Craggy Gardens sits just off the majestic Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 364-367), providing folks driving through a chance to stop, rest, and take in its beauty. It’s also home to some of our favorite hikes in North Carolina and not too far from Asheville. Many of the Parkway’s finest views of the Blue Ridge Mountains can be found here, and we’re going to show you what we’ve found after visiting.
This post is a part of our series on the awesome places to visit in North Carolina.
This article was originally created on August 2, 2016. It has been maintained and updated (as of July 11, 2019) to reflect current viewpoints and travel trends. It also appears on our blog’s sister site NC Tripping.
“The backside of the mountain is a fight against human nature,’ he said. ‘You have to care as much about yourself on the way down as you did on the way up.’ ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day
Craggy Gardens makes up a small part of the Great Craggy Mountains, a sub-range of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Craggy” comes from the twisted, jagged rock faces found throughout and the area’s highest peak is Craggy Dome (6,105 ft). Bullhead Mountain (5,819 ft) comes in second, with Craggy Gardens (5,525 ft) and Craggy Pinnacle (5,817 ft) running third and fourth.
Getting to Craggy Gardens
Craggy Gardens is about a 40-minute drive from Asheville, 18 miles from the Folk Art Center. If you’re visiting during winter, keep in mind that this section of the Parkway closes often due to weather and ice. Free parking spots are available at either the picnic area or at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center sits between the Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle trails and is open during the warmer months. More info can be found here. Inside you can find maps and various parks-related souvenirs and gear.
Craggy Gardens Trails
There are more than a few Craggy Gardens trails, including that ubiquitous Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Here’s a breakdown of each one.
Craggy Gardens Trail
Craggy Gardens Trail (1.9 miles roundtrip) will take you through tree-covered, rhododendron-filled paths. It runs into the more strenuous Douglas Falls trail shortly after you start. There’s a picnic area at the end, which is a nice spot for a snack before turning back.
Douglas Falls Trail
As we mentioned, Craggy Gardens Trail meets Douglas Falls Trail, which is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It’s an 8-mile roundtrip hike that leads you through a hardwood forest to the 70-foot Douglas Creek Falls. Some know this trail as the Carter Creek Falls Trails, in case you were wondering.
Snowball Mountain Trail
You can reach the 8-mile roundtrip Snowball Mountain Trail via the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, too. This ridge hike leads to beautiful valley views and a former fire tower. It’s a more strenuous hike and poison ivy and stinging nettle have been reported throughout some of the narrow portions.
Craggy Pinnacle Trail
I consider Craggy Pinnacle Trail more of a drive than a hike, though you need to walk up a steep set of stairs from the Visitor Center to reach the top. And honestly, the view from the top is such a steal for that short of a walk. Everyone raves about June and the Catawba Rhododendrons but looking over the Blue Ridge Parkway and seeing those mountains in the distance is fine enough for me!
What are You Waiting For?
Unless you’re waiting for spring to come, what’s keeping you from visiting this awesome part of our mountains? Having seen those gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains from the top and only having a few rhododendrons blooming around us, I know I want to go back and see them in full force. But honestly, I could go back to this area any time of year. It’s truly one of the most beautiful parts of North Carolina, and hopefully, you get at least one chance to visit.
Have you ever driven on this part of the Blue Ridge Parkway? What did you think of it? Would you come back? If you haven’t been before, what would you like to do first here? We’d love to know in the comments section!