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Craggy Gardens - Beautiful Scenery Near Asheville NC

Are you looking for great scenery? Craggy Gardens is the place for you. Even the 20 mile (32 km) drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville yields some breathtaking views.

Craggy Gardens View to North Over Colorful Valley

View From Visitor Center

In the fall season, it's a favorite trip for "leaf peepers". These are the people (me included) that love to go for a drive to view the vibrant yellow, orange and red colors of autumn. The drive changes from one of being surrounded by color, to open overlooks where you can see the colorful valleys between the rugged mountains.

The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is at milepost 364 of the Blue Ridge Parkway NC. With an elevation of 5500 feet (1680 meters), be prepared for cooler temperatures and crisp mountain air.

If your sunny day suddenly turns cloudy or foggy, wait a few minutes, as there is usually a wind blowing over the ridge and the clouds may clear. The ridges of the Craggies often create their own micro-climatic weather.

Three Heath Balds

There are three peaks in the area, Craggy Knob, Craggy Pinnacle, and Craggy Dome, which is the highest at over 6000 feet (1830 meters). Craggy Gardens Heath balds are different from the Black Balsam Knob bald.

A Heath bald is treeless, but home to many shrubs such as Catawba rhododendrons and mountain laurels. Black Balsam Knob is a grassy bald. While there are excellent views from Craggy Knob that you won't want to miss, the taller shrubs prevent that 360 degree view.

Blooming Time

Mid June is normally the peak season for rhododendron in these high lands. The Craggies are covered with the purple and pink blossoms of rhododendrons. Mountain laurels will produce little white or pink saucers around the same time. The natural wildflowers will bloom throughout the summer.

Hiking Trails

Craggy Pinnacle with Visitor Center in Foreground
There are several trails throughout the Craggies. The National Park Service provides a basic map of the area to help you find the trails and other facilities here.

The most popular hike is Craggy Gardens Trail, which has a trailhead at the south end of the visitor center parking lot. It's a 1.1 (1.8 km) mile trail between the visitor center and the picnic area.

From the visitors center, the trail is a self guided nature walk. At .3 miles (.5 km), there is a large shelter over the trail. (The shelter is .8 miles (1.3 km) from the picnic area.)

At this point a spur trail leads to Craggy Knob, an outstanding example of a Heath bald. There are some open areas providing great vistas.

There are several other trails in the area. Craggy Pinnacle trail is a .7 mile (1.1 km) trail leading to the top of Craggy Pinnacle.

The trailhead is at the Craggy Dome overlook, just north of the visitor center and through the tunnel. This short hike has an elevation gain of 440 feet, but rewards you with a panoramic 360 degree view.

There is a longer, more strenuous hike to Douglas Falls utilizing the Mountains-To-Sea trail. This hike will be 8 or 9 miles (13 to 14 km) round trip, depending on whether you start at the Greybeard Mountain parking overlook or the picnic area.

Craggy Gardens Picnic Area Table with Handicap Access

Picnic Area

The Craggy Gardens Picnic Area is worth special mention. To reach it by car there is an access road at milepost 367. It's a huge picnic facility with many cast concrete tables. Rest rooms are at either end of the large parking lot. There is trail access from here.

The picnic area is handicap friendly with easy access to several specially marked "reserved" tables. If you're not in need of a table with handicap access, please respect the reserved sign.

Craggy Gardens is truly a special area in high country. It's worth the stop for either a leg stretcher hike or a longer more strenuous hike. The wildflowers are eye-catching. The vistas are outstanding. At the very least, you'll need to slow down because the speed limit here is reduced for your safety.

You're at Milepost 364.

Heading South

Next Three Stops

Milepost 383 - 393 - Asheville

Milepost 408 - Mt Pisgah

Milepost 418 - Graveyard Fields


Closure Notice

September 1, 2013: The Parkway has been temporary repaired and is open for traffic. That means you can now get to Craggy Gardens and enjoy the visitor center, hiking, and picnicking. Plans call for the road to close again in November for permanent repairs over the winter.

Need a Trail Guide?

Hikers will want a trail guide. You're surrounded by Pisgah National Forest Appalachian and Grandfather Ranger Districts. The recommended guide for this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway NC is National Geographic Trails Illustrated map 779. It covers milepost 300 to 374. Buy now at Amazon!

Colorful Fall Road Scene of Blue Ridge Parkway Near Craggy Gardens

Nearby on the Parkway

Craggy Gardens Visitor Center Sign Across the Road With Tunnel In Background

Visitor Center and
Museum Sign


Craggy Knob Profile Photo

Craggy Knob

Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Is Clear and Dome Has Clouds at Top

Craggy Pinnacle and
Craggy Dome


Craggy Gardens Large Shelter Over The Trail With Rhododendrons In Foreground

Trail Shelter
Near The Knob


Craggy Gardens Trail Spur Expansive View Over Mountains And Valleys

View From Trail To
Craggy Knob


Craggy Gardens Picnic Area Parking Lot In Front of Wooded Hillside With Tables

Huge Parking Lot
At Picnic Area





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