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.

 

trail info

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

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

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

Graveyard Fields is one of the most beautiful, wonderfully unique hiking areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. And it’s equally one of the most popular: mix the Graveyard Fields trails some sunshine and some summertime weather, and you’ll likely get a full trailhead, and hiking trails packed with hikers.

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.

The Graveyard Ridge Loop visits the Graveyard Fields waterfalls catches beautiful Graveyard Fields views from a nearby ridgelineThe Graveyard Ridge Loop visits the Graveyard Fields waterfalls, including Second Falls (above), and catches beautiful views of Graveyard Fields from a nearby ridgeline.

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.

The Graveyard Ridge Loop crosses the boulder-bedded Yellowstone Prong at Graveyard Fields

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 Graveyard Ridge Trail visits several old-growth, wide-trunked trees on a ridge beside Graveyard Fields

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.

Hike the Graveyard Ridge Loop at Graveyard Fields to beautiful waterfalls, through grassy, wildflower-filled meadow and to ridgeline views near the Blue Ridge Parkway


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.

Hike to the upper waterfall at Graveyard Fields, a popular hike off the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, NC

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

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.)

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.320383, -82.847050     //     N35 19.223 W82 50.823

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Loop: Elevation Profile

Graveyard Ridge and Graveyard Fields Trail 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.