reading the sign below, I decided I’d gone far enough.



In addition to this sign, there was another much smaller that pointed down and off the trail and said stream.   I could hear what I assumed was Wilson Creek.  That’s all it took.


The path led down and under the viaduct then stopped and it was clear from the sound that if I wanted to see this water I’d have to climb down this steep dirt.  I’m amazed I didn’t end up scooting down.  Very glad I had a hiking stick coming straight up.  This is what they call “a social trail”.  Not sanctioned for sure.  I could have walked up there on the left and touched it. 


And then down the rocks.


And look what I found on Wilson’s Creek.



Small cascades but lovely.  And a delightful surprise.


  Here’s the requisite video.


I sat down on some of the rocks for a while knowing that when I climbed back up I’d be turning back.  A young couple came down and we ended up hiking back together.  It was delightful having their company.


I didn’t take many pictures on the way back which of course looked totally different than it did from the other direction.  I was too busy enjoying the company of  Tristen and Mackenzie.



But I did get some pictures of a stackable and a large stand alone.


I wonder when it’s going to tip on over.


Not what you’d call smooth passage.


White Coral mushroom??


They spotted the cut off to the view that we had both missed on the way up and that I probably would have missed on the way back too.  Glad I hiked back with them.


Tristen took this selfie and sent me a copy.  He is an assistant golf pro at the Grandfather Mountain Course and she is his college sweetheart.  Sadly I don’t remember what she is doing now but they were such fun to hike back with.

Tristen & Mackenzie

PXL_20220823_212045433I left Tristen & Mackenzie and drove a tad further along the parkway to Julian Price Memorial Park to check out their trail system.

There were 3 trails.  The Price Lake overlook trail,  Green Knob Loop Trail and the Boone Fork Loop Trail.  Had I not just done the boulder field trail, I would have done the Boon Fork which is 4.3 miles long but I settled for the 2.5 mile Price Lake trail.  Additionally, I could check out the lake for possible kayaking.  An added bonus is that the loop goes through the campground at the end. So I could check that out too.  


It was a very nice and very easy flat hike around the 47 acre lake which at its end took me right along the Blue Ridge Parkway just before hiking through the campground.  The park is 4200 acres at the foot of Grandfather Mountain and a great location for visiting this area.  It is located at MP 296.7 and adjacent to Moses H Cohen Park.

For whatever reason, I took no pictures of the campground which had some smaller sites on the water.  I apologize for dismissing it after I determined I probably would not want to try it with Winnona.  I’ll try to make up for that with information I researched later. 

The campground has no hook ups.  It does have restrooms with flush toilets and at least one loop has showers.  There is a dump station though I didn’t see it.  The campground was very serene and the sites on the water were wonderful if you are small or a tent.   The longest RV reported in the campground on Campendium was 29’.  There are 129 tent sites and 68 RV sites. 


The lake was lovely and I passed only one other person hiking around it but I saw absolutely no wildlife.  No ducks, no nothing.  Not even canada geese or crows.  So I doubt I’ll come back to kayak it.


The clouds reflecting in the water were lovely.  It looked like a painting and was a sweet end to my more strenuous morning at the boulders.


  1. Now that was a fantastic hike! Cute couple. They look really sweet. I did not know that viaduct was there at Grandfather Mountain. Hope we get to check it out some time. You've had a great summer! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your comment Jeannie. I have had a lovely summer. Hope you get to do the Boulder hike and see the viaduct.

  2. Now THAT was some hike! The Rocky Road. I’d like to have been there with you on this one. 👍🏽

    1. The rocky road, great title. Wish you had been with me So good to see you in the comments. Bring your face to mind.

  3. An exhilarating hike to say the least. Always amazed at the size of boulders and the way that the viaduct was constructed.

    1. I thought it was amazing too Laurie. Is both the hike and the construction. Thanks for your comment

  4. Lots of great photos, lots of mushrooms, and a very cool story about the viaduct, but not a word about what kind of rock those boulders are made of. I had to go look it up. I kept thinking it looked like granite but didn't have a clue that there was granite in that part of the Blue Ridge mountains. Sure enough, here you go, Sherry.

    The Blue Ridge province is a mountainous belt stretching from Pennsylvania southwest to Georgia. The mountains are made of highly deformed metamorphic rocks of largely Precambrian ages. These include schists, gneisses, slates, and quartzites, and are extensively intruded by igneous bodies.Apr 30, 2018

    Yup, intruded igneous bodies are various forms of granitoid rocks, what we used to call granite. Sorry for the wonky comment but I just had to do it.

    1. This is great Sue! Thanks so much for your geologist's information.. I suspect the visitor center would have told me this had they been open. Here's another high quarrel I wish you'd been with me. I would have learned so much.

  5. Replies
    1. It was William and even had a tiny waterfall at the end. How perfect

  6. Thanks for showing another beautiful place in the USA.

    1. You are very welcome. Wish you weren't anonymous.

  7. Your information is correct! BOTH of those Visitor Centers have been closed for a long time and it's my understanding that Crabtree Falls VC is permanently closed. Such a shame as there was a cute cafe and gift shop inside that VC. The larger campsites and the dump station are in the campground loops across the Blue Ridge Parkway from where you were. Lots of sites there, both pull-through and back-in, that would love to host Winona. (Walking all the loops in that campground is one of my go-to exercise places when I am in Boone or Blowing Rock) I so enjoy seeing places that are so familiar to me through someone else's eyes!!

    1. So great to hear from you Sharon. Thanks for adding information here. The Crabtree Falls VC was a really lovely building being allowed to deteriorate sadly. Why would the park service, or the parkway allow that?

  8. What? No rock hugging? Maybe that was smart, the trees would have gotten jealous... :cD

    1. You are right Paul. I should have done some rock hugging but they were all SOoooo big.

  9. Wow, what an intense and amazing hike by the viaduct. Bonus was meeting the young hikers. You do find the prettiest places. Camping along the lake would be nice, and I'm probably small enough. Glad Sue could add the geology.

    1. It was a great hike and with your truck camper you could go anywhere in the East.

  10. I'm caught up!!! But you're already in Florida :-) That viaduct is an engineering marvel. I'm always amazed what people can see on paper and make into reality on this scale. And the trail is incredible too! Through all those rocks and with all those rocks it is really different. Glad you made it through with both ankles in tact!! Fun to have a couple trail buddies for the return trip. Love that coral mushroom.

    1. And I love your comments. Thank you so much for being so loyal. I agree, the engineering is far beyond me. David understood it, I can't begin to.

  11. Quite a fascinating hike and find, I especially liked the stacked rocks and the one waiting to tip over, thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow! Neat hike and great pictures! Well done make it over and around all those rocks!

  13. Oh, I'm so glad you did this hike, and so glad you loved it! We thought it was fantastic, too. Your photos turned out great! How fun that you connected with that sweet couple on the trail. :-)

    1. It definitely was fantastic and I would do it again for sure. I don't connect with folks on the road nearly as much as you do but I love it when I do.


Your comments help me in more ways than you can know. Thanks in advance.