Profile Trail to Calloway Peak

  • Highlights: Great views, rock scrambles, wildflowers
  • Distance: 7.8 miles out and back 
  • Elevation Change 2,156 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with lots of rocks, wood and stone steps
  • Difficulty Level: Very strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Profile Parking Area,Grandfather Mountain State Park, Route 105, Banner Elk NC
  • Trail Markings: Red and blue blazes, signs at trail junctions
  • Website: AllTrails and Grandfather Mountain State Park
  • Beer Pairings: Appalachian Mountain Brewery—Hilly Haze IPA & Long Leaf IPA

Trail Map:

The Hike:

Grandfather Mountain has been on our hiking radar for a long time. The hike exceeded all of our expectations. First up: this is not an easy hike. The hike is nearly four steep miles of elevation gain. The rocky trail, switchbacks, 600+ wood and stone steps, rock scrambles, and ladders make for a challenging hike. Factor in possible rapid weather changes and this isn’t a hike for the faint of heart. 

The park and trails open at 8am and in the summer months, all hikers must be off the trail by 7:30pm. The large parking lot is home to rest rooms, drinking water, and a boot washing station. There is no charge to park or hike; however, all day hikers must register. We were among the first hikers on the trail on a Friday in mid-May. The trail is well marked and well maintained.

Profile Trail

The first mile or so of the hike is a pleasant walk through the woods. There are some wood steps and a few stream crossings. Follow the red blazes and signs for Calloway Peak. The fun begins after mile 1. The elevation gain picks up, switchbacks and stone steps help with the climb. The trail passes by several cool rock formations.

Foscoe View, at about 2 miles, has some nice views to the north. Mt. Rogers in Virginia is visible to the north. The weather changes quickly on Grandfather Mountain and our sunny morning was being overtaken by clouds. The Profile View is up next, it does look like an old man’s profile—sort of. The trail gets steeper (and rockier) after Shanty Spring before it meets The Grandfather Trail at 3.6 miles.

Grandfather Trail & Calloway Peak

Bear left at the junction and follow the blue blazes. The Grandfather Trail passes through a Red Spruce and Fraser Fir. A short spur trail on the left leads to The Watagua View with some amazing views to the west. We watched the clouds move in and the views vanished in a few minutes.

We quickly moved on to Calloway Peak, hoping to catch some views before the clouds rolled in. There is a small ladder on the trail to Calloway. Made from 4x4s, this four-step ladder is one of the smaller ladders in the park. We found it easy to ascend and descend on the ladder.  

We were too late as the the visibly dropped to 50 yards. The weather changes quickly on the mountain—sometimes from bad to worse. The weather forecast predicted a chance of thunderstorms in early evening, and with dark clouds rolling in, we decided to begin our descent back to the trailhead.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Appalachian Mountain Brewery in nearby Boone NC has 16 taps of great craft beer, Farm to Flame food truck, and live music on weekends. The brewery is kid and dog friendly and they have a nice beer garden with mountain views.

Kathy loved Hilly Haze (6.6% ABV • 15 IBU), a hazy IPA dry-hopped with a proprietary blend of new age hops with a nice balance of hop aromas and notes of tropical fruit. Pete enjoyed two pints of Long Leaf (7.1% ABV • 74 IBU) Long Leaf IPA, a classic west-coast IPA with citrus piney aroma and resinous character from a blend of bold hops, inspired by North Carolina’s Long Leaf Pine. A tasty Margarita pizza from Farm to Flame, comfy Adirondack chairs, and some great beer was the perfect finish to a great day!

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.