Craggy Gardens is one of my favorite places to explore on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’ve hiked the trails in the rain, fog, heat, and sunshine. Although it is a popular hike in June when the rhododendrons are in bloom, Craggy Gardens is enjoyable almost anytime of the year. Early spring offers low crowds, during summer the bald (a grassy mountain summit) is covered in wildflowers, and in the fall the trees are a vibrant red.
Getting to Craggy Gardens: It’s a scenic 20-mile drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville. There’s an elevation change of almost 3,500 feet, so bring a jacket!
Where to picnic: Craggy Gardens picnic area (milepost 367.6) is a nice place to have lunch with mountain views. We usually pack a lunch or get food to-go from an Asheville restaurant before getting on the Parkway.
Favorite hike: The Craggy Gardens Trail (milepost 364.5) is a short yet satisfying hike through a rhododendron forest. The best time to see the bright pink and purple blooms is early June. At the top of the summit (elevation 5,525 feet) are breathtaking views of the southern Appalachian Mountains.
Other things to do: The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is a steep hiking trail that offers panoramic mountain views (elevation 5,817 feet). The official National Park Service map of Craggy Gardens is a great resource for hikers.