Latitude /Longitude 36.0823501°N, -81.8301105°W (approx.)
Approx. Elevation: 4,380 feet (approx.)
This is a free stop off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 305.2. and is a popular stop. It a short 1.1-mile trek on a 1400-foot ascent leading to some spectacular views. Access to the Tanawha Trail is located at this stop. For more information on Tanawha trail and firsthand knowledge about the birding there see Tanawha Trail information under the Watauga County section
While located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this stop is part of the Mountains to the Sea Trail the 1150 mile hiking trail across North Carolina.
There are no facilities at this site, except for a kiosk with information.
For local information about this trail, read the following information by Richard Gray, member of High Country Audubon Society and Professor at Appalachian State College.
My Hotspot: Tanawha Trail at Holloway Mountain Road
Article and photos by Richard Gray
The Tanawha Trail stretches for 13.5 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), crossing many habitat types including cove forests, stands of evergreens, rocky outcrops, streams and open grasslands and ascending the flanks of Grandfather Mountain. To access the trail in the area I’m focusing on here, turn north off the BRP near milepost 298.5 onto the gravel Holloway Mountain Rd. Drive about a mile to a parking area on the left. The trail crosses Holloway Mtn. Rd. at this point, and you have a choice of either going west in the direction of Grandfather Mountain, or east (across the road) toward Price Park. I usually start by going to the west.
The obvious trail ascends through the grassy field to a ridge line, but I normally depart from the trail and set off diagonally to the right across the field, ascending as I go. If the growth is too high, tuck your trousers into your socks to avoid ticks. At the boundary of the field, about halfway up the slope, look in the spring and summer for Empidonax flycatchers, especially Least and Willow Flycatchers, as well as Indigo Buntings and woodpeckers of various types. Dead snags here are favorite perches for Northern Flickers. Spring and summer, keep an eye out for warblers, especially Chestnut-sided Warblers and Common Yellowthroats.
Ascend to the top of the ridge where you will meet the trail. Take the trail to the right through a succession of grassy fields and small stands of deciduous trees, past a small cemetery. In the fall, the grassy fields are good places for Palm Warblers. However, if you turn to the left instead, the trail follows along the ridge line, slowly descending in a wide arc back to the parking area. This part of the trail can be very productive during fall migration, as the ridge with its line of trees acts as a mini migrant trap. You may see Black-throated Green Warblers, Cape May Warblers, Pine Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos and many other birds as they come through. There are also small populations of Field Sparrows here, a resident Cooper's Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawks which commonly wheel overhead.
When you get back to the parking lot, you can cross the road and follow the Tanawha Trail to the east through the stile in the fence. (Just beyond the stile can be very overgrown during the late summer, and if it is, you can proceed a hundred yards north along Holloway Mtn. Road to a gated dirt track that will connect you with the trail.) This small grassy area near the road is great for Chestnut-sided Warblers and Indigo Buntings. There are also usually a number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in this area. You can hide in a thicket and get very close to them. During migration almost anything can turn up.
Continue along the trail through another stile until you meet the dirt track referred to above. To continue on the Tanawha Trail, turn right and enter, almost immediately, a mature, mostly deciduous forest. Check for Black-throated Blue Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Black-and-White Warblers, and even the occasional Canada, Yellow-throated, and Blackburnian Warblers. The trail continues along the track, and then, after about a quarter of a mile, leaves the track and continues to the left through a stand of rhododendrons. You have a choice to continue along the track or follow the trail. Both bring rewards. The track will take you to a high grassy hill with lots of beautiful wildflowers. There are fantastic views here of Grandfather Mountain on a clear day and lots and lots of butterflies.
On the other hand, if you continue along Tanawha Trail, it passes through a moist deciduous forest. During the spring and summer, look and listen for Scarlet Tanagers, Vireos, and Ovenbirds. During the fall and winter, look for Brown Creepers, Nuthatches, and Fox Sparrows. Soon the landscape opens out onto a large, hilly, grassy area. Look for Field Sparrows, Indigo Buntings and Eastern Towhees along the trail, as well as Brown Thrashers. In the fall you might see a flock of Wild Turkeys.
Eventually, the trail takes a sharp right turn which leads into a rhododendron thicket. A bridge crosses a small stream, and, with luck, you might find a Louisiana Waterthrush there in the spring. The trail enters a pine forest and then comes to a T. The right fork takes you to Price Park and the Boone Fork trail. The left branch leads once again to open grasslands and connects, after about .1 mile, with Bee Tree Creek Trail which would lead down to the confluence of Bee Tree Creek and Boone Fork Creek. However, before the trail descends down Bee Tree Creek Trail, there will be a trail to the left. That will take you back to the Tanawha Trail right at the point where it emerged from the forest and thence back to your car.