Blue Ridge Parkway | CRAGGY GARDENS TRAIL (MP 364.5)

Craggy Gardens Trail map (click to enlarge)

Craggy Gardens Trail map (click to enlarge)

Length: 1.6 miles, round trip
Time: 1 hour plus picnicking time if desired
Difficulty: between easy and moderate

The Craggy Gardens Trail is an out-and-back trail that runs from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. I began my hike at the Visitor Center. If facing the building, walk to the end of the parking area on your left and you will find the trailhead.

The trail forks in less than a minute from the start, but there is no indication as to which way to turn in order to stay on the Craggy Gardens Trail. If you go to the right you will be hiking towards Douglas Falls, so stay to the left to get to the picnic area. In either direction, the route is also used by the Mountains to Sea Trail.

Stay left at the first fork to remain on the Craggy Gardens Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Stay left at the first fork to remain on the Craggy Gardens Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Up until the fork, the terrain is relatively smooth, but once you turn left and begin a very gradual ascent up the hill you are greeted with long stretches of rocky ground. Hiking poles will surely come in handy, but with or without them, be sure to watch your step to avoid twisting an ankle.

Typical terrain of the Craggy Gardens Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Typical terrain of the Craggy Gardens Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

A third of a mile later is a wooden shelter. Keep straight, walking through the shelter to stay on the trail, though you can take a short detour to the left for a view of Montreat, North Carolina, and the Black Mountains. Up until this point the hike has been through the forest, but for about a tenth of a mile past the shelter you will be out in the sun, so consider a hat and sunscreen if such things are important too you. However, it doesn’t last long, and you will soon be back in the shade of the forest.

Trail shelter on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Craggy Gardens Trail

Trail shelter on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Craggy Gardens Trail

The shelter also marks the end of the uphill climb, for the trail now beings a long, gradual descent all the way to the picnic area, another .5 mile ahead. This is of moderate difficulty at worse, and most hikers won’t think twice about it.

Taller trees and smoother terrain are characteristic of the Blue Ridge Parkway's Craggy Gardens Trail as it gets closer to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area

Taller trees and smoother terrain are characteristic of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Craggy Gardens Trail as it gets closer to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area

At the .8-mile mark the trail splits, with the Mountains to Sea Trail heading off to the left. Keep straight and in less than a minute you will come to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. The trail ends at the parking lot. There is a modern restroom waiting for those who need it.

One end of the Craggy Gardens Trail is at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

One end of the Craggy Gardens Trail is at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I was not too impressed with the Craggy Gardens Trail. Unless the flowers are blooming in the spring, there isn’t much in the way of scenic beauty, and the hike serves mainly as a source of exercise. I could image having a picnic and burning off some calories by walking to the Visitor Center, but that’s about the only reason I would hike this trail.

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Last updated on November 11, 2023
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