I had it all planned out! A cloudy forecasted Saturday in the high country with showers around meant that I was going to get some wonderful photographs of waterfalls on this day. I headed west into the clouds with great anticipation.
After a sensational hike into the Linville Gorge this morning, I had lunch on my mind, a little shopping in Little Switzerland, followed by hiking an afternoon loop along the Crabtree Falls Trail. Everything was going according to plan except while eating lunch at the Mountain View restaurant, the afternoon thunderstorm machine cranked up. And wow, did it crank up! As it turns out, we passed through 7 storms from this one at 1pm until reaching the triad at 6:30 pm. In and out, in and out, sunshine then blinding rain, sunshine again. My car’s thermometer would show 70 then 88, then 68, then 90.
Anyway, while in Little Switzerland, I got word that a waterfall named Grassy Creek Falls was just around the corner. Having already hiked Crabtree at least 5 times now, I opted to try Grassy Creek Falls. I am always excited to see a new one, or should i say “one that is new to me!!
The one note everyone should take on Grassy Creek Falls is that it is on private property. There are signs along the road, though welcoming people to view the falls, to keep their cars off the private road. This means that the 1/2 mile trail, now includes 1/2 mile dirt road and 1/2 mile trail. This dirt road, which is Grassy Creek Falls Road turns off of Chestnut Grove Rd. in Little Switerland, Chestnut Grove Rd, connects NC 226A to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is where you get off the parkway, take a right, go under the parkway, then just on the other side is Grassy Creek Falls Rd. Park at the top, take the dirt road for 1/2 mile or so. This road is all down hill. There will be a sign that says Falls, turn right here and head down what is now a nice path, but was once the main road between Little Swizerland and Spruce Pine. After 1/2 mile, a creek crossing, and a downed tree or two, this down hill route will bring you to the top of Grassy Creek Falls. There is a rather steep scramble path to the base down the bank. Use caution, take your time, and watch your footing. Enoy, you are now in front of Grassy Creek Falls. The wet rocks are very slippery!
I mentioned that this road and trail were all downhill, this means that the return trip will be all uphill. After the huffing and puffing, I made it back to my car just in time before mother nature had another car wash rain storm waiting.
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.