One of the closest hikes to Asheville with the best long-range views is Craggy Gardens at Milemarker 364.1 off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Because of its easy access, this is a popular spot and although its never exactly ‘crowded,’ you won’t be alone during the summer or fall. Come at sunset for unobstructed views over the Black Mountains.
Craggy Gardens is the go-to spot for a quick weekend hike that’s accessible and generally pretty easy, if a bit steep. But it’s only a 1.4-mile loop, so it’s a moderate hike even for families with children.
What Makes It Great
If you’re coming from downtown Asheville, the first thing you’ll notice is that the temperature here is usually at least 5 degrees cooler than it is at lower elevations (and sometimes as much as 20 degrees cooler), so be prepared and bring warm clothing, even if its summer. There’s a slight lag in the seasons at this elevation, too, so you may not see leaves on the trees until May.
The Craggy trail is carved through a rhododendron thicket, so its especially beautiful around mid-June when the flowers are in bloom. The trail is a little steep, but shouldn’t prove too challenging even for children. There are several overlook spots along the trail.
In the summer, slabs of slate gray rock and bright pink rhododendron blooms create a vivid landscape, surrounded by panoramic 360 views of Asheville, Mt. Mitchell, and the endlessly undulating Blue Ridge Mountains.
Who is Going to Love It
This is a great starter trail for kids: quick, steep without being overly demanding, with a dramatic mountain top finale that’s perfect for picnics. This hike could be combined with other attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway such as Graveyard Fields and Skinny Dip Falls for a full day of warm weather exploration.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway only about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville, the Craggy Gardens Trail starts at the Craggy Pinnacle parking lot at milemarker 364.1 (just beyond the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center at 364.6).