Updated 7/22/2016 – Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of our favorite locations to enjoy waterfalls, beautiful (and unique) scenery, and also to hike. We love the area and trails, and it’s one of our family favorites, especially during the fall.
Roundtrip Distance: 3.2 miles
Features: Scenic views, unique plant life, waterfalls, dense rhododendron thicket, gorgeous fall colors
Directions: Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 418.8 between Asheville and Waynesville NC. There is a large parking lot for the area and a bathroom building. It will be hard to miss.
Recommended Gear: Good hiking boots or shoes, Daypack, Dayhiker First Aid Kit, Sunscreen, hiking rain ponchos, some snacks, plenty of water and be sure to bring a bathing suit if you think you might want to swim.
Graveyard Fields Blue Ridge Parkway
Graveyards fields is a unique and very popular place on The Blue Ridge Parkway. We highly recommend getting there early on weekends, especially in the summer and fall. On our latest trip, we arrived around 9:45am on a Sunday and the parking lot was already beginning to fill up. When we left around 2:30pm, the parking lot was full and overflowing out on the the parkway.
7/22/2016 Update – Fences have now been put up around the grassy area at the trailhead and pullover. Additional fencing has been put up along the road as well. This is to keep people from parking on the grass.
Table of Contents:
- Graveyard Fields Blue Ridge Parkway
- Table of Contents:
- Graveyard fields Trailhead
- Upper Falls Graveyard Fields
- Graveyard Fields Fall Colors
- Graveyard Fields History
- Graveyard Fields Photo Gallery:
Graveyard fields Trailhead
The trailhead for Graveyard Fields is located at directly off the parking lot, and next to the bathroom building. Next to the trail is the new trail map sign, with locations of the two falls, and the trails in the area. The trail begins with a series of steps that take you down into a grove of Rhododendron and onto a paved trail, that weaves and winds through the Rhodos. At the end of the Rhododendron grove, you’ll walk out onto a small deck and down a set of stairs where you will cross over Yellowstone Prong, the creek that goes through Graveyard Fields.
This is a great area to find a rock and relax on, and also a popular area to let kids play and wade in the cool waters.
To reach the waterfalls and trails, cross over Yellowstone prong, continue on the new wooden walkway.
At the end, you’ll be able to go left or right. Going right will take you down a short trail to Lower Graveyard Fields Falls. Turning left will take you on a longer trail to Upper Graveyard Falls. Both are well worth the hikes. We generally visit upper falls first, then visit lower falls. Lower Falls has a better swimming area, and makes for a refreshing dip after the hike up to and back from upper falls.
For more information and photos for Lower Falls, see our Lower Falls Guide – Lots of photos, information, and video.
Upper Falls Graveyard Fields
Upper Falls Graveyard Fields is a mile up the trail. Instead of turning right at the end of the first wooden walkway, you’ll turn left. The trail traverses through the low brush of Graveyard fields and carries you through numerous blueberry bushes and other short growth brush, trees and wildflowers.
The trail through this area is a bit rough a times. There had been a lot of rain prior to our recent hike, and trail was full of mud and water. The trail is also very narrow and crosses over a few streams on the way up to the falls. While not the best trail, Upper Falls is well worth the hike.
One point of frustration is that the trail is not well marked, and often a bit confusing. To stay on course, just stay on the larger and wider trails. If you see a branch with a larger trail going one way, and a smaller trail going another, stay on the larger trail. You will have to cross over a few creeks by “rock hopping”.
You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when the trail eventually starts to lead into a forest and begins an upward climb with lots of large rocks. Continue climbing, and you’ll begin to hear the distant sounds of the water and soon emerge into an area where the lower portion of upper falls is visible. This is a great location for relaxing on the rocks, and wading in the water.
Higher up from though is the “real” Upper Falls, a beautiful cascade that is definitely worth the hike. From the lower portion, there are a couple of trails that head up the mountain. Take one of them up to the “upper” portion of Upper Falls.
Just be really careful, the rocks can be slick. Remember, you’re a long way from medical assistance, so don’t take any unnessesary chances.
We spent a good 1 – 2 hours here at the falls, enjoying the sites and sounds, taking pictures and eating lunch. We definitely didn’t want to leave. Here’s a video of Upper Falls I took:
After relaxing and eating some lunch, we put our backpacks on and headed back down the trail to the parking lot. Just follow the same path you took up to return. The day was early, and rather than head home, we decided to head over to Skinny Dip Falls, which is right down the Parkway a bit from Graveyard Fields. Skinny Dip Falls is another gorgeous waterfall that is just a short hike off the parkway.
Graveyard Fields Fall Colors
One of the best times to visit Graveyard Fields is during the Fall. Due to the unique vegetation and high altitude of Graveyard Fields, it turns color earlier than other surrounding areas – Generally during the first week in October.
The whole area during peak is covered with bright reds, oranges and yellows. Make sure you visit Lower Falls and get some photos of the Falls surrounded by Fall Colors, and walk up towards Upper Falls onto the wood decking along the trail, and gets some photos here too. Both areas are absolutely stunning.
The best times to see and photograph the colors are during the early morning hours, about 1-2 hours after sunrise, then later in the evening an hour or two before sunset. Other times, the sun is just to harsh to capture the true color the trees and shrubs in the area.
Graveyard Fields History
Upon arriving at Graveyards Fields, you’ll notice that it looks very different the rest of the Parkway. There are very few, tall trees and lots of low growth vegetation. Graveyard fields is mostly small bushes, Rhododendrons, and smaller trees. The history of Graveyard fields is a bit debated. Some say that a huge storm blew through and knocked down most of the trees, others say that extensive logging in the area cleared all of the trees. Regardless of the reason, the name “graveyard fields” comes from the remaining stumps, that overtime grew moss on them. From a distance, the logs and stumps looked like gravestones, earning the area the name “graveyard fields”.
Today, the stumps and logs are gone, burned down by a fire that occurred in 1925. The extensive fire burned so hot, it sterilized the area, making it difficult for new plant growth. But nature is persistent, and many shrubs, small trees, and grasses are now thriving in the area. One of those shrubs are blueberries. Graveyard fields is full of blueberry vines. You can visit, eat the blueberries and pick them when you visit in late July and early August.
The unique vegetation in the area really lends to some gorgeous fall colors as well, and Graveyard fields is one of the first areas on the parkway to turn color, and wow does it turn too. Graveyard field’s primary fall color is red, and an abundance it:
Graveyard Fields Photo Gallery:
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