If you’re looking for a trail in the High Country area requiring only a moderate effort but offering a reward of a top-notch view, the Flat Rock Trail is for you. A fairly easy slightly uphill walk of less than 20 minutes leads you to what is sort of a big flat rock at the top of the hill. In actuality, there’s a slight slope just before you reach the top and a much more serious slope beyond the peak. However, whoever gave the place its name probably decided against “Almost Flat Rock” as an appropriate term.
Hikers driving to the Flat Rock Trail from the Boone/Blowing Rock area get a bonus — they cross the Viaduct at the 304-mile mark en route to the trailhead four miles south of the Viaduct. If you’re heading south, the parking lot is on the right side of the Blue Ridge Parkway a little beyond the 308-mile marker. Because the Flat Rock Trail is one of the lesser-known spots to hike in the High Country, there’s a fairly good chance that there will be few other vehicles in the parking lot and relatively few people on the trail.
Although the uphill walk is gradual, there are some rocks and roots hikers should watch out for. Fall leaves can be somewhat slippery but add a nice nutty smell to the hike. The trail is never very demanding and regular running or walking shoes should be adequate.
Hikers can learn some things during their walk compliments of a series of knee-high informational signs alongside the trail telling about the Blue Ridge Parkway and explaining the types of plants and trees alongside the trail. The signs have obviously been there for quite some time.
The trail is in the woods until a few yards from the top. When you reach the almost flat rock, the world in front of you opens up to an impressive view which includes some water in the valley below and mountains in the distance. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
Once at the top, the trail continues on a clockwise loop back toward the parking lot with only the first hundred yards or so of the trail duplicated on the up and down trips. A hiker in a hurry might need less than 50 minutes for the round-trip journey. However, because of the photo opportunities at the top, not to mention the picnic potential, you might want to plan on adding at least another half-hour.