Summit Grandfather Mountain's two peaks starting from the valley down below. This strenuous hike 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 hike 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 hike. 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 hike 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 hike to the top of Calloway Peak. After the hike to MacRae this will feel like a piece of cake. The hike 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