View – the summit of Table Rock Mountain has spectacular 360 degree unobstructed views from a relatively flat rocky summit area. The best views are looking north and south down the length of the Linville Gorge. You can see Lake James to the south and Grandfather Mountain to the north.
Hike Profile – there are a lot of options for this hike but the hike described here is a challenging loop hike that starts with a gentle descent on the Spence Ridge Trail. When the hike leaves the Spence Ridge Trail for the Little Table Rock Trail, it starts a strenuous climb until it intersects with the Mountains to Sea Trail at the base of Table Rock Mountain summit area. The climb to the summit on the Table Rock Mountain Trail is a moderate climb.
The return is a moderate descent on the Mountains to Sea Trail and a logging road back to the trailhead.
Trail Surface – an easy walking dirt and loose rock trail for the most part. The trail to the summit is quite rocky and can be wet and slippery with ice in cold weather. The summit area requires rock scrambles over large boulders but is well worth the effort. The upper part of the Mountains to Sea trail during the descent is rocky and requires some attention.
Environment – the hike is basically a forest hike of the typical hardwood and pine trees common in this area.
Navigation – after about 0.4 miles from the trailhead, the Spence Ridge Trail branches off to the right – keep going straight at this point onto the Little Table Rock Mountain Trail. After another 0.3 miles, the Little Table Rock Mountain Trail enters a wide, flat open area with pine trees. At this point, the trail makes a sharp switchback to the left and descends slightly to a small creek crossing. This turn is easy to miss so pay attention.
The Little Table Rock Mountain trail is easy to navigate and will intersect the Mountains to Sea trail at the top of a ridge. Go left onto the MTS and after a very short distance, bear right at a fork to reach the summit. On the return from the summit, turn right at this fork to continue on the MTS trail down to trailhead.
Near the trailhead, the MTS descends some log steps into a wide grassy area. Leave the MTS trail as this point and take a left onto an old logging road. The logging road will end at the Spence Ridge Trail trailhead.
Directions to Trailhead – from Marion, take SR 221 north towards Linville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just before reaching the BRP, take a right onto SR 183 and then a right onto SR 181. As you go south on 181, you will see an entrance to the National Forest on the right on Gingercake Road. Continue on SR 181 at this point and take a right onto the next intersection with Gingercake Road (this is the other end of the Gingercake Road). Continue on Gingercake Road until the intersection with Table Rock Road. Take a left onto Table Rock Road. This road starts out paved but soon becomes a typical dirt Forest Service road complete with washboards and potholes but is in generally good condition. The Spence Ridge Trail trailhead is located 4.25 miles from the intersection of Gingercake Road.