Mountains-to-Sea Trail: Segment 5

 3 votes

88.0 Miles 141.7 Kilometers






9,674' 2,949 m


-10,489' -3,197 m


4,671' 1,424 m


2,831' 863 m



Avg Grade (2°)


Max Grade (21°)



The High Country: Beacon Heights to Devil’s Garden Overlook

Jim Grode


This run covers Segment 5 of North Carolina’s 1150-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This part of the trail, which travels along the ridgeline where elevations range from 4,300 to 3,400 feet, offers visitors some of the most astounding scenery in northwestern North Carolina, including views looking down the escarpment into the North Carolina piedmont.

Most of this trail runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and often crosses the parkway as the trail goes back into the woods and away from the road. A few stretches cross fields, which sometimes share space with friendly cows. There are also a few patches where the trail goes along a backroad or the shoulder of the BRP, but most of this segment travels along well-engineered footpaths that make the ascents and descents easy to na. Although the BRP is always nearby, you often feel that you are deep in the woods, miles from civilization.

Highlights include

  • The Linn Cove Viaduct, a 1,243-foot concrete engineering marvel that carries the BRP around the base of Grandfather Mountain
  • Views of Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, Hawksbill, and Pisgah National Forest that can cover over 50 miles on a clear day
  • Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, where the MST uses the park’s former carriage trails and passes by Flat Top Manor, which now serves as the parkway’s craft center
  • E.B. Jeffress Park with the restored cabin of farmer Jesse Brown and Cool Springs Baptist Church as well as “The Cascades” waterfall, which slides over rocks for 250 feet
  • Mount Jefferson Overlook, with a panoramic view of Grandfather, Sugar, and Beech mountains to the south and Mount Jefferson looming over the town of Jefferson
  • Doughton Park, whose 7,000 acres offer picnic areas, camping facilities, and traveling along ridges and through meadows with long-range views of the area
  • Brinegar Cabin, built about 1885, which often offers hand-loom weaving and other mountain craft demonstrations during the summer
Features: Fall Colors — River/Creek — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers — Wildlife

Need to Know

At Mile 15.7 (eastbound), MST crosses Boone Fork, which requires wading. Depending on the water level, you'll probably wade in water up to your knees. It is worth the hassle as the MST from the creek crossing to Shulls Mill Road offers an easy stroll along an old turnpike road through the forest.

Camping on BRP/NPS land is limited to designated, approved areas. It is illegal to camp along the MST on these lands unless there is signage allowing camping or if you have a proper permit on other approved land.

Section Of


Traveling eastbound, this section begins at Beacon Heights and follows the Tanawha Trail as it travels along the base of Grandfather Mountain, which is one of only 553 certified biosphere reserves in the world. It continues past the resort town of Blowing Rock, travels near West Jefferson, and ends near Sparta in the northwest corner of N.C. near the Virginia border.

Most of this trail is well-marked with the MST blaze—a 3” white circle. Where the MST runs conjunctively with the Tanawha Trail, the Tanawha Trail uses a white feather as signage. The section that follows carriage trails in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park has good signage but limited reference to MST. The Boone Fork Trail (BFT) near Price Park Campground uses an orange diamond. Bluff Mountain Trail (BMT) is maintained primarily by the National Park Service.

There are several different locations using the name Boone Fork. Make sure you get the right location when looking for a specific site. Don’t confuse Upper Boone Fork Trail along the Tanawha Trail section with Boone Fork Trail in Price Park.

The nearby towns of Linville, Blowing Rock, Boone, West Jefferson, and Sparta offer all amenities. They also make it easy to break this segment into several day trips.

For more information, including camping, lodging, parking, resupply information, and trail angels, as well as detailed, turn-by-turn directions, download a trail guide from the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.


Land Manager: Blue Ridge Parkway

Rate Featured Run


4.7 from 3 votes

Get On-Trail Navigation

Send to Phone
Your Check-Ins



Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 3 votes


in Grandfather


  4.7 from 3 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star


in Grandfather


215 Views Last Month
2,113 Since Apr 5, 2016
Intermediate Intermediate



Getting forecast...


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running