Hawksbill Mountain is a really incredible overlook that lets you peer down into the Linville Gorge Wilderness in North Carolina. That’s the description of what it is but does little to express the experience. Phrases like awe-inspiring, majestic, and breath taking come to mind. This is a hike that will leave you feeling something close to reverence.
Hawksbill Mountain Trail is accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway about an hour Southwest of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. There are a lot of amazing hikes within an hour of Blowing Rock. Hawksbill Mountain is near the top of that list.
As always with the Blue Ridge Parkway, check for closures. Hawksbill Mountain Trail is off the Roseboro Rd/Shuffler Rd section (MM 307.9 – MM 314.6). If the Parkway is closed you can still get there with alternate routes.
The view from the top is extraordinary. Actually, I should say the two separate views from the top are extraordinary. But there are a few things you’ll want to know before you rush off to this amazing mountain.
Hawksbill Mountain Trail
Length: 2.2 miles Elevation Gain: 700 feet Difficulty: Strenuous
Great For: Amazing mountain views, trail running
When to Visit: Spring, Summer, and Fall
How we rate it: 5/5, this is an amazing hike to some of the best views in the region
How long does it take: 2-3 hours, if you hike fast you’ll finish in under 2 hours
Getting to Hawksbill Mountain Trailhead
Hawksbill Mountain Trail is down a narrow, steep winding gravel road. This isn’t a fun drive. While we have a rugged vehicle, we didn’t have said vehicle when I visited Hawksbill Mountain. I had a minivan, puke, I know.
I was a little worried that not having 4-wheel drive would be a problem, it wasn’t. Even though the road is steep and winding the gravel is really packed down. As long as you drive slow and avoid icy conditions you should be fine.
The Hike before the view
The first half of the hike is pretty easy and gains elevation slowly. There is a really nice view along the way that’s worth pausing for a bit. You’ll find it in the first, easy section of the hike along the trail.
As you get close to the halfway point there is a short set of stairs and everything changes.
The trail turns sharply to the left and the climbing begins. You gain about 500 feet in half a mile and your legs will let you know. Luckily the hike up is only around a mile so even with it being a pretty intense mile you won’t be hiking that long.
By the time you reach the top you’ll be breathing really hard and wondering if the trail builders have ever heard of a switchback. While you’re huffing and puffing you can decide if you want to go to the left overlook or the right.
The Left Overlook
I did just enough research before the hike to know the drive was going to be on a rough road. When I reached the top I didn’t know there were options, I just went left.
I thought there would be an okay overlook, not realizing what I was in for. I had to squeeze down the narrow path between thick rhododendron before I reached the enormous sloping rock face.
I can’t say how far down the rock goes. I scrambled around for awhile but the further you go the steeper it gets. Don’t worry, if you stay at the top and don’t have any interest in scrambling you can see the full view.
I wouldn’t recommend scrambling too far down unless you have repelling experience and equipment.
Once you’ve spent as much time as you like at the left overlook make your way back to the trail and head over to the right.
The Right Overlook
The right overlook is just as wide as the left overlook. One major difference is that the exposed rock overlook on the right is more of a cliff than a steep slope.
You can explore the rocky overlook if you like and, if you’re comfortable, it’s worth it. Otherwise the upper overlook area is amazing.
I liked exploring the left overlook more but I thought the view at the right overlook is slightly better, but I’m splitting hairs here – you won’t find many better mountain views in the entire Blue Ridge.
The one hesitation I have with this overlook is if you have kids. There is an absolutely incredible view from the lower section of the overlook area, but there is a sloping cliff and a tumble near the cliff would be catastrophic.
As long as you stay away from the cliff you shouldn’t have any issues. If you decide to only visit one overlook you’ll still be mesmerized by the scenery.
When to visit Hawksbill Mountain
Before you rush off to visit Hawksbill Mountain you may want to consider the weather.
- Visiting in winter is questionable. The road to reach Hawksbill Mountain is rugged and in icy conditions driving it is a recipe for disaster.
- Spring, summer, and fall are great options just make sure you are aware of the possibility of storms. Western North Carolina’s weather is nothing if not unpredictable.
You’ll find gazing down into the Linville Gorge beautiful no matter what time of year you visit. If you have the opportunity to visit in Fall you’ll have the most beautiful view.
It is best to reach the trail early if you can, not so much for trail crowding but because the parking area is very small.
After you visit Hawksbill Mountain and view Linville Gorge you’ll probably want to see what’s down there.
Luckily for everyone it’s an amazing waterfall! Check out our guide to Linville Falls so you can choose which overlook to hike to.