Craggy Pinnacle Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail through exceptionally beautiful forest to views of Craggy Gardens, Craggy Dome and stunning Pisgah National Forest vistas north of Asheville.
The Craggy Pinnacle Trail is a prime example: it’s a short trail, spanning less than a mile roundtrip. Its pinnacle views are simply stunning, offering sweeping summit vistas from a pair of high-elevation overlooks. The summit’s sun-drenched peak is covered in wildflowers, blackberries and blueberries in summer months. And the trail makes a moderate climb through some of the most beautiful, surreal, unique forest we’ve hiked in North Carolina. The Craggy Gardens landscape is a beauty: twisted rhododendron and hardwoods densely shade a forest filled with lush, green moss and weathered, high-elevation plants.
When to visit Craggy Gardens? In late Spring, the landscape erupts into color, as the catawba rhododendron bloom brilliant pink and purple flowers. Summertime at the Craggies brings scores of wildflowers and berry-filled blackberry bushes. And in any season (given that the Blue Ridge Parkway is open), the forest’s beautifully gnarled, rugged, high-elevation landscape pairs with stunning mountaintop views to make an especially awesome hike to the Craggy Pinnacle.
Craggy Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens: the hike
The hike departs from the signed Craggy Pinnacle trailhead at the Craggy Dome parking area (view maps and driving directions), ascending stone stairs from the southernmost edge of the parking area. The trail dives into a dense, gnarled forest, sunlight casting beautiful arrays of shadows on the forest floor. The terrain is rocky and rooty, covered in leafy fern, silvery lichen and soft green moss.
The ecosystem at Craggy Gardens is unique: it’s a rocky, high-elevation, often windy and exposed terrain. Many of the forest’s plants are rare or endangered – so hike carefully, remain on marked trails, and don’t climb trees or rocks. The forest of rhododendron, beech, buckeye and other hardwood trees twist, gnarl and nob over the rugged terrain.
The hike passes a small, moss-covered concrete spring house at .2 mile, continuing the summit-bound climb. The Craggy Pinnacle Trail arcs sharply southbound at .3 mile, passing a small cave under a chiseled, angled rock outcrop. The hike reaches a v-shaped intersection at .35 mile, veering right to explore Craggy Pinnacle’s lower overlook.
The trail treks through thickets of blueberries before catching wide panoramas from the lower overlook. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds to the south, passing the Craggy Gardens visitor center. The chiseled, green-blue hued mountains of the Pisgah National Forest extend to the right and left, offering particularly beautiful views of their lushly forested, time-weathered peaks.
The hike backtracks from the lower overlook, veering right at the trail junction to climb to the summit. A walled, terraced overlook at the peak of Craggy Pinnacle offers stunning 360-degree views. Wildflowers stretch high towards the ample sunlight on the open, breezy, view-filled peak.
The Craggy Pinnacle summit is a great place to take in the view or catch a few high-elevation rays before backtracking to the trailhead. At nearly 5900 feet of elevation, the summertime breeze is especially refreshing at this altitude, and ten (or more) degrees lower than nearby Asheville.
Departing the summit, the hike retraces its steps to the trailhead, dropping elevation through the twisted, gnarly, rocky forest. The hike reaches the Craggy Dome trailhead at .9 mile, completing the hike.
Craggy Gardens – Craggy Pinnacle Trail Map: Directions & Details
Free parking is available at the Craggy Dome Overlook parking area at MP 364 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)
35.704167, -82.373750 // N35 42.250 W82 22.425