For a scenic picnic hike near Asheville, NC head to Craggy Gardens. The Craggy Gardens Trail is a 2-mile out and back known for its rhododendrons.
Welcome to one of the prettiest areas of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) in North Carolina. This two-lane scenic National Parkway houses endless hiking trails, vibrant blooms, misty mountain overlooks, and cascading waterfalls.
Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle are a few of our favorite areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville. Only about 35 minutes from the city, fall in love with the Craggy Gardens hike and enjoy a romantic picnic.
The jagged “crags” are said to give this area its name.
You can either park at the convenient Craggy Gardens Visitor Center or Picnic Area, perfect for families, solo hikers, and less experienced hikers. This trek makes for a casual yet beautiful day out in nature.
Craggy Gardens Trail is especially worth a visit because of its 5,525 feet elevation and breathtaking views. This area is famous for its summer Catawba rhododendron.
The Craggy Gardens hike is moderately easy, and you can pick and choose how much of it you wish to walk. Afterward, explore or hike nearby Craggy Pinnacle, Mount Mitchell, or lesser-known Craven Gap.
Keep reading for local advice about the Craggy Gardens hike and trail. We’ll tell you when to go, what to expect, how to avoid conflicts, and where to head next. Let’s get started!
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Craggy Gardens Trail Stats
Distance From Asheville, North Carolina: 35 minutes; 16 miles
Hike Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length: About 2 miles if you go from the Visitor Center to the Picnic Area & back again (or vice versa)
Duration Of Hike: Under 1 hour
Type Of Hike: Out and back
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Why The Craggy Gardens Hike?
Why not the Craggy Gardens hike? It’s safe to say that we’ve hiked Craggy Gardens more than any other hiking trail near Asheville. Plus, Craggy is one of the best Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.
The Craggy Gardens Trail is also one of the closest BRP treks near Asheville and is both moderately easy and beautifully scenic.
Personally, I love the overlooks at the gazebo and Visitor Center. Nothing is more romantic and soul-soothing than stopping in a sun-drenched mountain bald (well, when it’s fully cleared) with vibrant flowers and a single tree further back. We almost always see someone in their hammock out here.
Plus, the trail never grows tedious or boring since you frequently see flowers, wildlife, and structures like the gazebo and shelter.
In our opinion, the Craggy Gardens Trail is frequented enough and safe for inexperienced and solo hikers as well as families with young children.
The blooming purple rhododendrons are famous, and you’ll love the wildflowers, even if they make you sneeze. Sometimes you’ll catch berries, too.
For us, the Craggy Gardens Trail is peaceful and the ultimate Asheville picnic spot. Pull up at a table in their designated picnic area or bring a blanket for Craggy Flats. There are charcoal grills at the picnic areas.
You could also pick up the much longer and harder Douglas Falls Trail from here, but we prefer Douglas Falls’s easier access point through the Pisgah National Forest entrance (and not the BRP).
Head to Craggy Pinnacle next.
When Is The Best Time To Hike Craggy Gardens?
There is no bad time to hike Craggy Gardens until the Blue Ridge Parkway closes or if you see rough storms approaching. This area of the Blue Ridge Parkway typically shuts down in the late fall and throughout the winter due to weather.
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is open seasonally, too, with information and souvenirs.
Be sure to check the National Park Service’s website for all Blue Ridge Parkway updates and gate closures. Sometimes, Google will let you know too.
In the summer — usually early to mid-June unless it’s a late winter — the Catawba rhododendrons peak. Of course, fall is stunning along the BRP. Don’t miss our favorite fall hikes.
Watch out for fog and cloudy weather. Since this area of the BRP has a higher elevation, dense fog and clouds roll in and out, obscuring views and even road visibility.
The BRP is windy, and if you are new to mountain roads, this fog-shrouded drive may unnerve you.
If Asheville isn’t sunny and the morning looks foggy, it’s safe to assume that Craggy is fogged in, too. You might need to wait for the sun to burn it all off. Asheville may also be warm and sunny, but the Craggy area can still be all clouds.
Temperatures are cooler up here, sometimes 10 to 20 degrees chillier than AVL. We hike with layers.
Uncover even more fabulous Picnic Spots Around Asheville.
How Do You Get To The Craggy Gardens Trailhead?
Head north down the BRP from Asheville. You can either park at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area or the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center offers its own set of panoramic views, has restrooms, and will bring you to Craggy Flats and the trail shelter. If you keep walking, you’ll encounter the gazebo and picnic area.
Craggy Gardens Picnic Area has much more parking as well as facilities. We usually park here.
From the picnic area, it is about a .7-mile out and back to Craggy Flats, although the signs estimate a bit less. We use the GAIA app to track our hikes. It’s then about an additional .2-miles to .3-miles to the Visitor Center.
Please remember that GPS tends to die out along this area of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
What Else Can You Do Around Craggy Gardens?
Around MP 364.2, hike another gorgeous BRP trail with views. The Craggy Pinnacle parking lot sits at 5,640 feet high with an additional 250-foot incline up the trailhead.
At the top of the .7-mile hike and on a clear day, encounter breathtaking 360-degree mountain views. You can even see Craggy Gardens. Grab our guide to hiking Craggy Pinnacle here.
Little Butt & Big Butt Trails
Just past the Craggy Area for a harder and longer hike, head to MP 359. Trek 5-miles roundtrip to Little Butt, a quiet and more local mountain overlook.
You can add an extra mile by continuing on to Big Butt, but it’s not nearly as cool or worthwhile as Little Butt. Don’t miss our guide to Little Butt & Big Butt here.
Mount Mitchell State Park
At Milepost 355 past Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle, visit the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Mount Mitchell’s summit lands at 6,684 feet.
It is free to visit Mount Mitchell. Find numerous parking lots and hiking trails around the summit trailhead.
Hike like the Obamas at Craven Gap. This local 5-mile out-and-back hike lands right before you enter or exit the BRP from North Asheville. The hidden trail has a small dirt lot and is marked by stairs.
Craggy Pinnacle and Gardens are extremely close to downtown Asheville. After a day driving along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, head downtown for Asheville’s foodie scene.
Don’t forget to check out the craft breweries. Read more about all that you can see and do in and around Asheville.
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Have you hiked the Craggy Gardens Trail?
Have you been to Craggy Gardens or Craggy Pinnacle? What time of year did you go? Did you catch the blooms? What are your favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in North Carolina? Let us know in the comments.