Exploring Crabtree Falls In The Blue Ridge Parkway

A towering waterfall is the payoff for the hike to Crabtree Falls in the Blue Ridge Parkway, though the trail that weaves through a heavily vegetated forest isn't too shabby, either. Photos by Vicki Dameron.

Editor's note: Heading down the trail is one of the best ways to enjoy a unit of the National Park System. The folks at the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation appreciate that, and keep tabs on the wonderful hikes that exist along the Parkway. While the season might be getting late to take this hike this year, make a note to check it out in the spring.

What are you looking for on your Blue Ridge Parkway visit—camping, a picnic area, a gift shop, a restaurant, waterfalls, great hiking, or ranger programs? Crabtree Falls has it all! Tucked away at Milepost 339, the Crabtree Falls Recreation Area makes the perfect destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

The highlight of the area is definitely the 70-foot falls that are considered some of the most photogenic in the Southern Appalachians. Water spreads into a wide veil at the base and there are great views from the trail that winds around the falls and across a bridge in front of the falls. The falls are reached by a moderate-to-strenuous loop trail that begins in the campground. It’s a beautiful walk through hardwood forest, lined with rhododendron and mountain laurel and more than 40 species of wildflowers. If you take the right fork of the loop, it’s a shorter and easier walk (0.6 miles) to the falls that is mostly downhill.

Once you’ve viewed the falls, you can return by the same route, or continue on for another 1.6 miles. The first part of this section is steep and requires climbing stairs, but after this, the trail becomes easier following Big Crabtree Creek back to the campground.

The campground is a hidden gem along the Parkway. Mike Ryan, Maintenance Supervisor for the Pisgah District, says, “If you are tired of the business of life, Crabtree is the relaxing quiet camping experience you’re looking for.” Tucked away from the main road, the campground is very peaceful and usually uncrowded. The individual sites are surrounded by large trees and spread out from neighboring sites, giving you plenty of room and privacy. The campground is open May through October and features 71 tent and 22 RV sites (no hookups).

At the entrance to the campground, you’ll find the Convenience Store with a snack bar that serves fresh sandwiches, soups and drinks and a gift shop that sells camping supplies and a great selection of native crafts and art.

Just beside the store is the 300-person amphitheater where every weekend from May through October park rangers present a variety of programs about the history, flora and fauna of the region. A large 82-site picnic area just down the Parkway at Milepost 340 hosts a wide variety of wildflowers in the spring and summer, including columbine, yellow lady slipper, dwarf iris, speckled wood lily, goatsbeard, sundrop and beard tongue.

Crabtree Falls is a great base for exploring the area. Heading north on the Parkway, you’ll find the Museum of NC Minerals at Milepost 331, the Orchard at Altapass at Milepost 328 and Linville Falls at Milepost 316. Heading south, it’s just 12 miles to Mount Mitchell at Milepost 350. So as you make your plans for your Parkway journey next year, don’t forget to plan a stop at Crabtree Falls!

Falls or Meadows?

The area was originally named Crabtree Meadows because of its history as a farming community. Few of the crabtrees remain, and it was renamed in 2010 to emphasize the spectacular falls that many visitors missed during their Parkway journey.