The one-mile Craggy Gardens Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway takes you across the Craggy Flats, a mile-high rhododendron bald (elevation 5,680 feet). It starts at the south end of parking area at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (far left if you are facing the building). The other end of the trail is at the Craggy picnic grounds.
A natural garden of hundreds of Catawba rhododendron cover the heath bald. Their purple-pink blossoms peak in early to mid June and attracts visitors from around the world since the Blue Ridge Parkway opened.
The yellow spots on the upper petal of each blossom mark the path to nectar for happy bees that will transfer pollen grains to other blooms. Also see a wealth of other wildflowers all summer. Later in the summer, you can pick blackberries and blueberries. It's also a great birding spot.
To reach the gardens, the hike is a little easier if you start at the Visitor Center. You'll begin your gradual uphill walk through a lush forest that sees frequent summer rain, heavy winter snows and very high winds during stormy periods. Walk though rhododendron and evergreen spruce and fir. In about a third of a mile, you'll reach the historic picnic shelter. To the left, a side trail will take you through the rhododendron to an overlook, with various other side trails. If you walk through the shelter, the trail begins again on the other side, taking you downhill to the picnic area.
If you begin at the picnic area, it's an half mile uphill trek to the shelter and bald area. On the way up, take a short detour to the historic gazebo with recently cleared views. A very romantic spot!
Directions: Craggy Gardens is about 18 miles north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 364.4.
Help Us Restore Craggy Garden Trail
Help us raise funds for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to fund repairs to the Craggy Gardens Trail atop the bald. The summit has been a favorite to explore for many generations.
The original trails from the 1940s are in need of repair. Many are rutted and become streams during the frequent rains. The new trail will encourage visitors not to venture onto numerous side trails that endanger rare species at this unique mile-high habitat need protection. A crew from the American Conservation Experience will complete the arduous work of transporting supplies to the top.
Included in the project will a new roof for the 1940s gazebo along the Craggy Gardens Trail near the picnic grounds. Recently, the Parkway crews have cut trees and shrubs to restore the original panoramic views from the gazebo. Total cost of the entire project will be around $17,000. Donate now on the Foundation website.
Here's a 1946 postcard showing visitors admiring the rhododendron blooms at the parking area for Craggy Pinnacle (from the UNC Library / NPS).