Table Rock hiking excursion
Table Rock Park parking area is a short 45 min drive from Wilson Creek Cabins pet friendly cabins near Blowing Rock and Boone. Begin the hike at the north end of the parking lot (the side away from the toilets). The trail is located to the right of the sign board. The ridge of Table Rock looms high above the parking area right from the start. The trail starts out level, but very quickly begins its steep, mostly relentless climb to the top.
Not only is it steep, but it quickly becomes very rocky, with some large stepping stones that have become dislodged and loose due to heavy hiker traffic. Some stretches of trail sport smooth, sloping rock, so watch your footing to avoid a slip.
The beginning of the trail is in a forest of medium-height hardwood trees; mostly oaks. A few hemlocks and white pines grow in the understory, hoping to overtake the hardwoods and poke out into the sun some decades into the future.
But the forest quickly changes, and the trail becomes more open and sunny. In years past, this area was a forest, composed primarily of a species scraggly tree called Table Mountain Pine. But many of those have died as a result of an infestation of the native Southern Pine Beetle. Only the gnarled trunks now remain. Luckily, this insect has evolved along with the pines, so the trees aren't all killed by an infestation. Sparse sections of healthy pine forest can still be found.
This forest has also been affected by fire. In fact, these pines need fires periodically to open their cones and regenerate from seed. Along the way, you'll see signs explaining fire ecology which mention this fact. Aside from the pines, trailside vegetation consists mostly of rhododendron and mountain laurel. They are prolific, and bloom relatively early here (late May), which is an excellent time to hike this trail. Parking lot below:
To your left, a nice view opens up through the sparse trees of the Linville Gorge and - to the far left - the Chimneys. These rock formations are some of the closest features we have in the Appalachians to "hoodoos" so common out west - pillars of rock standing apart from a main cliff face, formed by erosion. They are a popular rock climbing destination (as is Table Rock itself) and even have a connection to the famous Linville Falls some miles up the Linville River from this location.
Linville Gorge was formed as the Linville River cut down through a hard, resistant layer of rock into the softer rocks below. Where the river flows over this layer near the top of the gorge, it forms Linville Falls. The Chimneys, Table Rock, Hawksbill Mountain (which you will see once you reach the top), and all the high cliffs near the rim of the Gorge are all formed as a result of that same ancient, erosion-resistant layer of rock.
As you ascend, and once you reach the top, keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Peregrine Falcon. These graceful, large raptors are native to the area. They are, in fact, widespread across much of the world. But they were eliminated regionally during the 20th century due to the effects of DDT. Since then, they've been reintroduced to the area successfully and are still protected. Rock climbing routes near their high, windy cliff-side nesting sites are closed periodically to ensure that the birds are able to hatch and raise their offspring in peace. The Peregrine's most well-known feature is their hunting style: taking other birds in mid-flight, they dive from high above, striking their prey at literally breakneck speeds.
Near the summit, you start to get views back down into the gorge, such as this one of an adjacent cliff face covered with blooming rhododendron and azalea.The trail will go around a ridge and curve to the right. An intersection with a faint path - the old Little Table Rock trail - is at the top of the ridge; bear right, uphill. You will immediately pass onto a cooler, wetter slope of the mountain. Here, Carolina Hemlocks grow among the pines and hardwoods (or grew - they may be dead by the time you hike here) with a few Eastern hemlocks as well. Both hemlock species are being ravaged by the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, a non-native pest that has a lot less mercy on its host than the pine beetles have.
There is another intersection on the left; this time, with the Mountains to Sea Trail. Bear right, uphill.
The trail switches back again, climbing in earnest, and goes back onto the open, sunny south side of the mountain. The trail climbs steeply along much of the remainder of the route. Several rock formations stand out along this section of trail. At one point, the trail passes through a neat slot formed by a large boulder that has split away from the main rock face.
As you approach the top, the vegetation gets reduced down to very short, gnarled growth. It's mostly shrubs with a few stunted trees. The trail officially ends on a small flat area where an observation tower once stood. Despite the tower's absence, views are to be had in every direction, and they are spectacular.
You can travel along the ridge to the south if you're willing to scramble and climb over some very rough rocks. Keep in mind that there are sheer cliffs in almost all directions from the top and stay well back away from the edges. Also, obey any signs posted regarding closures for the Peregrine Falcons during the spring nesting season. Table Rock Park is pet friendly but bring your pet on leash, there are drop offs and dangerous cliffs and you want to have fun without any accidents! Guests staying at pet friendly Wilson Creek Cabins in the Wild and Scenic River Gorge below Grandfather Mountain have a getaway that is hard to duplicate. Secluded properties in Natures beauty and terrific outdoor covered lounges by the creek for grilling and chilling after a fun day on the trails! list www.wilsoncreekcabins.com to see our cozy homes in the Gorge! See the video below to experience the Grand Canyon of the East!:
Jeff Shook - owner I dreamed of owning Brown Mountain Lodge as a kid. In 2000 my wife and I purchased it and began our restoration and expansion of the home to share with guests the memories and good times of the Wilson Creek River Gorge area. In 2010 we opened my parents home place and named it Creekside Cozy Cabin. We invite you to experience the peace and serenity of the mountains for your next vacation getaway.