Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Loop: hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway
Hike a moderate 6-miler to the ultra-popular Graveyard Fields waterfalls just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ascend Graveyard Ridge to trek through fields of wildflowers, blueberries and blackberries and catch some stunning views.
While this 6 miler hits the highlights of the most popular (and shorter) 3 mile hike at Graveyard Fields, including the stunning Graveyard Fields waterfalls, it also offers some bonus distance and some excellent views. The hike combines the Graveyard Fields Trail with the Graveyard Ridge Loop (and a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail), hiking to both waterwalls and catching some ridgeline views along the way. You’ll score some views of the nearby Black Balsam Knob from the ridge, trail through rhododendron tunnels, and in warm summer months, trek through wide, sprawling thickets of wild blueberries and blackberries.
This hike treks through some stunning landscape diversity, visiting a creek valley, ridge, meadow and two waterfalls. It’s a six-mile twist on the classic Graveyard Fields hike, visiting the area’s highlights that make this one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular.
Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Loop: the hike
The hike departs from the Graveyard Fields trailhead (view maps and driving directions) on the eastern edge of the parking area. (With your back to the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s the trailhead on the right.) The hike dives away from the Parkway into a gnarled, dense forest of rhododendron and mountain laurel. The trail crosses a bridge over the Yellowstone Prong, the river carving into the rocky terrain and tumbling between large, scattered boulders.
After crossing the bridge, the hike veers right at the next two trail intersections to visit the multi-tiered ‘Second Falls’ waterfall. The hike descends a series of wooden ramps and stairs, reaching the tumbling waterfall at .3 mile.
Departing the waterfall, the hike backtracks to the intersection with the Mountains to Sea Connector trail, turning right on the Mountains to Sea access trail to hike northeast toward Graveyard Ridge. The hike rolls elevation through mounded, grassy forest filled with tall fern, veering left at a trail intersection at .5 mile. The hike climbs steadily, arcing westbound and passing several wide-trunked, old-growth oak and balsam trees.
The trail continues to climb, trailing through blackberry bushes, before reaching a signed intersection at .95 miles. The hike hangs a left, trailing southwest on the Graveyard Ridge Trail. The hike continues to follow the Graveyard Ridge Trail westbound, passing a trail intersection with the Graveyard Ridge Connector trail at 1.2 miles. Views of wide, rolling meadows extend to the south as the trail climbs through rocky terrain.
The hike catches views of nearby Black Balsam Knob at 1.9 miles, nearing the end of Graveyard Ridge. The trail meets a grassy clearing at 2.2 miles, an intersection with the Mountains to Sea Trail. This hike turns, retracing its steps across Graveyard Ridge eastbound. The hike hangs a right at 3.25 miles, trailing southbound on the Graveyard Ridge Connector toward Graveyard Fields.
The hike meanders as it descends, turning west at 3.6 miles to hike to the upper Graveyard Fields waterfall. The hike treks across across a boardwalk and through several shallow creek crossings before climbing through a bouldered, rocky terrain to reach the upper waterfall at 4.8 miles.
A boulder-filled river bed and well-worn, carved rock frame the towering upper falls as it tumbles from a tall, balsam-capped cliff. The upper waterfall is one of our all-time faves for an early morning breakfast on the Blue Ridge Parkway – and with just over a mile left in this hike, it’s a great place to take a breather and soak up some scenic beauty.
Departing the upper falls, the hike retraces its steps, hiking eastbound toward the Graveyard Fields trailhead. At 5.7 miles, the hike hangs a right, crossing a bridge over Yellowstone Prong and climbing through a densely shaded forest of gnarly-branched rhododendron. The hike reaches sudden sunlight at just over 6 miles, exiting the trail at the trailhead and completing the hike.
Note: Due to heavy use and erosion, the trails at Graveyard Fields are routinely updated and rerouted. Follow posted trail signs and trail maps for the most current trail routing. As always, don’t climb on, near or around waterfalls – the rock, when wet, can be extremely slippery (and dangerous). And please pack out everything you packed in to preserve the awesome beauty of this beautiful wilderness.
More nearby hiking adventures on the Blue Ridge Parkway
This section of the Pisgah National Forest surrounding Graveyard Fields is scenic, rugged and beautiful, and it’s one of our all-time favorite hiking areas south of Asheville. Hike to stunning summit views on the nearby Sam Knob Trail, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 420 on Black Balsam Knob Rd. Or catch endless 360-degree panoramas from the treeless, wildflower and blackberry-covered summit of Black Balsam Knob on the Art Loeb Trail.
Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Trail: Directions & Details
Parking is available at the Graveyard Fields parking area at MP 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)
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