Crabtree Falls Trail: top waterfall hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

Crabtree Falls Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hike the Crabtree Falls Trail to one of North Carolina's most beautiful waterfalls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville.

trail info

2.7 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

Tumbling more than seventy feet into a deep pool below, the Big Crabtree Creek falls over a towering, sheer cliff, forming one of Western North Carolina’s most beautiful waterfalls. Crabtree Falls is a favorite campground and hiking area directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, a swath of rolling terrain filled with wildflowers, clear-flowing creeks, and scenic hardwood forest.

Hike to North Carolina's Crabtree Falls, a towering waterfall just off the Blue Ridge ParkwayAbove: hike to the towering cascades of North Carolina’s Crabtree Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

This hike on the Crabtree Falls Trail dives through a beautiful forest to reach the trail’s main attraction, Crabtree Falls, at just over a mile. The hike climbs from the falls through a forest filled with mountain laurel, visiting the small cascades of Upper Crabtree Falls and trailing through a valley filled with rhododendron, wildflowers and grassy creek banks. The hike scores a whole lot of scenic beauty in a relatively short three miles – and the view from the base of Crabtree Falls is just stunning.

Crabtree Falls Trail, NC: the hike

The hike departs from a trailhead near the Crabtree Falls Campground visitor center (view maps and driving directions), hiking northbound, passing an old wooden amphitheater. The hike crosses a paved at .25 mile, passing through the campground and the hike’s former trailhead. (Due to the trail’s popularity, the hike was recently re-routed from the main parking area at the visitor’s center, to help eliminate parking issues in the campground.)

The trail drops elevation steadily, descending through a dense forest canopy of hardwoods, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. The hike reaches a fork at .45 mile, veering to the right and continuing the descent. The trail meanders through the forest, carving through switchbacks and crossing several sets of rustic stone stairs.

Hike the Crabtree Falls Trail through a lush, wildflower-filled forest to a stunning waterfall near Asheville, NC

The sound of tumbling water echoes through the forest as the trail arcs to the southwest, making a final drop to the base of Crabtree Falls. A wooden bridge spans the base of the enormous waterfall, offering a perfect place to snap a few photos and take in the waterfall’s beauty.

Hike the Crabtree Falls Trai to one of NC's most stunning waterfalls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

For many hikers, the waterfall’s base marks the end of the trail, and they turn to make the arduous, steady climb back to the trailhead, doubling back on their outbound route. That’s an option, for sure – but this route offers a much more scenic return to the trailhead – and there’s a second (though smaller) waterfall upstream, too.

After crossing the bridge at the base of Crabtree Falls, the hike ascends sharply, carving through sharp switchbacks, climbing stone stairs and passing several old-growth, broad-trunked hardwoods. The trail passes a shallow cave at 1.35 miles, the sound of Crabtree Falls echoing across the large rock expanse. The trail reaches the top of a small knob and briefly levels in a rocky grove of gnarly-branched mountain laurel.

Hike to the moss-covered cascades of Upper Crabtree Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

The trail descends, tunneling through dense mountain laurel (a gorgeous sight when they’re in bloom in late spring). The trail arcs to the southwest and then due south, reaching Upper Crabtree Falls at 1.5 miles. Though considerably smaller than the downstream giant, the upper waterfall is beautiful, tumbling over a craggy, moss-covered rock outcrop beneath a twisted canopy of leathery-leafed rhododendron.

Hike the Crabtree Falls Trail in NC through tunnels of beautiful flowering mountain laurel

From the upper waterfall, the trail continues its southerly journey, resuming a steady climb. The trail crosses a wood bridge spanning Big Crabtree Creek at 1.65 miles, catching upstream views of the tumbling creek, its grassy shores, and the pebble-lined creek bed. The scene is tranquil, and the stream’s flow is gentle. It’s amazing to think that this same creek creates such an enormous, thundering beauty downstream.

Hike Crabtree Falls in western NC through a lush creek valley to two gorgeous waterfalls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

The trail loops eastbound, crossing a small wooden bridge and passing a towering old-growth oak. The hike passes through the Crabtree Falls Campground and following signs to the amphitheater. After crossing the paved campground loop road twice, the trail passes the amphitheater and reaches the trailhead at just under 2.7 miles, completing the hike.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

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Crabtree Falls Trail Map, Directions & Details

Crabtree Falls Trail Map
Crabtree Falls Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available at the trailhead.

GPS Coordinates

35.812683, -82.143439     //     N35 48.762 W82 08.607

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

Elevation Profile

Crabtree Falls, North Carolina: Trail Elevation Profile
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.