October Hike To Crabtree Falls

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Well, it’s now October in the NC high country. Leaves are beginning to change, and a chill is slowly pushing the heat away, as temps now struggle to reach 70. These are some of the best hiking conditions Mother Nature will have to offer. On this day, the 3rd of the four waterfalls I visited was Crabtree Falls. Crabtree Falls is not just a Waterfall but an entire BRP region with a large campground, coffee/gift shop, trails and picnic areas. The highlight of course being the 70 foot high Crabtree Falls itself.

The trailhead for this starts in the campground just past MM 339 on the BRP. The trail itself is mostly all downhill to the waterfall. Just down the hill from the trailhead, another trail meets from the left. Stay straight, this trail to the left is the one you will be coming back on, if you choose to make the loop. As you get closer to the falls , there will be 3 fairly long, steep, rock stair cases. They are slippery when wet. Also, when it has rained recently, like this hike, the trail itself is a creek. This adds to the risks, but also adds to the rewards of a prettier, higher volume waterfall! At 0.9 miles, the trail levels somewhat as you reach the beautiful destination.

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A bridge crosses the creek just in front of the falls, providing an excellent view or photo op. Some better close up shots can be obtained by scrambling up either side, with the right side being more accessible. There are some fallen trees at the bottom. They help show the size of Crabtree Falls. Stay here for awhile and take this beauty in, because getting back is where the work begins.

Once it is time to leave, you have two options: return the way you came for a 1.8 mile out and back, or stay on the trail, cross the creek to make the 2.7 mile loop. Both ways include some serious leg burning climbing. The loop way has some additional pretty views of the creek including a few small cascades. There is actually a third option, a trail that continues down into the woods, but I have no idea where that ends up. Having more waterfalls to see on this day and not much day left, I chose the 1.8 route and went back the way I came. It is a strenuous 0.9 back to the trailhead.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Rattlesnake

This is not what I was expecting to see as I made the curve into the Crabtree Falls area near milepost 339 of the BRP. In all of my 42 years in NC and the last 5 years hiking, never have I stumbled on something like this! I was always told they were up there. There is definitely something exciting and scary at the same time seeing one of these close-up in the wild. Rattlesnakes are right up there with bears, and mountain lions as the top creatures you do not want to run into or stumble upon. This poor guy was injured already, he had a spot by his tail. He was still very dangerous and did not like several of us taking his picture. If anything, this is a reminder that rattlesnakes do exist in the NC mountains and we should be aware of them. I am so glad I saw him first!!!

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BRP-339.5 Crabtree Falls Loop

Have you had the chance to see Crabtree Falls yet? If not, you should certainly plan a trip sometime to see this beauty in person. It is a 70 foot nearly vertical cascade on Crabtree Creek. No waterfall in NC does more with less water as the creek this is on is fairly small. This is yet another gorgeous waterfall offered by the Blue Ridge Parkway, this time at milepost 339.5. If your were to look on a map, and search for the town of Little Switzerland, you would be just about there.

Crabtree Falls is one of the larger attractions on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It gets left out sometimes to its big brother just a few miles to the north Linville Falls. Make no mistake about it though, this is one fine waterfall, I personally prefer it over Linville. This attraction offers a very large campground with ampitheater, a fairly large gift/coffee shop as well. Too bad they are all closed this time of year, a steaming cup of Crabtree java would have hit the spot yesterday!

The trailhead for this is in the back of the campground, there is a parking lot and plenty of signs to get you to the right place. In February, you must park in the front and walk an extra 1/4 mile each way, but all in all it was only a total of 3 miles, and definitely worth it. Getting there is easy, basically 1 mile to the bottom of the falls , all down hill. There are some well placed steps in a few of the steeper areas. Once you get close the roar of the falls is evident, and when you first see it….wow!! Once there, there is a bridge that crosses the creek with a seat built into the middle to view the falls. Good luck getting to sit there in warmer weather. Both banks of the creek are accessible to get close to the falls for great pictures. I prefer the shots from the left side personally. In the summer, your shots might be filled with hikers cooling off in the cool spray put off. Enjoy your time down here, it is a special place.

Then….the fun really begins. The return trip, is where your body will get the workout it needs. The next 1/4 to 1/2 mile is straight up. While down at the falls, look up on the right side at the cliff way above, this is where you will be after many switch backs and steps. I find it best to just look down and climb up, next thing you know, you are there. Once there, an interesting shot of the waterfall from above is present, though it does not compare with the shots from the base. From here, the trail flattens out and follows Crabtree Creek for the next mile or so. There will be a few smaller waterfalls and cascades and a scenic view of the creek from a bridge. It then turns left and eventually joins up with the original trail just below the trailhead. The loop is complete and tired most people are tired and thirsty at this point.

As mentioned earlier, Linville Falls is just to the north, while Mount Mitchell and Craggy Gardens lie just to the south, all with numerous hiking opportunities and must-see attractions.

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