Doughton Park Hiking Trails

Imagine going to McDonald’s and discovering they serve a killer tomato Bruschetta. Or buying Demon Deacon season tickets, then discovering Tim Duncan has somehow regained his eligibility (and youth).

That’s what stumbling onto Doughton Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway is like. You’re driving America’s beloved scenic highway, you make a pitstop at Milepost 240 and discover you’re in the midst of 30 miles of some of the most scenic hiking trail in the land.

Doughton Park has it all. Along the parkway, the 7.5-mile Bluff Mountain Trail takes you through high mountain meadows, into hemlock forests, to the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment and a dizzying drop of nearly 2,000 feet. Spinning off Bluff Mountain Trail are four trails that take you down the escarpment — with varying degrees of rapidity. The 6.5-mile Grassy Gap Fire Road is the most mellow, following an old roadbed. Flat Rock Ridge Trail, at 5 miles, and the 4.4-mile Cedar Ridge Trail offer more views, while the 2.8-mile Bluff Ridge Primitive Trail is the express lane, sparing neither time nor your knees in its quest to get you down the mountain. Once you’re down, make time to hike the 3.3 miles up Basin Creek to the Caudill Cabin. The destination (a small cabin once occupied by a family of 13), the journey (past waterfalls and remains of the once robust Basin Creek community) are both well worth your while.

Various loops can be put together to get you around Doughton Park. A favorite (and the shortest): Park at the Bluff Mountain parking area, head south on Bluff Mountain Trail for 2.5 miles to Grassy Gap Fire Road. Head down the mountain for 5 miles to the primitive campsite, then put on your game face for the 2.8-mile ascent back up to Bluff Mountain. Just over 10 miles, just under 17 if you throw in the out-and-back up Basin Creek. Or, you can simply saunter about on Bluff Mountain Trail, savoring the ubiquitous views.

One of the advantages to living in Winston-Salem: You’re only an hour and a half from this degree of primo North Carolina mountain hiking.

More info: Blue Ridge Parkway

Maps: Downloadable here, also available at the park

Getting there from downtown Winston-Salem

Difficulty: easy to strenuous
Distance: 1 hour 30 minutes from downtown Winston-Salem
Time to complete: 2 to 8+ hours
Address: Milepost 240, Blue Ridge Parkway
City: Laurel Springs
State: N.C.
Zip: 28644
Latitude: 36.2604
Longitude: 81.1037