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Peaks of Grandfather Mountain



9.1 mile 14.6 kilometer loop
72% Runnable


Ascent: 2,827' 862 m
Descent: -2,827' -862 m
High: 5,889' 1,795 m
Low: 3,832' 1,168 m


Avg Grade: 12% (7°)
Max Grade: 82% (39°)


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Trail shared by J.D. McNoldy

Experience Grandfather Mountain's two magnificent peaks.

J.D. McNoldy

Features Cave · Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildflowers

This can be closed during severe weather.


Summit Grandfather Mountain's two peaks starting from the valley down below. This strenuous run begins from the Profile Trail parking lot, which has recently been relocated, off Highway 105. From the parking lot you'll take Profile Trail to the Grandfather Trail. While ascending the Profile Trail you'll experience the beginnings of the Watauga River, Profile View Overlook, and Shanty Springs. Once to the top of Profile Trail you have the choice whether to tackle MacRae Peak or Calloway Peak first.


Whether you're looking for views, a challenge, exercise, or an experience, this high country classic has it all. Starting from the Profile Trail parking lot gives you free access to Grandfather Mountain State Park. The run starts off easy along the Profile Trail as it meanders along the beginning of the Watauga River. As Profile Trail begins to separate from the river, the grade increases. Around the 1.5 mile mark you'll come to the Foscoe View. This is a good time to take advantage of the bench at the viewpoint and rest up.

From this point on, the trail gets even steeper as you work you way past Profile View and onto Shanty Springs around 2.5 miles in. Shanty Springs usually has running spring water year round. The Springs area is well shaded and always feels a little cooler than the rest of the run. From Shanty Springs, you'll head to the intersection with the Grandfather Mountain Trail. This is the steepest part of the Profile Trail consisting almost totally of rock stairs and obstacles.

Now that you're at the intersection of the Profile Trail and the Grandfather Trail you have two choices: bear right to summit MacRae Peak first or left for Calloway Peak first. MacRae is the longer and harder of the two options. For this description I'm going to describe doing both, starting with MacRae.

From the intersection heading to MacRae Peak, you'll climb up and down along the ridgeline of Grandfather Mountain. The run to the peak has ladders, rope-assisted climbs, and areas of exposure. At the intersection of the Grandfather Trail and the Underwood Trail, stay left on Grandfather Trail. The hardest part of the trek is a steep ~200 foot notch that has to be climbed down right before the peak. After a little more climbing, you'll reach the final ladder that takes you to the peak. Atop MacRae Peak, at 5844 feet you get un-obstructed 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. On the peak there are usually some very opportunistic Dark Eyed Junco birds that are looking for your snack crumbs.

Once you have taken in MacRae Peak you'll head back to the intersection of the Grandfather Trail and the Profile Trail.

From here you'll take a short run to the top of Calloway Peak. After the run to MacRae this will feel like a piece of cake. The run to the peak is much easier than MacRae and only has a couple ladders. Atop Calloway, you can take in the view at Grandfather Mountain's tallest peak at 5946 feet.

From here you'll descend 2000 feet back to the parking lot via the Profile Trail.

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Jul 22, 2019
Abdiel Flores
Did the peaks of grandfather mountain before heading back to the car to eat and drink a little more and setting out for some bonus miles. 12.6mi — 3h 50m

Trail Ratings

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  4.8 from 10 votes
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112 Views Last Month
2,658 Since May 14, 2018



Looking out near McRae Peak.
Jul 31, 2017 near Linville, NC
The Mountain in the spring
May 2, 2018 near Linville, NC
View from Foscoe View. Signage (not pictured) identifies the peaks in the distance.
Aug 13, 2018 near Foscoe, NC
Grandfather Mountain in the midst of the early spring foliage (or lack thereof) .
Mar 19, 2019 near Foscoe, NC
At the end of grandfather mountain! Great that they have a team up there to keep everyone safe near the edges.
Aug 8, 2019 near Linville, NC
Awesome fog cloud slowly coming into the view
Aug 8, 2019 near Linville, NC


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