A short drive (20 miles) from downtown Asheville takes you up, up, up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Craggy Gardens. As you approach the area, you will first see a sign for the Craggy Picnic Area to the left, a short drive up the mountain to many picnic tables and gorgeous hike across the bald. If you continue straight on the Parkway a few more miles, you will reach the Visitor Center for panoramic mile-high views east and west. Enjoy the crisp air, summer rhododendron, and super scenic trails. Since this location is more than 3,500 feet higher in elevation than Asheville, temperatures 10-20 degrees cooler than the city. If you are greeted by low clouds and fog, wait a bit. The weather can change rapidly.
The Craggy Gardens Picnicgrounds have plenty of tables. It's a short drive from the Parkway.
The Great Craggy Mountains are an area of exposed rock surfaces and high peaks that provide breathtaking views of distant southern Appalachian ridges. Large expanses of native rhododendron cover the slopes and summits of the Craggies. The area has long been known as Craggy Gardens. In mid-June, pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendron peak. Throughout the summer, smaller native wildflowers cover the ground with vibrant splashes of color. These natural garden meadows are "balds."
Red berry bouquets of the mountain ash appear each fall. The berries are often encased in ice in the fall and winter. The combination of high altitude, cool weather, and exposed rocky outcrops creates the necessary habitat for a number of rare and endangered plants. Craggy Gardens has been recognized by the state of North Carolina as a Natural Heritage Area.
Just a part of the 360-degree panoramic view from atop Craggy Pinnacle. Read more.
Craggy Gardens Hikes
Note: There are many fragile habitats with rare plants. Please stay on the designated trails.
Our favorite hike here is the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. It's a 1.5-mile roundtrip hike to the top for exceptional panoramic views that are hard to top in Western North Carolina. See our Craggy Pinnacle Guide.
The Craggy Gardens Trail (above) can be accessed from the south end of the Visitor Center Parking area or from the north end of the Picnic Area. From the Visitor Center, the trail begins as a self-guided nature trail with a moderate uphill climb for 3/10 of a mile to a large trail shelter. A short spur to the left crosses the rhododendron bald to a overlook - this is the best spot to see the rhododendron display in early to mid June. If you begin at the Picnic Area, it's an 8/10 of a mile uphill hike to the shelter and bald area.
The Douglas Falls Trail follows the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Craggy. The 7-mile roundtrip hike starts from the Visitor Center parking lot. It's a strenuous trek and recommended for only experienced hikers. Sometimes the trail is difficult to follow and there are some rugged sections as you descend more than 1,300 feet. You can more safely hike to the 70-foot Douglas Creek Falls from the Barnardsville area (read more).
It's not uncommon for snow and rime ice to visit in October during fall color season.
Directions: Drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, about 18 miles north of the Folk Art Center on the Parkway (near U.S. 70 exit) or take scenic Town Mountain Road from downtown to the Parkway and turn left (about 20 miles total). This section of the Parkway closes frequently during the winter for snow and ice. Road closures and conditions, along with weather reports, are available by calling the Parkway information line at (828) 298-0398.
Watch Video: Winter meets Fall at Craggy Gardens