Crest Trails

Trail Descriptions

Hikers may access the trails inside Grandfather Mountain State Park for FREE from trailheads outside the travel attraction. Access to the trails from the Swinging Bridge requires the purchase of a ticket to the attraction.

Crest Trails are accessed from the Top Shop parking lot or from the Hiker’s Parking Area, three curves below the Top Shop summit parking area. They also can be reached via the Profile Trail (west side) or Daniel Boone Scout Trail (east side).

Trail name Rating Blaze Length (miles)
Grandfather Trail Very strenuous,
cables and ladders
Blue-Blazed (soon to be blue diamond) 2.4 mi. (3.8 km)
Underwood Trail Strenuous and rocky Yellow-Blazed (soon to be yellow diamond) 0.5 mi. (0.8 km)

climbing laddersGrandfather Trail

An upper mountain ridge trail of astonishing variety, running in and out of wind-dwarfed spruce and fir, across or around rock walls and pinnacles, and into open spaces with views of mountains unfurling in every direction. The jumbled-up, rocky features of this trail are so massive and distinct they appear to have cropped up by mistake — then decided to hang around for another millennium or two.

The route follows the crest of Grandfather Mountain from the Hiker’s Parking Area out 2.4 miles to Calloway Peak. It was along this trail two centuries ago that noted French explorer and botanist Andre Michaux broke into song thinking he had arrived at the highest point in North America. A century later, famed naturalist John Muir was inspired to describe the sight as “the face of all Heaven come to earth.”

The pace is often deliberate. There are chutes where progress is hand-over-hand and some extra steep sections where hikers use in-place cables and ladders. An alternative to taking the ladders up MacRae Peak is to opt for the more sheltered Underwood Trail (see below).

Grandfather Trail Extension (red diamond) 0.3 mi (0.48 km)  
Underwood Trail junction 0.5 mi (0.8 km)  
MacRae Peak 0.9 mi (1.4 km)
2 hrs. round trip
elev. 5,845 feet
Attic Window Peak 1.2 mi (1.9 km)
3 hrs. round trip
Indian House Cave 1.3 mi (2.1 km)  
Alpine Meadow 1.5 mi (2.4 km)  
Calloway Gap 1.9 mi (3.0 km)  
Cliffside Campsite 2.0 mi (3.2 km)  
Watauga View 2.3 mi (3.7 km)  
Calloway Peak 2.4 mi (3.8 km)
5 hrs. round trip
elev. 5,946 feet

Underwood Trail

Splitting off the Grandfather Trail near the half-mile marker, the Underwood Trail bypasses ladder climbs on MacRae Peak, rejoining the Grandfather Trail at MacRae Gap, about a mile out. The trail makes a steep, rocky loop under the crest line around Raven Rock Cliffs. Going out along Grandfather and returning along Underwood makes an excellent loop hike from the Swinging Bridge.