Route: Tanawha Marathon (Double Traverse) North-South-North

Submitted by Ashley Goodman on Sun, 08/21/2022 - 05:00pm
North Carolina, US
26.3 km
Vertical Gain
5,400 ft

The Tanawha (Cherokee for “fabulous hawk” or “fabulous eagle”) Trail is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Grandfather Mountain in northwest North Carolina.  According to its National Park Service (NPS) website and map , the trail is 13.5 miles long; however, other websites and trail signs marked it as 13.1 or 13.3 miles.  GPS will often measure short, due to the heavily wooded areas.  The northern end is at Julian Price Park and the southern end is near Beacon Heights.  The Tanawha blaze is a white feather and it runs jointly with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  Most of the point-to-point trail also parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway, so there are many opportunities to bail out and seek assistance.

The Tanawha Trail offers beautiful views, fauna and flora.  The NPS website mentioned above provides a good description of the trail's highlights.  Elevation data varies.  A north to south traverse has approximately 3,000-3,200 feet in elevation gain, while a south to north traverse has approximately 2,000-2,200 feet in gain.  The “Tanawha Marathon” is most often attempted as a north-south-north traverse.  It is not the elevation that makes this trail difficult, it is the technicality of the slippery roots, rocks and boulders.  During wetter months, you will scramble over slick boulders near the Linn Cove Viaduct near the southern end, navigate slick rocks at Rough Ridge, and slick roots and rocks near the northern end.  Nevertheless, it is a beautiful trail.

At the southern end, most runners continue up to Beacon Heights to see the amazing view (when not obstructed from fog).  At the northern end, the trail is not marked well and slightly difficult to find.  It is immediately off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, across from the Price Park amphitheater, and adjacent to the Price campground.