Profile Trail to Calloway Peak

HARD 388 reviews
#4 of 150 trails in

Profile Trail to Calloway Peak is a 7.6 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Banner Elk, North Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, camping, and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
7.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,385 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

camping

hiking

nature trips

walking

cave

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

old growth

rocky

scramble

"West Side" of Grandfather Mountain, the Profile trail starts at trail head on Route 105 in Banner Elk, NC, and climbs almost 2000 feet to connect to the Grandfather Trail. Permits available at trail head and Mast General Store, Footsloggers and 105/184 Exxon (free). Beginning from Hwy 105 as a scenic, rolling pathway through seasonal wildflowers, this trail crosses the Watauga River and travels under a hardwood canopy for much of its length. Upper sections, beginning around Foscoe View, get steeper. There are frequent rest stops with stone benches and turnouts. The trail gets a bit muddy when wet. Shanty Spring, at 2.7 miles, marks a transition into a strenuous pathway of tumble-down rock that joins the Grandfather Trail after a climb of 0.3 miles. It makes the transition out of the hardwoods and into the Canadian fir zone of the crest area. The upper section is steep and rocky and calls for careful footwork. At the top of the Profile Trail, you reach the Grandfather trail, which you take 0.4 miles further to the left to reach the highest point, Calloway Peak at 5946 feet. On the way you'll pass by beautiful Watauga View, and then climb three short ladders to reach the peak. The way down can be tough on the knees and the roots and rocks can be very slippery when wet, so take your time. This is an awesome hike on one of the most rugged mountains east of the Mississippi, and hiking conditions with the rocks and roots are more tedious than most trails out west.

We did this trail and absolutely loved it. My kids 10& 12 rocked it but there are places that are a little scary. During the first mile, there is a picturesque area with big rocks and and a mountain stream to take pictures and play in the water. As you wind your way up, it gets harder and becomes very steep. We climbed through rocky, dense tree areas and then reached the peak by climbing up man-made ladders onto boulders. Several trails merge so it was a bit crowded at the top. Beautiful views! One of our favorite family hikes!

9 days ago

Some steps, some switchbacks but generally a moderate climb. The parking lot leads down a winding trail for over a mile, so the return was a bit tougher than usual out and back climbs. Pack a jacket for the gusty stuff up top.

hiking
11 days ago

Diverse and beautiful hike with a glorious view at the summit. Took us 5.5 hours up and back. Not a trail for those with balance or knee issues- parts of the trail flooded very quickly in the rain, and wooden steps and rock scrambles became very slippery - but would happily do it again!

hiking
21 days ago

Great hike with classic Appalachian beauty: big rhododendrons, views of rolling blue-green hills, ferns, a lovely creek, and large flat boulders at the top. The trail was nice in most places, with patches of slippery rocks and roots. I was visiting NC from my home in WA state and this was a great "bang-for-your-buck" hike to experience this area.

Based on other reviews I thought it would be more difficult. Although it wasn't exactly easy, I made it to the top in 2 hours, but maybe it's because I'm fortunate to be able to hike hilly trails a couple of days a week at home. When I got to the top there were patches of clouds blowing in and out, so there were only partial views, but it was still worth it to hike through the lovely green forest. All in all, maybe not for the out-of-shape or new hiker, but if you are an avid hiker, it's not too bad. :)

hiking
1 month ago

Very rocky. Not suitable for dogs. It was cloudy/foggy but had some amazing areas/overlook places. Overall a very amazing trail!

hiking
1 month ago

Easily the best trail in all of NC! From the great parking area, the first 1/4 of the trail descended along the creek through rhododendrons and creek beds. The next 1/2 is almost all switchbacks and stairs with a few opportunities for some bouldering, but is absolutely beautiful! The last 1/4 is an endurance marathon where you climb across rock formations, twisted roots, and take 3 ladders up to the top of Calloway Peak made very slippery on a rainy day! All in all....8.4 miles travelled in the rain but cannot wait to do this trail again soon!

1 month ago

Amazing climb, my personal favorite to date. A wide variety of terrain, rock formations, and even begins next to a picturesque brook. Great rock scrambles. Difficulty level is accurate, not for beginning hikers but you also don't need to be a serious, super skilled hiker either.

hiking
1 month ago

Fun trail! Power hiked it with my 14 year old son. Took us about 3.5 hours for the 7.5 miles with a couple rests. It is pretty technical especially after the fresh spring. Will do again next time we are in the area.

1 month ago

Hubby and I hiked this in August, 2017. It is a tough trail, but so worth it!!
It took us around 5.5-6 hours, round trip, including a 30 minute lunch break at the top. I have back and hip issues, so that probably increased our time a bit, but I loved it!!

1 month ago

Tough hike with great sense of accomplishment!

1 month ago

Greatest trail I have yet hiked. Just do it.

hiking
1 month ago

Best hike I’ve ever been on! Challenging and adventurous! Best payoffs at the top and so many lookout spaces that it took a whole hour longer than expected since we kept stopping to look at the views! Well worth taking a whole day to explore and enjoy! Don’t go if you are afraid of heights or if you do not feel comfortable close to edges because there are a lot on this trail!

hiking
1 month ago

Great trail, the views from the top are amazing.
It is not as hard as some people wrote here, the only difficult section was about 2/3 through, where you have maybe of 10 minutes of nice incline,
Love the ladders part - they were a lot of fun :)

hiking
1 month ago

I may have to go back and re-score all previous hikes. This is a 5 all the way - beautiful foliage, multiple stream crossings, technical climbs, gorgeous views, well-maintained trail and great parking lot amenities.

Seemed to be on the high side of 7.5 miles RT, which took right at 4 hours, 55 minutes. Great to see so many families out on this trail - even though we encountered multiple groups, the trail did not seem crowded.

Scramble up the boulder tumble takes some agility and heart, and on the way back down, it takes patience. Don't rush this hike - it's breathtaking all the way up and all the way down.

1 month ago

The trail was well maintained and easy to follow. This was my first technical trail. It took us a little over 5 hrs to make it up and down. As others have said the last mile is challenging going up and scary coming down ;)

hiking
2 months ago

A beautiful day for a hike. We intended to start from Boone Forks and do the Nuwati/Cragway/DB Scout Trail but closure due weather related trail damage sent us to the Profile Trail. As always this is a good hard hike. We started early and had the trail and Calloway Peak pretty much to our selves except one little red squirrel that loves handouts.

hiking
2 months ago

This hike is challenging, but worth it. The weather was patchy all day, so some of the views were to foggy to see anything... but we had many things to see along the way. Go on his hike if you have the chance, it’s worth every mile!

2 months ago

Absolutely beautiful. I would rate more as a difficult than hard.

hiking
2 months ago

What a beautiful hike. And quite a workout! Definitely go see Calloway Peak and sit for a bit at the nearby overlook.

hiking
2 months ago

What a great hike (May 12th) and what spectacular views from Calloway Peak! This is a well travelled route with the first third easy to moderate, the middle very strenuous as the upward slope seems to endure a very long time and the last third a mixed portion of climb and plateau. Give yourself 6-8 hours to complete this hike (we logged 270 floors climbed and 24000 steps), bring some energy bars and a lunch and lots of water. About 2/3 up is a trickling freshwater spring where you can fill your water bottle for the way down ... and don't underestimate the energy you require for the downhill portion. The views were spectacular from the 4 lookout points at the peak and the few small ladder portions (max ladder height was 6 steps) weren't an issue at all - they're solid and well secured. We were exhausted by the return to the parking lot, but we set ourselves a pretty solid pace clocking complete just over 6 hours!

3 months ago

Bring a lot of water! This hike is very strenuous with many boulders and unconventional changes in elevation.

The views are good but this is more of a challenge rather than one you go for views. This is due to the fact that land devolpment is viewable from most of the side of the mountain that this trail on.

Connect this with the grandfather trail and leave a car at each side for an easy all the way hike that you dont have to hike all the way back from. Or you could head down the mountain if you really dont want to feel your legs the next day.

hiking
3 months ago

Was not expecting how truly steep this hike would get in the last mile. But it was worth every single step once you get to the top. My legs were really feeling this one the next day but if you are in the area this trail up to grandfather is well worth the day spent. It is truly a trail you will not forget. Just wish there were a few more views on the profile trail on the way up to Grandfather. But it sure beats the $20 to just do Grandfather.

3 months ago

Steep sections with gorgeous views.

hiking
3 months ago

Great views! It is a tough trail but worth it! It’s April and the vegetation is blooming, beautiful scenery!

hiking
3 months ago

Well worth it! It pushed me to my limit, but I would gladly do it again and again. I love this place! The beauty is unbeatable.

hiking
4 months ago

Great hike today. Probably the best views I’ve had at Calloway Peak. Strenuous but the views are so worth it.

hiking
4 months ago

What a great hike and it was a great day to boot. A tough one to be sure but well worth it when you get to the top. Around the time I reached the Profile Campsite I was thinking "what's the fuss about this trail?" but it really started to take off after that. That stretch after the spring is really tough. Once you make the Grandfather trail it just becomes fun with a couple of tough stretches. I scrambled over the ladders and onto the rocks that look back at the ridge line back to the park and had lunch there. While it took me my expected time to get up, about 3 hours, with a lot of time on the last mile, it took me quite a long time to come down. The terrain was part of it, plus the hike up wiped me out!
Saw a big pile of bear scat early on which was the topic of discussion with all of the other hikers I met. The only thing I didn't like was that they moved the trailhead and instead of cutting a new trail up the mountain, they instead went down to the old trail head. That last 200 feet of elevation was lousy after that hike!

4 months ago

wow! what a great experience. the trail went from mud to snow to icy. what fun. Calloway Peak offers a nice challenging climb and an amazing foggy howling windy view. can't wait to experience it all again on a sunny morning.

hiking
4 months ago

Great hike! Great changes in vegetation as you climb. Options to connect to other trails. Got a little busy throughout the day. Up hill climb is strenuous and the down hill climb can be hard on the knees. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

5 months ago

Having done the Profile Trail many times over the years, I was surprised to see the new entry off the highway, registration area, restrooms and parking area. Wow! Very nice! The 1st 1/2 mile from the registration area is new trail. It’s a nice warm-up but it tacks on the extra mile round trip which was unexpected. We went past Shanty Springs this time and had heard it was extremely difficult. We found it to be the best part of the trail. It’s challenging but really fun..not scary like I thought.

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