Hike to stunning summit views at Craggy Pinnacle, exploring an exceptionally beautiful forest just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and climbing through abundant blooming Catawba rhododendron.
LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC
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 Craggy Pinnacle Trail 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.
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 landscape is exceptionally beautiful: twisted rhododendron and hardwoods densely shade a forest filled with lush, green moss and weathered high-elevation plants.
In late spring, the Craggies erupt 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. And in any season (when the Blue Ridge Parkway is open), the beautifully gnarled, rugged, high-elevation forest pairs with stunning mountaintop views to make an especially memorable and extremely photo-worthy hike.
Craggy Pinnacle: the hike
The hike departs from a signed 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.
This ecosystem 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.
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 overlook.
The trail treks through thickets of blueberries before catching vast panoramas from the lower overlook. 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 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 much cooler than nearby Asheville. And sunsets from the summit are simply spectacular.
Departing the summit, the hike retraces its steps to the trailhead, dropping elevation through the twisted, gnarly, rocky forest. The hike reaches the 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 the pinnacle, climbing through a mossy, gnarled forest to a high-elevation grassland.
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
35.704167, -82.373750 // N35 42.250 W82 22.425