Location:Crabtree Meadows Campground, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC Distance from Hubs: Asheville (50 miles – 1 hour and 5 min) Charlotte (119 miles – 2 hours and 3 min) Raleigh (236 miles – 3 hours and 40 min) Trailhead GPS Coordinates:35.81236, -82.14338Trail Access:Trailhead parking is located at the entrance to the Crabtree Meadows Campground at mile 339.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is located between the exit for NC 80 to the south and NC 226A to the north.Hiking Upward link to hikeBlue Ridge Parkway – Crabtree Meadows CampgroundHiking Trails:Crabtree Falls Loop TrailHike Configuration: LoopHike Distance:~3.0 miles Elevation Gain: 740 feetHiking Time:1 hour and 20 minutesDate of Hike:03-16-16, Wednesday at 5:15 PMTrail Condition: Very Good — As with most popular Blue Ridge Parkway trails, this is in excellent condition with few spots of significant erosion. Also, there are switchbacks and stairs aplenty. Hike Difficulty:ModeratelyEasy — For most this is an easy hike, barring the climb you’ll face coming out of the gorge. Isolation:Low — Expect a significant amount of people on this trail year-round Highlights:A stunning waterfall, good access from the parkway Lowlights:Since this is only accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway you cannot drive here in the winterGoogle Photos album link
If you’ve seen a top 10 or top 20 list for waterfalls of North Carolina floating around the internet, I guarantee you Crabtree Falls is on that list 99% of the time. This is an incredible waterfall, and I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing it in person. I decided it was time to change that, and after a surprisingly grueling hike at Woods Mountain I still mustered up the energy to hike to Crabtree Falls that evening. Even though the sun was setting the lighting was perfect on this warm mid-March day. At just under 3 miles this is a great hike for the family. Not too difficult, probably on the moderate side for most. I consider it easy personally. If you huff-and-puff you’ll still leave with a smile because Crabtree Falls is one of the finest waterfalls in the state.
Location:Upper Creek Falls Trail, Pisgah National Forest, NC Distance from Hubs: Raleigh (215 miles – 3 hours and 21 min) Charlotte (99 miles – 1 hour and 44 min) Asheville (64 miles – 1 hour and 15 min) Trail Access:From downtown Morganton follow NC-181 north for 21.6 miles to the gravel parking area on the right side of the highway. Once you pass the Brown Mountain Overlook on the right it is 2.0 miles to the trail head. The Upper Creek Falls Trail loop #268B begins on each side of the parking lot. On the left is the trail to the top of the waterfall and is described in this post. HikingUpward link to hikeHiking Trails:Upper Creek Falls Trail #268B Hike Configuration: Loop Elevation Gain: 415 feetHike Distance:~1.7 miles Hiking Time: 1 hour Date of Hike: 03-15-15, Sunday at 5:50 PMTrail Condition: Good — Each trail descending into the gorge are in very good condition but more eroded once you follow the creekHike Difficulty:Moderate — No matter which direction you begin, you will face a fairly steep climb out of the gorge Isolation:Average — I only saw two groups of people here, but given it was almost nighttime on a late winter Sunday that is probably an anomaly. This is supposedly very popular in the summer for swimming. Highlights:Incredible waterfall with intimate access to multiple spots along the creek Lowlights:Two creek crossings could be potentially wet and hazardous, the old trail between the newer switchbacks isn’t disguised well and is likely used oftenGoogle+ photo album link
Upper Creek constitutes the western boundary of the massive Wilson Creek drainage in Pisgah National Forest. I drive by here a lot on NC-181, which climbs up the western ridges of the drainage on its way to Linville Gorge. There’s a sign for Upper Creek Falls on the highway, and I have never turned off. It didn’t seem like a destination to me – easy highway access + short trail to a waterfall = crowds and disappointment. Let me correct that wrong right now, it is a spectacular destination. Although it is likely popular with swimmers during the summer, Upper Creek Falls is one of the best waterfalls I’ve seen in North Carolina. There are taller waterfalls, and more powerful waterfalls, but this has the best attributes of both worlds in my opinion With easy access from the highway and a manageable trail you have to see this waterfall.
Location:George Washington National Forest, VA Distance from Hubs: Raleigh (190 miles – 3 hours and 19 min) Greensboro (155 miles – 2 hours and 35 min) Roanoke (81 miles – 1 hour and 27 min) Trail Access:From US-29 go left on VA-151 north for 10.5-mi. Go left on VA-56 heading west for 11.7-mi into the Tye River Gorge. Look for the Crabtree Falls parking access on the left side of the road. The trail head is on the left side of the upper parking lot. There is a nominal $3 fee for day access at Crabtree Falls.Click here for information on the George Washington National ForestHikingUpward link to hikeHiking Trails:Crabtree Falls Trail – Forest Road – Appalachian Trail – Spy Rock Spur Trail – Appalachian Trail – Forest Road – Crabtree Falls TrailHike Configuration: Out and back Elevation Gain: 3,610 feetHike Distance:~13.9 miles Hiking Time: 6 hours and 25 minutes Date of Hike: 12-21-14, Sunday at 11:00 AMTrail Condition: Above Average — Crabtree Falls section is heavily used and eroded in many spots but the rest of the hike is on very good roads and trailsHike Difficulty:Strenuous — There are no steep sections along this hike but the elevation change on the Crabtree Falls Trail and Appalachian Trail are steady climbs. Isolation:High — Usually you will get a lot of company on Crabtree Falls and Spy Rock, but the hike in between receives much less traffic. On this day I only saw a few hikers, primarily due to the cold weather. Highlights:All of the beautiful waterfalls along Crabtree Creek, Fantastic 360° panorama from Spy Rock Lowlights:Forest road eroded and steep to the Appalachian TrailGoogle+ photo album link
I don’t get to Virginia enough. From afar I look down on it but when I hike there I enjoy it just as much as North Carolina. After 3 hikes I’ve come to love the mountains around VA-56. The Tye River crashes through a narrow gorge which highway 56 follows through the Blue Ridge Mountains on its way to the foothills. Around this area the Appalachian Trail crosses dramatic peaks through The Priest Wilderness and Three Ridges Wilderness, and other trails follow steep water drainages to popular or secluded waterfalls. There’s a lot to see, and trail access is easy. Crabtree Falls is billed as the highest waterfall on the East Coast. This is decidedly untrue because Crabtree Falls is actually 3 or 5 waterfalls (depending on your source), and when combined would become the tallest waterfall in the East. However, it is still an incredible series of falls that in my opinion is unrivaled in the Southeast. Beyond the top of the waterfall you can continue up a rare hanging valley to meet the Appalachian Trail. During my previous visit to the area, I hiked north to The Priest. My plan on this day was to hike south on the Appalachian Trail to Spy Rock, an incredible rock dome with 360° views. You can easily be satisfied with a short hike to either Crabtree Falls or Spy Rock but I love combining trails for a long day. If you are looking for a hike in this area of Virginia, Crabtree Falls is the place you should start.
Location:Doughton Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC Distance from Triangle: Chapel Hill (144 miles – 2 hr 23 min) Durham (147 miles – 2 hr 23 min) Raleigh (170 miles – 2 hr 47 min) Trail Access:Follow US 21 north from Elkin for 10.7-mi, turn left on Traphill Rd for 5.2-mi, turn right on Longbottom Rd for 8.1-mi and gravel parking on left just before bridge over Basin Creek. Trail head begins across the bridge on the left of Basin CreekPark information and trail map can be found hereWEBSITEHikingUpward link to hikeHiking Trails:Grassy Gap Fire Road – Basin Creek Trail Hike Configuration: Out and back Trail Condition: Good — All trails were well graded and not rocky, mostly single file paths Hike Distance:~11.0 miles Elevation Gain:1,815 feet Hiking Time:5.5 hours Date of Hike: 6-29-14, Sunday at 1:00 PMHike Difficulty:Moderate — No significant uphill sections, many tricky creek crossings Significant Stream Crossings:15 or less depending on the water levelsIsolation: High — I passed one group of campers. The only other hikers on the trail I ended up hiking with the whole way Highlights:Beautiful mountain streams, historical remnants, small picturesque waterfall, Caudill Cabin Lowlights:Many creek crossings slow you down, no obvious path to the first waterfall, lots of stinging nettles Google+ photo album link
If you’re looking for a hike with few people, history, water, and more water, then the Basin Creek Trail is a perfect fit. I’ve been saving this trail for a rainy day. Although I’ve been to Doughton Park multiple times, never have I ventured into the remote watershed of Basin Creek. Since it is a creek hike, I assumed there would be no views and it would be best to try when it is cloudy. The weather forecast called for 60% chance of thunderstorms, I drove to the trail head anyways. It was cloudy and sometimes misty, but it never rained and was cooler than a typical June day. The Basin Creek Trail is the only trail from Longbottom Road that does not climb to the ridge. Instead, the trail follows Basin Creek all the way upstream to its origin while passing by remnants of the Basin Cove community that was wiped away by a flood in 1916. At 11 miles round trip the trail isn’t difficult but requires many stream crossings. The trail ends at the Caudill Cabin in a clearing that is visible 900+ feet below from the Wildcat Rocks Overlook. This cabin is the only house that was not destroyed by a great flood in 1916.