Pisgah National Forest is a huge park and many of the top trails and sights are spread out. It’s a good idea to plot out where they are along the parkway so you save yourself time. In Part 4 we’ll cover the hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway that are North East of Asheville in a linear fashion, starting at 40 minutes from downtown.
+Craggy Gardens, mile marker 364
With it’s massive blooms of rhododendron in the spring, splendid views, stark exposed rocks, and closeness to Asheville – it’s no wonder why this is such a popular destination on the parkway. Stop at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center [364 Blue Ridge Pkwy, Black Mountain, NC 28711] to grab a map or use the restroom. Take in the view from this site on the side of the road, it is majestic.
Even on a day with heave cloud coverage, the strong winds frequently pushed them away to uncover the views below. Bring a jacket for this high altitude area. A great place to stretch your legs is the Craggy Gardens Trail which begins from this parking lot.
A short ½ mile climb up to a picnic shelter was extra eerie shrouded in fog.
The trail continues on the long distance Mountains-to-Sea Trail 1175 miles from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the Outer Banks. Up the road pull off for the Craggy Pinnacle Trail, a 1.5 mile RT out and back, gaining 250 feet of elevation.
This has to be one of the best trails to view the springtime flora.
Rhododendron tunnels you through the path which forks, leaving you a choice of which first: Up
Both are stunning vistas and strangely peaceful in the fog.
+Crabtree Falls, mile marker 339
A very photogenic 70 foot waterfall located in a campground is accessible by a 3.5 mile loop trail.
The park is very well signed and there is even a restroom along the trail (meant for the campers). I spied fire pink wildflowers for the first time, they were dazzling.
If you’re looking for something educational, check out the nearby Museum Of North Carolina Minerals [79 Parkway Maintenance Rd, Spruce Pine, NC 28777] right off the parkway, it’s free to enter.
+Linville Falls, mile marker 316
One of the most popular destinations along the parkway, this three tier 90-foot waterfall spills into 12 mile Linville gorge, the deepest in the eastern United States. Before you set out take a look at the map outside of the Visitor’s Center.
There are three distinct trails in the park totaling up to just about four miles of hiking. Erwins View trail is a 1.6 mile RT out and back hike that takes a nice path through scenic woods filled with wildlife – I saw waxwings, thrush, and a snake
Multiple viewpoints give you a different look at the tiers of the falls and gorge.
At Upper Falls there is a great place to spread out and hang for a while,
an informational panel even gives a neat geology lesson about a fault line.
This is the most popular trail and the one I went onto intuitively, but you must head back to the visitor’s center to connect with the other trails.
Plunge Basin trail allows you to get up close and personal with the falls. It is a strenuous hike down many stairs to Linville River, scramble over the rocks to get the best view.
Visit the fork to the overlook on your way up or back for another fantastic perspective – just remember you’ll have to head back up again.
Duggers Creek loop is a quick snippit just .3 miles, but I wouldn’t miss it. There weren’t too many people on the trail, a great contrast to the rest of the park. The trickling waterfall is unique and a truly serene sight, it was worth the effort even in the rain.
Nearby Linville Cavern [19929 US-221, Marion, NC 28752] has paid admission for guided tours of the limestone cave.