Hawksbill Mountain Trail
At A Glance
1.1 mi one-way
Difficulty Rating: 1.1 (More Difficult)
Steepness: Climbs Steeply
Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Trail Number: 217
Climbs along a newer alignment from the trailhead parking on Table Rock Road, where the trail is generally in good shape. Passes through a few switchbacks so the lower portion is not too steep. The area is mostly dry, with a forest of oak, maples, sourwood, and the usual mountain laurel and rhododendron. Look also for the area's shortleaf pine and, my favorite, the Carolina Hemlock. A couple of nice view points open up atop small rock outcrops beside the trail.
You'll reach a junction at the crest of Jonas Ridge on the rim of the gorge; turn left to continue up to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain. (This junction usually has a sign, but this is within the wilderness area, so don't count on it). The trail gets considerably steeper, rockier, and eroded past the junction. Wraps around to the south side of the summit and then turns west, straight up the slope; look for a newer side path on the right which includes an extra switchback to make the final climb a wee bit longer but less steep and eroded than the path straight uphill. Both paths emerge at a flat spot on the ridge where a trail goes left and right in a forest of various shrubs such as blueberry and sand myrtle, Shortleaf Pine, and still-healthy Carolina Hemlock.
To the left (south), the trail leads to a lower rock outcrop with a nice view more to the south and east toward Table Rock, Lake James, Shortoff Mountain and of course the Linville Gorge. The path to the right (north) leads to the higher summit with a 360-degree view which also includes the northern part of the gorge, Sitting Bear Mountain, Grandfather Mountain, and the Black Mountains in the distance.
Use caution as there is plenty of flat rock to hang out on near the summit, but there are some significant drop-offs and cliffs around the edges.
Most people hike this as a simple 2.2 mi out-and-back; however, you can combine it with a walk along Table Rock Road, the Sitting Bear trail, and the Jonas Ridge trail for a nice, 3.0 mi loop.
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