Flat Top Mountain Lookout Hike Route Map

Flat Top Mountain Lookout - Moses Cone Memorial Park

Moses Cone Memorial Park comprises 3,500 acres of rolling hillsides, fields, and ponds along the Blue Ridge Parkway just outside the resort town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  The former estate of Moses H. Cone, who made his fortune in the textile industry in the early 20th Century.  The home he built, now known as both Flat Top Manor or simply the Cone Manor, is the centerpiece of the park.  The views from the columned front porch of the neighboring countryside are stunning and, in the summer, local craft vendors ply their trade within the home.  Surrounding the manor the park boasts over 25-miles of trails, many of which were former carriage roads and so lend well to everything from hikers to bikers to equestrians today.   One of the more popular hikes to enjoy here is the 2.5-mile (one-way) hike to the lookout tower atop Flat Top Mountain.  Though rated as 'Challenging' the route is wide, well-graded, and rarely steep over its entire length.  The reward at the tower is near-360 degree views of the countless peaks and valleys of the North Carolina High Country.  

This hike begins from the main parking area for Flat Top Manor off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 294.  Though it's not necessary I'd highly recommend making the short walk down to the manor house before setting out, especially if its open in the summer season.  If anything the view from the front porch makes the short detour worthwhile.  From the manor house begin the hike by following Flat Top Road, which is the gravel trail breaking uphill to the left towards the carriage house seen from the parking lot.  Once past the carriage house the wide, gravel path dips slightly to pass beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway via a neat stone tunnel.  On the north side of the Parkway keep right at the next junction and you'll officially be on your way to Flat Top Mountain.  The trail/road begins climbing steadily at this point but it's hardly a difficult grade.  Open fields surround you for the initial climb, with spectacular views to the south of neighboring Grandfather Mountain.  Soon the route enters the woods as it switches back and forth up the ridge and then, at about the 3/4-mile mark breaks out into a massive ridge-top field with spectacular views of Flat Top Mountain itself directly ahead.  Shortly after entering the field a short spur trail leads up to the Cone Family Cemetery, which does make a worth-while side trip if you were so inclined.  Otherwise keep heading north through the beautiful open fields.

After a good half-mile of open views you'll reach the upper end of the field and re-enter the forest, which you'll stay within the rest of the way to the summit.  You might notice the grade getting a bit steeper at this point and you won't be wrong.  Luckily, the trail/road simply starts utilizing more frequent switchbacks which reduces the strain of the climb considerably.  Watch for breaks in the trees to your right.  As you climb higher there are a few nice viewpoints overlooking Blowing Rock to the south.  Other than these infrequent views the upper portion of the hike is surrounded by thick woods that might seem a bit monotonous after a little while.  The lookout tower does a good job of hiding itself until the last second as well, so there's no good way to mark your progress until you're actually standing on the summit.  The 40' tower at the summit of Flat Top Mountain was built in 1954, replacing an earlier wooden tower which dated back to around 1900.  The lookout is well-maintained and is in fantastic condition.  A quick climb to the top and almost the entirety of the North Carolina High Country spreads out below you.  Most of the regions major peaks can be spotted, as well as the neighboring towns of Blowing Rock and Boone.  On the clearest of days you might even be able to pick out the peaks surrounding Linville Gorge or even the Black Mountains far to the south.  For the effort, the payoff at the top of the Flat Top Lookout is outstanding.  Once you've enjoyed the view for a while, simply retrace your steps the 2.5-miles back to the manor trailhead.

Overall this is a great little dayhike.  A five mile round-trip hike may seem like a bit of a walk to some but, trust me, as far as five mile hikes in the Southern Mountains go this one is about as smooth as they come.  Also, as just stated above, the reward you get from the the lookout at the end is more than adequate payoff for the effort required to get there.  This is a great dayhike for all ages and abilities and is well-deserved in its popularity.  Beyond that, I'll let the following album do the talking.  It's my pleasure to present you with a hike to the Flat Top Mountain Lookout at Moses Cone Memorial Park...as always, I hope you ENJOY!!!

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  36.149892, -81.691869

Route Type:  Out-and-back        Difficulty:  CHALLENGING  (Petzoldt Rating:  7.00 )

Hike Length:  5.7 miles                 Hike Duration:  2:30

Trailhead Temp:  40'F                  Trail Traffic:  10-25 people

Min. Elevation:  3,980'                  Max. Elevation:  4,558'

Total Vertical Gain:  650'             Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile:  147'

Trails Used (blaze color):  Flat Top Road (unblazed)


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