Graveyard Fields is a very popular hiking spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Yellowstone Prong is the watersource for two waterfalls in a mile-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by Blue Ridge mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. The area got it's name years ago from the tree stumps and surrounding trees that looked like grave stones in a graveyard setting. The trees were toppled by a huge wind several hundred years ago. Then in 1925, an intense fire burned the recently logged area, and the forest has been slow in recovering since. This provides a stark contrast to most hiking in the Asheville area.
Their beautiful hiking trail (Graveyard Fields Loop) is about four miles. Start from the overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a map on the sign at the parking area. Take the trail at the lower end (right side looking away from Parkway) of the parking area. This descends down a paved path through a thick patch of rhododendron, down some steps and to a bridge. Cross the bridge, turn right along the trail until you come to the first trail intersection to the right, and descend a long flight of steps to viewing platform for Second Falls. You can get a closer look from the boulders at the base of the falls. You can even slide down a portion of the waterfall!
Return by same route. If you want to continue to Upper Falls, do not re-cross river but continue straight ahead. The next waterfall is just over a mile ahead. Most of this hike is fairly level. The last section has a bit of a climb. The trail splits just before the Upper Falls. Keep right to reach the main drop of the falls. If you go to the left, climb up the rock face for the best view of the waterfall (see photo below). On the return from the upper falls in about 3/4 mile, turn right off the trail to cross the river on a newer-looking wooden bridge. Continue on this trail to the exit at the upper end of the parking area.
Seconds Falls Summer Cool-Down
This beautiful waterfall is just short hike from the parking area. It's a popular swimming hole to get splash around in the cool mountain water and slide down part of the waterfall. The rocks are slick and there are no lifeguards on duty. So be careful! Less than two miles north on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Skinny Dip Falls - a wonderful spot for diving, swimming and soaking.
Directions to Graveyard Fields: Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to Milepost 418.8, about 37 miles southwest of downtown Asheville.
Nearby: Mt. Pisgah, Black Balsam (amazing hike), Devil's Courthouse. You can hike to Devil's Courthouse (eight miles) via the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Second Falls at Graveyard Field, just 1/3 mile hike from the parking area
Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields
Coming in 2013: Construction begins on expanded parking, restrooms and trail improvements!