Rock Castle Gorge Trail
ElevationAscent: 2,377' 724 m
Descent: -2,381' -726 m
High: 3,553' 1,083 m
Low: 1,740' 530 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 36% (20°)
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“Experience an incredible 11-mile hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.”— Roanoke Outside
As you hike down the sometimes steep trail, you might be tempted to think of this botanical haven as a slice of wilderness left untouched by man, but that idea quickly vanishes as you begin to see old homesites along the trail. The banks of Rock Castle Creek were once home to more than 70 families who farmed the land and harnessed the stream to power their mills.
This steep trail is less strenuous if taken downhill from the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Rocky Knob Campground. The trail drops more than 1,000 feet in its first three miles. The predominantly oak-hickory forest also features maples, tuliptrees, bigtooth aspens, basswoods, and mountain laurel.
At mile 3.2 of the hike, you'll reach the site of a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp, now a designated backcountry campsite. The only remains of the CCC camp are the foundations of old buildings. The required camping permit for this site is available at no charge from either the Rocky Knob Campground or Visitor Center.
The trail reaches its junction with the Hardwood Cove Nature Trail at mile 5.5 and begins to climb out of the gorge. There are many nooks and crannies to explore a half-mile later when the trail goes through Bare Rocks, an extensive boulder field.
The Rock Castle Gorge Trail tunnels through rhododendron as it climbs up to Grassy Knoll at mile 7 of the hike. The trail opens up in another half mile with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. For the remainder of the hike, the trail parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, passing by Rock Castle Gorge Overlook at mile 9. Beyond that overlook, it is 0.8 miles to Rocky Knob Summit (elev. 3572').
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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, Need to Know, History & Background
Land Manager: NPS - Blue Ridge Parkway