Please note that while this trail is located within Grandfather Mountain State Park, which has free admission, access to the trail is easiest via the Grandfather Mountain Recreation Area, which is private and charges $20/person to enter. Rangers from GMRA patrol the trails, and if you have parked in their parking lot, they request that you return to your car by 6PM.
The Underwood Trail is a short trail leading off of the Grandfather Trail
to the saddle between Attic Window Peak and McRae Peak. Access is via the Grandfather Trail
, where the Underwood Trail separates from this trail approximately 0.5 miles from the start.
The trail starts as a relatively flat hike through a mature hardwood forest with some scrambling over roots and rocks. If it has recently rained, the trail will be muddy and the granite can be quite slick.
After approximately 0.2 miles, you'll reach a ladder (40 feet tall) to help you scramble up over a large rock ledge. After climbing the ladder, the trail becomes noticeably steeper with few switchbacks until reaching the saddle between the peaks. There is one section with a cable-assisted scramble up a granite ledge; this is very slippery after rain and covered with moss, so use caution.
This trail is often less crowded than Grandfather Trail
, and if you have a fear of heights there are fewer ladders, cable climbs, and less alpine exposure on ridgelines. It makes for a good alternative route back from McRae Peak or the Attic Window as you can avoid the sometimes long waits on ladders on the Grandfather Trail
Old-growth North Carolina forest and rhododendrons are prevalent here. Bears are often sighted in the area, so use bear precautions.