Craggy Gardens is a unique place, located along The Blue Ridge Parkway, at Milepost 364.4. The Craggy Gardens area has multiple trails, a visitor center, and a short tunnel. The most popular, and beautiful trail is the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail, a short by somewhat steep hike, that offers tremendous 360 degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge mountains.
We visited in late September of 2016, as Fall colors were just beginning to show.
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail
Roundtrip Distance: 1.4 miles
Features: Beautiful and unique birch and rhododendron woods, panoramic 360 degree scenic views
Directions: From Asheville, take The Blue Ridge Parkway going north for about 18 miles. When you reach the Craggy Gardens visitors center, continue on through the tunnel, and the next left is the parking area for the trail.
Recommended Gear: Good hiking boots or shoes, Daypack, Dayhiker First Aid Kit, Sunscreen, some snacks, water. Wear layers of clothing.
The trailhead begins at the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle parking lot, just past the Craggy Gardens visitor’s center and on the other side of the short Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel. There is ample parking for this very popular and often busy trail.
The Craggy Pinnacle tunnel offers a unique photo opportunity, where you can stand on one side of the tunnel, and take a photo through the tunnel of the other side. Just watch for cars!
The trail head begins at the top of the parking lot and through a tunnel of Rhododendron.
The trail climbs through a beautiful forest, full of wildflowers, Rhodes, and birch trees that are gnarled and bent into interesting shapes. As you approach the top, there are a number of small side trails. Take them, they offer some unique and gorgeous views, away from the crowds.
On the way up, the trail will split near the top. Stay left to goto the summit, and go right for a short walk to a grassy bald with incredible views north and west of Asheville.
At the summit you’ll find three different viewing platforms, all at about 5,892 feet. You have a 360 degree view, where you can sit along the rock walls and enjoy the panoramic views, like this one:
To the west, you can see I-26 as it goes north-west from Asheville into Tennessee. To the south, you’ll see the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. To the east you’ll see North Fork, Asheville’s water source. Looking north, you can see Craggy Dome, and on a clear day the peak of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain in North Carolina. In the photo below, Mount Mitchell is the peak that looks like a Pyramid in the far distance, left center of the photo.
A park ranger is often at the summit with pamphlets for area hikes, and is available to answer questions about what you see, and about about Craggy Pinnacle.
Weather at Craggy is difficult to predict, so come wearing layers. The summit can often be 15 degrees cooler than temperatures in Asheville, and can also be very windy. This section of the parkway, due to the elevation is closed during the winter months. If you arrive and Craggy Gardens is fogged in, just be patient, as it will generally clear. This is particularly true in the mornings.
The Craggy Gardens Pinnacle trail is a great short hike, that really provides some of the most outstanding views in the area and on the Parkway during spring, summer and fall. Visiting in the spring is particular beautiful due to the blooming rhododendrons. The fall of course springs with beautiful fall colors, and also blooming Mountain Ash (the red in the photo below).