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Craggy Gardens [MP 363.4 – 369.6]

Craggy Gardens is the nickname given to the Great Craggy Mountains by locals, known for their exposed mountain balds, twisted trees and native rhododendrons. The iconic Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel [MP 364.4] cuts through the Craggy Mountains.

The Great Craggy Mountains are an area of exposed rock surfaces and high peaks that provides breathtaking views of distant southern Appalachian ridges. Large expanses of native rhododendron cover the slopes and summits of the Craggies. The area has long been known as Craggy Gardens. In mid-June, pink and purple blooms of Catawba rhododendron cover the Craggies. Throughout the summer, smaller native wildflowers cover the ground with vibrant splashes of color. These natural garden meadows are “balds.”

These high elevation summits are home to spectacular floral displays. June and July are usually prime times to view the pink and purple blooms of rhododendron, but don’t despair if you miss the peak bloom. Violets, blackberry, May-apple, and Turkscap lily burst onto the scene with color at other times in this area of the Parkway. Visitors come to see vistas, rocky crags, wildflowers in the summer and bouquets of red berries of the mountain ash in the fall. The berries are often encased in ice in the fall and winter.

The combination of high altitude, cool weather, and exposed rocky outcrops creates the necessary habitat for a number of rare and endangered plants. Craggy Gardens has been recognized by the state of North Carolina as a Natural Heritage Area and has been recommended as a National Natural Landmark.

The visitor center and store are open April 22nd – October 31st from 9am – 5pm, except 12pm – 1pm for lunch.

Excerpted from TripAdvisor hiker reviews:

Nature at its best – My friends and I were here for July 4th and did a small hike to reach the very top of the mountain. My jaw was dropped all the while we were there. We watched the sunset (no words to explain how surreal it was) and after that we waited for the fire works to begin. Once they started, they were popping up everywhere. To explain it best, this was by far the best 4th of july that I had. Word of caution: there are no lights to guide after dark so carrying a flashlight would help and also its gets quite chilly up there in the evening [July 2014] so do take a jacket with you. ” — user SV63 Reston, VA

Nice hike – Very pretty (easy to moderate) hike. Had not planned to stop but did and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. View from the top was wonderful. Very nice gift shop where you can get your National Parks passport stamped and buy your hiking badges (hits with the kids). Views along this part of the BRP have to be some of the best anywhere. HIGHLY recommend. ” — user MC2000FL FL

Oh my gosh! – What an experience! We started at the Blue Ridge Recreation Park because we followed the address provided here. However, this is not where Craggy Gardens is. We got maps from an attendant in the visitor’s center at Blue Ridge Recreation Park and headed to Craggy Gardens: 30 minutes north of there on the parkway. The drive was obviously gorgeous but we passed all of the overlooks, trusting that the view that we were going to see would be better than the rest. We parked just past the Craggy Gardens visitor center (364 Blue Ridge Pkwy) in the parking lot for the Craggy Dome/Craggy Pennacle. Then we started our hike UP. It was a challenging hike because it was rather steep, but it was cleared well. My main concern was that I had not packed for a hike and was wearing my Toms (no traction) but I did fine. The view at the top was worth all of the effort! Absolutely gorgeous! ” — user Ann B Greensboro, NC

Points of Interest
[1] Romantic Asheville, “Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway”

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