Let's go Hiking

If you are an outdoorsman and love to hike, there's several options for you in the Boone area. Some hikes are challenging, some not so much, but most offer scenery and options for photographers in the spring, summer, fall or winter.

The trails listed below are just a handful but please do your research before you decide to hike. Flip-flops are not what you want to wear on a hike.

Blue Ridge Parkway Trails

Trails located along the Blue Ridge Parkway offer hikers just about any level of trekking their hearts might desire. Some of the trails are long and challenging, others are short loops leading to waterfalls or scenic vistas. For more information, phone (828) 295-7591 or (828) 295-3782.

• Mountains to the Sea Trail: The trail is broken down into sections. The sections closest to Boone is sections 13-17: Blue Ridge Parkway North Beacon Heights to Devil’s Garden Overlooks. It covers 88-miles and crosses several main roadways. It actually begins at the rugged base of Grandfather Mountain. For more information visit the website: www.ncmst.org.

• Doughton Park Trails: Doughton Park, located in Ashe County near Laurel Springs, has over 30 miles of hiking trails ranging from modest strolls to day-long outings. Some examples include: Bluff Mountain Trail: 7.5 miles, moderate; Cedar Ridge Trail: 4.4 miles, strenuous; Grassy Gap Fire Road: 6.5 miles, easy (horses allowed); Basin Creek Trail: 6.6 miles, moderate; Fodder Stack Trail: 2 miles, moderate. Milepost 241. Call (336) 372-8568 for trail maps.

• The Cascades Trail: One of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most scenic trails—and one of its easiest—this 0.5 mile turn-around leads to the scenic Cascades waterfalls. It begins at the Cascades parking lot, about three miles north of Deep Gap, Milepost 271.9.

• Moses Cone Carriage Trails: Easy to moderate. The Moses Cone Park includes 25 miles of gently sloping carriage trails of varying lengths, available to hikers, joggers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. Most trails begin near the Moses Cone Manor, Milepost 294.0.

• Green Knob Trail: Starting at Sims Pond (Milepost 295), this moderate 2.4 mile trail winds along a stream through rhododendron forest, then changes scenery to climb up along a ridgeline.

• Boone Fork Trail: A moderate/strenuous loop leading through deep woods and along a cascading river of 4.9 miles in length. The trailhead is located in the Price Park Picnic Area, Milepost 296.5.

• Price Lake Trail: An easy trail leading around scenic Price Lake for 2.7 miles. If you are lucky the beavers will be working. Trailhead is at Price Lake parking area, Milepost 297.0.

• Tanawha Trail: This trail, 13 miles in length, can be started at either the Price Park Campground, in Blowing Rock, or at the Linn Cove Viaduct’s parking lot, at Grandfather Mountain (Milepost 305.5). Check with Grandfather Mountain for a map of the trail.

• Linn Cove Viaduct Access Trail: The world-famous Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering masterpiece, can best be seen from this trail, which begins at the Linn Cove Visitor Center, Milepost 304.4. The trail actually travels underneath the bridge, giving hikers an unparalleled view of this unique construction project. The trail is handicapped accessible for part of the way, and is a relatively easy stroll, but does link up with the Mountains to the SeaTrail, Nuwati, Boone Fork and the Tanawha Trail.

• Beacon Heights: A short hike gives you access to great views of Grandfather, the Linville Falls area, Hawksbill, and Table Rock. A nice place to hang out in the sun. Milepost 305.2.

• Linville Falls Trails: Several trails begin at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, in Linville Falls. All less than a mile in length, some lead to the top of the falls while two lead to the bottom of Linville Falls. All are recommended, although the lower falls trails can be a bit strenuous but give the better images from below. Milepost 316.4.

• Linville River Bridge Trail: This very short trail takes you down to the Linville River underneath one of the oldest old arched stone bridges on the Parkway. Picnic tables, restrooms, and water are all available. Going North on the Parkway, take a left towards the Linville picnic area and another left just before entering the picnic area. Milepost 316.5.

• Chestoa View Loop Trail: A little over a half a mile long, this trail gives you a great view of Table Rock. Milepost 320.8.

• Crabtree Falls Trail: A strenuous 2.6 mile loop which leads to both the bottom and top of Crabtree Falls. This trail begins and ends in the Crabtree Falls Campground’s parking area, near Little Switzerland, Milepost 339.5.

• Other Trails: Several small trails of varying difficulty dot the Parkway south past the Linn Cove Viaduct. For a listing of mileposts and trail lengths, call the Gillespie Gap ranger office at (828) 765-6082.

Grandfather Mountain Trails

Grandfather Mountain, one of the tallest and most rugged in the Eastern United States, is crisscrossed with well maintained trails, most of them for experienced hikers. Some lead into Grandfather’s deep woods, but most scale cliffs that can sometimes be dizzying in height. Always carry water, food and a trail map and wear sturdy boots.

Permits are required for trail access, and hikers are strongly advised to exercise caution in case of thunderstorms or other adverse weather conditions. For further information phone (828) 733-2013 or (828) 737-0833, send an e-mail to hiking@grandfather.com or look online at www.grandfather.com.

Park Side Trails

• The Bridge Trail: Grandfather’s newest trail begins at the Black Rock Parking Area and meanders through forested areas, eventually traveling underneath the Mile High Swinging Bridge. An easy 30 minute walk.

• Black Rock Nature Trail: This self-guided nature trail begins in the parking lot just below Grandfather’s Swinging Bridge and is good for beginning hikers. It’s a 1.0 mile turn-around through the forests of this majestic mountain. Offers an excellent view.

Crest Trails

• Grandfather Trail: This is the big one! It begins at Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge and eventually hits all of Grandfather’s three highest peaks. This 2.4 mile trail requires approximately 5 hours of hiking time to travel the entire length. It’s extremely rugged, with only wooden ladders making some sheer cliff faces accessible. It intersects with several other trails at its northern terminus.

• Underwood Trail: 0.5 mile bypass around McRae Peak that lets hikers avoid most of the ladders, ropes and/or severe weather on the peak. There is one ladder. Strenuous and rocky.

West Side Trails

• Profile Trail: 2.7 miles. The lower part of the trail is an easy out-and-back leg stretcher, but the upper section is fairly strenuous. Links with Calloway Trail. The trailhead is located near the Shoppes of Tynecastle on Highway 105 in Banner Elk.

• Calloway Trail: 0.3 mile strenuous trail that links the Profile Trail (at Shanty Spring) and the Grandfather Trail (at Calloway Gap)

• Bottom-to-Top Linked Trail Outing: Profile Trail (2.7 miles) to Calloway Trail (0.3 mile) to Grandfather Trail (2.4 miles) Very strenuous – an all day outing for serious hikers only.

East Side Trails

• Daniel Boone Scout Trail: Strenuous. Ascends 2,000 feet in just 2.6 miles (allow 4.5 hours for round trip). Recommended access is from the Boone Fork Parking Area via the Tanawha Trail. Strenuous and steep trail to Calloway Peak, the highest point in the Blue Ridge. 

• Nuwati Trail: 1.2 miles, easy but rocky. Located 0.4 miles on Tanawha Trail from Boone Fork Parking Area.

• Cragway Trail: Rocky and strenuous trail that links Nuwati and Daniel Boone Scout Trails. Beautiful views from this trail. 1.0 mile.

• Asutsi Trail: 0.4 mile. An easy connecting trail from Hwy 221 at Serenity Farm to Boone Fork Footbridge. Provides winter access to the East Side Trails.


Permits are required for hiking all Grandfather Mountain trails and are available at the following locations: 

Grandfather Mountain Main Entrance, U.S. 221, Linville. Trailhead entrances at the Nuwati and Profile Trail provide a free permit into the park.

Linville Gorge Trails

Here is a list of some of the more popular and longer trails in the Gorge area. The Linville Gorge Wilderness is one of the most remote, rugged wilderness areas in the entire Eastern United States. Trails are marked at the trailhead, but are not signed or blazed once inside the wilderness. Make sure you know how to read a topographical map and use a compass. Be prepared!

Some trails include crossings of the Linville River--exercise extreme caution when crossing moving water. Hikers, campers, and rock climbers get lost within this wilderness area annually, and deaths are not uncommon. Contact the U.S. Forest Service office in Marion for maps, permits, information on other trails, and safety details. Permits are required for overnight outings. For more information, phone (828) 652-2144.

• Linville Gorge Trail: 11.5 miles ranging from easy to strenuous, well-marked to poorly maintained. Not for beginners! Take your compass and topo map and enjoy riverside hiking through virgin forest in the bottom of the gorge.

• Sandy Flats Trail: A strenuous trail on the west rim of the Linville Gorge. 1.3 mile in length and rather poorly maintained – be careful!

• Babel Tower Trail: Located on the west rim, this trail has an elevation change of 1,000 feet within 1.3 miles. Trail Report: Click here to view slideshow

• Cabin Trail: A strenuous 1-mile descent starting at Forest Service Road 1238. Poorly marked and maintained, so take your map and compass and exercise extra caution. 

• Cambric Branch Trail: Accessed from Shortoff Mountain Trail, this 1.2 mile trail descends along a ridgeline into the gorge. Your strenuous exercise is rewarded with good views. 

• Conley Cove: This is a popular trail thanks to its more gradual descent into the gorge. It accesses Rock Jock Trail on the way to the gorge floor. A moderate 1.3 mile hike with good views along the way. 

• Bynum Bluff Trail: One mile long, this west rim trail starts out easy but becomes strenuous. A short spur from the main trail leads to great views of the river and gorge. 

• Devil’s Hole Trail: This strenuous 1.5 mile trail descends into the gorge and connects with the Linville Gorge Trail. Be careful crossing the river!

• East Rim Trails: Included are Devil’s Hole Trail (1.5 miles); Jonas Ridge Trail (4.4 mile roundtrip); Table Rock Gap Trail (1.6 miles). These and many other Linville Gorge trails interconnect to make trips of varying length.

• Pinch In Trail: The southernmost access trail into the wilderness area, this very steep and rocky trail is a strenuous 1.4 miles that affords good views. 

• Spence Ridge Trail: A moderate 1.7 mile descent from the east rim to the gorge floor, this is a well-used access point to the area. Cross the river to connect to the Linville Gorge Trail.

• Table Rock Summit Trail: 1.4 miles, moderate. This trail ascends from the Table Rock parking area to the towering, 4,000 foot summit on the rim of the gorge. Views are worth the hike. The Mountains to the Sea Trail uses/crosses over this trail.

• Shortoff Mountain Trail: A moderate 5.2 mile roundtrip starts at the Table Rock parking area. The 2.6 mile trail follows the dramatic edge of the Linville Gorge to Shortoff Mountain, with great views of the gorge, Lake James, and the NC Piedmont.

• Hawksbill Trail: This 1.5 mile moderate roundtrip starts on Forest Service road 210. The short steep hike goes to the top of Hawksbill Mountain. The top provides beautiful views of the gorge and back to Table Rock.

Wilson Creek Proposed Wilderness Area

The Wilson Creek Proposed Wilderness area, National Forest Service land composed of Lost Cove Ridge and the Harper’s Creek Area, borders the Blue Ridge Parkway in Avery County. Twenty-five miles of primitive wilderness trails offer excellent hiking and backpacking opportunities for travelers in this little-known, out of the way (but only about 45 minutes from Boone!) wilderness area. 

Call Pisgah National Forest at (828) 682-2144 for details. Maps available through the Pisgah office or area outfitters. The following are a few of the trails offered in this area:

• Huntfish Falls: Moderately strenuous, 1.4 mile roundtrip descends steeply to a big pool beneath a 10 ft. falls. Starts on forest service road 464.

• Lost Cove Trail: This moderate 6 mile roundtrip starts at Huntfish Falls and follows Lost Cove Creek for 3 miles.

• Big Lost Cove Cliffs Trail: Easy 3 mile roundtrip starts on forest service road (FSR) 464. Offers excellent view of Grandfather Mountain.

• Wilson Creek Trail/Wilson Creek Access/White Rocks Trail: These three trails combine to create an 8.8 mile, moderate to strenuous outing. Offers remote outdoors with fishing, abundant wildlife and rugged terrain.

• Harper Creek Trail: Strenuous 6.3 mile trail, connects to 9 other area trails, leading to gorgeous waterfalls, aspiring views, and excellent backpacking opportunities.

Mount Jefferson Park

Mount Jefferson State Park covers 541 acres and hikers can view North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The abundance of plants and shrubs led to the area’s protection in 1975. For more info, phone (336) 246-9653.

• Rhododendron Trail: A moderate 1.1 mile trail that starts near the end of the summit trail. Self-guided booklets are available at the trailhead, providing information about points of interest at various stations along the trail. The trail is at its most beautiful in early June when the purple-flowered Catawba rhododendron is in bloom. Magnificent view of summit ridge and valley below.

• Summit Trail: Beginning at the parking lot on Mount Jefferson, the summit trail passes through the picnic ground and ascends 0.3 miles to the highest point on Mount Jefferson. Moderate.

Roan Mountain Trails

Roan Mountain and the Roan Mountain Highlands straddle the North Carolina/Tennessee border about a 45 minute drive from Boone. Several designated hiking trails, ranging up to four miles in length and varying in difficulty, meander through the park’s forests and stretches of Grassy Balds. For the experienced hiker, the famed Appalachian Trail crosses Roan Mountain at one of its most scenic junctures. The top of the mountain is open from April to October. For more information, phone (423) 772-3314.

• Cloudland Trail: A 3-mile intermediate trail, the Cloudland Trail follows the crest of Roan Mountain, with a trailhead at the top of the Roan. 

• Gardens Trail: This trail, 1 mile in length, is paved and travels throughout Roan Mountain’s famed rhododendron gardens which usually bloom in June. This trail is handicapped accessible. 

• Appalachian Trail: The Appalachian Trail crosses Roan Mountain, literally going “right over the top.” It’s difficult trekking in spots, but well worth the effort. The view is beautiful and if you are lucky the horses might be grazing in the field. Check the AT trail maps for shelters and springs if you plan on a trail trek.

Beech Mountain Trails

A series of nature trails crisscross Beech Mountain, all passing through gently sloping woodlands and passing over several of Beech’s main roadways. For more information, phone (828) 387-9283 or visit www.hikingbeechmtn.com.

• Lake Coffey Course: This scenic 1/4 mile course wraps around the lake and is perfect for both walking and jogging.

• Pond Creek Trail: This easy to moderate 2 mile trail begins at Tamarack Road, following the creek past Lake Coffey to Locust Ridge Road. The lower end of the trail has a few small waterfalls. Park at Perry Park area.

• Grassy Creek Trail: This easy 1.2 mile trail follows the creek from Hawthorn Road and ends at Grassy Gap Creek Road.

• Cherry Gap Trail: An easy to moderate 1.6 mile walk up undeveloped Wild Iris Road. Start at Cherry Gap Road.

• Buckeye Gap Loop Trail: Moderate 8.4 miles.

• West Bowl Buckeye Creek Trail: Moderate 3.4 miles.

• Grassy Gap Creek Trail: Easy to moderate 2 miles.

• Smoketree Trail: Easy to moderate 2 mile loop.

Appalachian Trail

Nearly 100 years ago, outdoor enthusiasts from New York and New England first began thinking about a hiking trail that would lead “from Maine to Georgia,” or the entire length of the Appalachian Mountains.

From its inception to today, the Appalachian Trail has inspired the dreams of many a hiker. Some take on some part of the storied trail, while others are not content until they conquer every last step of the AT.

The Appalachian Trail approaches the High Country from the Cherokee National Forest in northeastern Tennessee. Along Avery and Mitchell counties, it actually follows the North Carolina-Tennessee border from Elk Park Highway down to near Erwin, Tennessee.

To view a map of the Appalachian Trail, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/find-a-hike/interactive-map

Damascus, Virginia hosts a three-day weekend event dedicated to the Appalachian Trail called Trail Days, complete with craft and food vendors, informational booths, live music and more. For more information, visit www.traildays.us.

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It’s winter in the High Country, but there’s no need to put those hiking boots away for the season. With the right gear and the right attitude, you’ll be rewarded with the unique experiences of cold-weather hiking, including different views, different colors and different sounds than you’ll …

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Across the state of North Carolina, explaining where one lives locally in proximity to Grandfather Mountain is a surefire way for inquirers to pinpoint what part of the world you are from.

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Autumn in the mountains of North Carolina draws people from all over the country. During peak season, the surrounding area is flooded with leaf lookers searching for some spectacular color combinations.

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Conley Cove is one of the favorites of the Linville Gorge for many hikers. At No. 2, it is a well-traveled trail that will test you — but not like some of the others in the wilderness area. It was set up to ease the pain of the 1,025 feet of elevation gain just more than a mile long. It was …

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“Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.” (John Muir)

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So, you’re interested in being pulled by an airplane at least 1,500-feet above ground, while being connected to a smaller set of wings that has a three-wheel landing gear.

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Marked by its signature white circle, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail weaves its way across North Carolina and offers some of the most picturesqe views in the High Country.

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RALEIGH — A North Carolina New Year’s tradition continues in 2018 with First Day Hikes in North Carolina State Parks on Jan. 1.

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BOONE — A contract with Boone-based Destination by Design to plan for the redevelopment of Howard Knob County Park to include restrooms and a viewing deck, as well as to plan for wayfinding signage in Watauga County, was approved by the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority board on T…

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WEST JEFFERSON — The New River State Park has acquired an additional 34 acres in Ashe County thanks to the New River Conservancy and its commitment to the protection of the river and the lands surrounding it, the conservancy announced.

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ELK PARK — It’s a tragic story that’s been told far too many times in Avery County. A visitor to Elk River Falls arrives for a day of fun and swimming at one of the area’s most majestic waterfalls, and leaves in an ambulance, a helicopter or, worse yet, a body bag.

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In the 1880s, when Shepherd Monroe Dugger and J. Erwin Calloway operated the hotel on Grandfather Mountain, they frequently took guests on hikes. For a small fee, one could climb the summit and take in the incredible scenery. Of course, Dugger and his fellow trampers were not the first to ex…

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There are many, many reasons while Milepost 294 is among the most popular destinations on the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. First and foremost is Flat Top Manor, also known as Moses Cone Manor, the former home of Moses and Bertha Cone.

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If you’re hiking a trail in the High Country near the Blue Ridge Parkway, chances are you’ll see a white circle painted on a tree.

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NEBO — The Linville Gorge, located on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, is gearing up for the busy summer season with the opening of the Linville Information Cabin and the beginning of this year's Wilderness permit requirements.

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ASHEVILLE — The return of spring is the perfect time to get outside and check out what’s blooming around Asheville and across the state. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross) and North Carolina State Parks today announced the return of Hike NC, the free hiking program tha…

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SEVEN DEVILS – In a town council meeting on Feb. 14, the town of Seven Devils authorized a pre-application for a Recreation Trails Program Grant for the new Peak Mountain Trail.

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For the hearty, well-equipped adventurous spirit, hiking isn’t just a summer activity. In fact, the cold weather provides a challenging and unique perspective of some the High Country’s best-traveled trails.

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With hundreds of miles of trails winding across the area’s highest peaks and lowest valleys, hikers of all walks of life can find the perfect trek for any skill level right here in the High Country.

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If you are an outdoors person and love to hike, there are several options for you in the Boone area. Some hikes are challenging, some not so much, but most offer scenery and options for photographers in the spring, summer, fall and winter.

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ELK RIVER FALLS — Only a month and a half has passed since 39-year-old Newland resident Jacques Downing became the latest in a long list of individuals who have tragically lost their lives jumping from the top of Elk River Falls.

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BLOWING ROCK — Gov. Pat McCrory made an appearance in Blowing Rock Aug. 12 to present a $145,000 Department of Transportation statewide contingency fund grant to construct a bridge on the Middle Fork Greenway trail.

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If you are an outdoors person and love to hike, there are several options for you in the Boone area. Some hikes are challenging, some not so much, but most offer scenery and options for photographers in the spring, summer, fall and winter.

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With hundreds of miles of trails winding across the area’s highest peaks and lowest valleys, hikers of all walks of life can find the perfect trek for any skill level right here in the High Country.

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Amy Renfranz is the new Education Specialist at Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation (GMSF). She is a Certified Naturalist through the Yellowstone Institute and a Certified Environmental Educator in the state of North Carolina. Her comments are made independently and do not reflect the views of GMSF.

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JEFFERSON — Three different groups from Ashe County recently contributed $16,000 to the early phase of a project to make a hiking trail linking Mount Jefferson to Watauga County.

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I do not think that there is any animal more charismatic than the squirrel. Love them or hate them, they have spunk. Sometimes, they have too much spunk.

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Among the best perks of living in the High Country are numerous hiking trails available to the public. However, people don’t always have time to drive far along the Blue Ridge Parkway or scale a mountain during busy times of the year. Luckily, there are several trails available in area towns…

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Recently, it has been brought to my attention that my writing never strays from three topic areas. A friend pointed out to me that I seem to be stuck on topics about survival, adaptations and/or reproduction.

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JEFFERSON — Three students from Appalachian State University have partnered with Chief Ranger Jeff Matheson of Mount Jefferson State Natural Area to create a Centennial Night Hike. This program will celebrate a century’s worth of history of the North Carolina State Parks and Mount Jefferson.

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If you're visiting the High Country, you'll find plenty of picturesque scenery, long-range views and unique photo opportunities. Among them is Rough Ridge, a hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway that offers visitors the chance to take a daredevil picture:

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