Hawkbill Rock via the Snowball Trail Pisgah National Forest, NC
DURATION 1-2 hours
There And
Back Again
Hawkbill Rock via the Snowball Trail

May 18, 2020 - Many parks and hiking trails are open but some are still closed or limiting capacity. Call ahead to verify status if possible. While hiking, continue to follow social distancing practices. Stay safe people.

Avoid the crowds at nearby Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle and take the more difficult trail to the amazing views from Hawkbill Rock along the Snowball Trail. Steep elevation and rocky terrain keep things interesting on this short hike that will still get you sweating. Just 30 minutes north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this hike makes an excellent quick adventure. If you want a slightly longer hike, try Hawksbill Rock via Craggy Gardens Picnic Area to add a mile and almost 400 feet of elevation gain.

Begin this hike at the 3-way intersection on the road up to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Parking is just along the road and on the divider. The trail begins next to the metal gate. Hike up the steps and pass a small field on the left.

At a tenth of a mile in, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail splits off to the left. Stay straight, following the yellow blaze. For the next half-mile, you'll ascend over 400 feet to the summit of Snowball Mountain. Other than a minor view on a side trail at .3 miles, there's nothing to see here. While there are several side trails, they are easy to ignore. The only notable exception is on the way down Snowball Mountain a side trail splits to the left. Look for the yellow blaze and stay right.

Once you begin to ascend again, you're almost there. This is the steepest section of trail, gaining at a rate of over 1800 feet per mile. Luckily, it's short. On the way up, a couple views open to the left on short trails. Soon you'll come to an almost vertical rock face. It looks menacing, but the rock is very rough providing good grip and small ledges to climb up. If wet, be very careful. At the top of this obstacle, look to the left for a side trail to Hawkbill Rock. You can see if from the trail.

Climbing down to the lower ledge of Hawkbill Rock, you'll get over 180-degree views to the south towards the Blue Ridge Parkway. The most prominent mountain in your view is Snowball Mountain that you just summited. Try not to think about hiking back up it. Soak up the sun then make your way back the same way you came.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
0.2 mi
16 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
0.2 mi
81 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
0.4 mi
248 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.2 mi
217 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
0.4 mi
528 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
0.0 mi
0.0 mi - Trailhead
0.06 mi
0.06 mi - Small Field on Left
0.11 mi
0.11 mi - Stay Straight The Mountains-to-Sea splits to the left, but stay straight, following the sign for the Snowball Trail and Hawkbill Rock.
0.3 mi
0.3 mi - Side Trail to View on Left
0.88 mi
0.88 mi - Stay Right Unmarked side trail splits to the left. Stay to the right, following the yellow blaze.
1.35 mi
1.35 mi - Hawkbill Rock Climb a vertical rock face then immediately take the side trail on the left to Hawkbill Rock. Climbing down to the lower ledge provides even better views.
length2.7 miles
difficulty8.4 Easy-Medium
duration1 - 2 hours
features Dog Friendly  Summit  Views 
trail typeThere And Back Again
blazeWhite Circle (Mountains-to-Sea), Yellow (Snowball)
elevation gain1080 ft.
park/forestPisgah National Forest
ranger districtAppalachian Ranger District
632 Manor Road
Mars Hill, NC 28754
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.699968, -82.398943 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°42, W 82°23.94 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°41'60'', N 35°41'60'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.699968, -82.398943 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°42, W 82°23.94 most GPS units use this one
N 35°41'60'', N 35°41'60'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
On the road to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, park at the 3-way intersection with the gated road. The trailhead is next to the gate.
Parking Capacity
12-15 vehicles parked along the roadside and on the center divider.
Very rocky and rooty in sections.
A few downed trees. You can get under 2 of them but one was more difficult to get around.
Just before Hawkbill Rock, you will have to climb almost vertically up a rough rock face. Be careful when wet and slippery, as well as on Hawkbill Rock itself.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-1 year ago
Worth The View
This hike is either up or down at a steep rate. But the amazing view at Hawkbill Rock is worth the effort. One couple was already there but once they left I had the rock all to myself. That's really the best way to enjoy any view.
Easy-Medium | Hiked Spring 2019
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