Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail to stunning summit views and beautiful sunsets at Craggy Gardens, NC

Craggy Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens

Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail through an exceptionally beautiful forest at Craggy Gardens, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, climbing to stunning summit views and abundant blooming Catawba rhododendron.

trail info

TRAIL LOCATION: On the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC

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

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

 

The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders along a towering ridge crest, offering some pretty exceptional roadside views from this historic and iconic American drive. Given the Parkway’s lofty elevations, many hikes off the Parkway don’t need to trek far to score some fantastic panoramic views or explore unique, high-elevation forests. The Pinnacle Trail at Craggy Gardens is a prime example: it’s a short trail, spanning less than a mile round trip, but the trail’s pinnacle views are simply stunning, offering sweeping summit vistas from a pair of high-elevation overlooks.

Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail to stunning summit views off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of AshevilleAbove: catch views of Craggy Gardens and the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Wildflowers, blackberries, and blueberries cover the Pinnacle’s sun-drenched peak in summer months. And the trail to the top climbs through one of the most stunning, surreal, unique forests we’ve hiked in North Carolina. The Craggy Gardens landscape is exceptionally beautiful: twisted rhododendron and hardwoods densely shade a forest filled with lush, green moss and weathered high-elevation plants.

Hike the Craggy Gardens, exploring a mossy forest of twisted rhododendron and hardwoods just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

In late Spring, the Craggy Gardens landscape erupts into color when Catawba rhododendron bloom in brilliant pink and purple flowers by the literal millions. Summertime brings scores of wildflowers and berry-filled bushes at the Craggies. And in any season (when the Blue Ridge Parkway is open), the beautifully gnarled, rugged, high-elevation forest pairs with Craggy Pinnacle’s stunning mountaintop views to make an especially memorable and extremely photo-worthy hike.

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, with sunlight casting stunning 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. The forest of rhododendron, beech, buckeye and other hardwood trees twist, gnarl and nob over the rugged terrain. Many of the forest’s plants are rare or endangered, so please hike carefully, remain on marked trails, and don’t climb trees or rocks.

Hike through a gnarly, mossy forest at Craggy Gardens on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail near Asheville, NC

The hike passes a small, moss-covered concrete spring house at .2 mile, continuing the summit-bound climb. The 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 the lower Craggy Pinnacle overlook.

The trail treks through thickets of blueberries before catching vast 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.

Hike the Craggy Pinnacle Trail to stunning views of Craggy Gardens and the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville

The hike backtracks from the lower overlook, veering right at the trail junction to climb to the summit. A walled, terraced overlook at the Craggy Pinnacle summit offers stunning 360-degree views. Wildflowers stretch high towards the ample sunlight on the open, breezy, view-filled peak.

The summit is the perfect place to take in the view or catch a few high-elevation rays before backtracking to the trailhead. At nearly 5900 feet elevation, the summertime breeze is especially refreshing at this altitude, and often more than ten degrees cooler than nearby Asheville. And sunsets from the summit are simply spectacular.

Hike to beautiful sunsets at Craggy Gardens, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

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.

More view-packed Craggy Gardens adventures

Chase some more exceptional mountaintop views and climb through rhododendron blooms by the millions on the Craggy Gardens Trail. This two-mile round trip explores the grassy, sun-drenched summit southeast of Craggy Pinnacle, climbing through a mossy, gnarled forest to a high-elevation grassland.

Craggy Gardens – Craggy Pinnacle Trail Map: Directions & Details

Parking

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.)

Please Remember

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

GPS Coordinates

35.704167, -82.373750     //     N35 42.250 W82 22.425

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Craggy Gardens – Craggy Pinnacle Trail Elevation Profile

Craggy Gardens – Craggy Pinnacle Trail Map Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
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.

Let’s hit the trail, Asheville!   #ashevilletrails

Western North Carolina's beauty is simply stunning. From Asheville's urban biking and running trails to the curvy meanders of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the towering heights of Mount Mitchell to the shady, cool, waterfall-filled valleys of the Pisgah National Forest, there's a whole lot of outdoor beauty to be seen in Western NC.

Snap a selfie from a hike to your favorite mountain summit, a group shot of your favorite hiking buddies, or a morning sunrise from your trail run off the Blue Ridge Parkway... we'd love to see your adventures! Share your photos with us! Tag them #ashevilletrails on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We'll share our favorites, as well as our own favorite shots!