Sunday, November 2, 2014

Black Mountain Range- Craggy Gardens


About 18 miles north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, near mile post 369 you will find the entrance to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Grounds.  

Located on top of a 5000 foot ridge, it is one of the nicest picnic areas on the Parkway, my count of the tables tell me that it would accommodate 500 people or more! At the upper parking lot is the trail head to the Craggy Gardens trail.  A short but steep trail to the Craggy Garden Balds. 

There are two ways to get to Craggy Gardens, we chose this way only because we did not know about the trail leading from the visitors center located at Mile Post 364, some five miles north.

Storms a few days before we arrived clocked wind gusts at 50 mph and blew most of the foliage to the ground.  While the colors were disappointing the trail proved more challenging than we imagined.  Turns out it is a 450 foot climb without many switch backs.

As the trail emerges from the woods to the fringes of the meadow, an occasional look back presents a nice view of the distant blue mountains.

At the top of the ridge, there stands a nice covered building with many much appreciated benches. The trail from the Visitors Center joins the meadow trail at this point.  From the building there is a short hike to the meadow ridge top. 

The Craggy Gardens are really a mountain meadow known as a "Heath Bald" which is essentially a area of treeless ridge tops where the soil is too acidic to support forestation.

These are usually found in the North Carolina mountains at elevations above 5000 feet.
The vegetation is primary shrubs and rhododendrons which would make this place a true natural garden in the early summer when all the blossoms are in bloom.  There are many trail through the meadow and we chose the one taking us to the highest spot where an overlook was constructed.  

The overlook is a nice place to take a break and rest your dogs.  I suspect that when it was constructed the surrounding vegetation was much smaller and the views were much better.  Still you can get some nice views of the surrounding countryside. 

Leaving the overlook and walking down through the meadow, we got to take in more of the vast mountain range that surrounding us.  

To the north was the Craggy Pinnacle.  We did not know it at the time, but that was our next destination.  Note the cliffs that form its peak.  There are great views from those spots!

This place will be on our return hike list earlier in the summer as I am sure this meadow would be alive with spring color.   The trail has great access from the picnic area - 9; the trail is well maintained and marked - 9; the scenery was not great on the autumn day as the leaves had been blown early summer hike would be better...views were fine but not spectacular -7... the effort to view ratio is not good as it is a steep one mile hike to the top without good views....overall a 7 hike...

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