Dancing Sun Cabins
1985 Roaring Fork Road, Hot Springs, NC 28743, Madison County, USA
Craggy Gardens hike to Douglas Falls
Tom and Rebecca Ratings:
Moderate to Difficult
Stumble Factor is HIGH- so consider taking a walking stick
Craggy Trees, Large Rocks, High Altitude Flora and Fauna, Beech Forest
Total Elevation Gain: Approx 2000 ft
Mileage: In and Out Trail total 10 miles
Craggy Gardens is an incredible place to be when the Rhododendrons are in bloom. We discovered that the flowers are not the only attraction here. The forest is amazing! It is a wonderful place to take a high altitude hike.
The forest is full of old "bonsai-like" trees. They are like the "old crones" of the forest, twisted and bumpy and full of character. The ground underneath is covered in beautiful green grass along with a wide variety of wildflowers and a surprising lack of poison ivy.
In late May, we took the trail from the Craggy Gardens Picnic area to Douglas Falls. We found the trail to be well marked and pretty well trodden. It is an "in and out" trail and is approximately 5 miles each way making it a good 10 mile hike.
The trail is quite rocky which is part of it's charm. However, that makes it a bit difficult as this goes on for miles. The whole area is covered in unique rocks and trees with up and down sections that take you across the mountain. I suggest taking a good walking stick on this hike as my knees get tired near the end and it is nice to have a stick to prevent the stumbles. The total elevation gain for the entire hike is approximately 2000 ft. It is a good work out.
On the way to Douglas Falls, you pass through a beautiful Beech Forest. You will also cross 2 waterfalls which are delightful places to stop and cool off. They are not as dramatic as Douglas Falls, but they are nice places to stick your feet in the water.
As you get close to Douglas Falls you will begin a steep walk down. You will pass some dramatic rocks and then come to Douglas Falls. The water level was not particularly high the day we visited, but the beauty is in the way the water drops off a huge cliff. The cliff has a cave and you can walk behind the falls and be dry. There is a little pool for quick dips, but not large enough to actually take a swim. It is a great place to picnic.
We really enjoyed this somewhat challenging hike. It made us tired, but very happy that we experience such a unique forest.
To get to Craggy Gardens from Dancing Sun Cabins
Go to Weaverville and access the Blue Ridge Parkway from there.
Go North to Craggy Gardens
It's about a 90 minute scenic drive from the cabins.
Tom and Rebecca do this as a day trip. We like to eat dinner at the restaurant on Mount Mitchell when we are through. It is a short drive further north, but well worth it as the view is fabulous. The food is great too.
Hiking Craggy Gardens Area
June brings daily showers that make our flowers grow and bloom into incredible shows. Rhododendrons, Flaming Azaleas and Mountain Laurel are some of the most dramatic in our region.
We find it interesting that these blooms often occur earlier up in the higher elevations due to the different species of plants.
Our Rhododendrons tend to bloom in late June and early July while the ones at Craggy Gardens and Mount Pisgah seem to bloom in Mid June.
Craggy Gardens is locate at Mile Post 364 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
There are several short and easy hikes from the visitor center. It is really wonderful to hike from the visitor center to the picnic area and back. This takes you through a wonderful display of blooms.
For a more dramatic show, go past the visitor center to a well marked parking area where you can hike up to a peak. This is well worth the short climb and offers incredible views especially when the Rhododendrons are in bloom.
We have reviewed a longer hike below. All are really wonderful.
And if you have time, go on up to Mount Mitchell and enjoy their restaurant for a nice meal with a fabulous view!