Not nearly as high as nearby Grandfather Mountain
, highest peak in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Flat Rock is known not for its ruggedness or difficulty but rather for the fact that it has an outstanding view of Grandfather Mountain and is a short, easy hike right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The summit is, as the name suggests, mostly flat, and, unlike most Blue Ridge summits, quite open, as large slabs of rock cover the top like some massive, roughly made sidewalk.
And therein lies the charm of Flat Rock. After hiking it, you won't be able to say you braved the wilds of western North Carolina or pushed yourself to your utmost limits, but you will be able to say that you've had a nice sampling of the woodlands and wildfowers out here and, if it was a nice day, fine mountaintop views of some of the highest mountains in the eastern United States. Along the way, there are many interpretive signs identifying the flora and explaining the history of the forest. Catawba Rhododendron and Rosebay (the white-bloomong rhododendron) are abundant, making this a beautiful hike around Memorial Day, and an October hike will treat the visitor to the vivid reds, yellows, and other colors of the Blue Ridge autumn. Winter, when the air is cleanest and the views are best, would be spectacular, especially after a coating of snow or ice. Summer is probably the least pleasant-- hot, muggy, hazy, and often rainy and/or foggy.
In other words, this short hike provides a little bit of just about everything the North Carolina Blue Ridge is all about.
Flat Rock is also perfect for getting out and stretching the legs while one drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which, at 470 miles without a single stoplight or stop sign, a 45-mph speed limit most of the way, and frequent views of mountains, valleys, streams, and cliffs, might be America's greatest roadway. The hike itself is an easy loop of approximately 1.5 miles with an elevation gain of only about 300'.
Grandfather Mountain is northeast of Flat Rock, so an afternoon hike is in order if one wants a chance at nice photographs of Grandfather Mountain.
Bad picture of Grandfather Mountain-- blame the weather.
The Flat Rock Parking Area is located between Mileposts 308 and 309 (the NPS guide says 308.3) along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Linville Falls and the much-touted Linn Cove Viaduct. Asheville is about a two-hour drive (via BRP), and Boone is maybe an hour. The parking area is on the west side of the road, and the trailhead is signed.
Red Tape and External Link
There is no red tape, but travelers in late fall through early spring should check on road access. Although the BRP is open all year, sections do close temporarily because of snow and ice. See the NPS Blue Ridge Parkway site
for more information.
The nearest campground is at Linville Falls, about 8 miles south. The campground is large, but the area is very popular, so expect it to fill on fall and holiday weekends. There is also camping about 10 miles north at Julian Price Memorial Park. There are private campgrounds in the surrounding communities.