Saturday, May 18, 2013

Crabtree Falls 5/12/2013

After the heavy rain this past week we thought that Crabtree Falls would have lots of water flowing.  The falls were pretty spectacular but we were also surprised by how nice a wildflower hike this turned out to be.

The Crabtree Falls area is located around mile marker 309 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.  The picnic area, camping area, and store are closed this summer due to budget constraints but the trail can still be accessed.  Instead of parking at the trail head for the loop you must park at the store parking lot and hike past the amphitheater and through part of the camping area.  This adds about a quarter mile to the two and a half mile loop hike.

As soon as we exited the vehicle we began to see wildflowers.  There were violets and other small flowers dotting the ground.  There were dogwood trees in bloom between the trail and the amphitheater.  Before we reached the official trail head we were seeing white and pink trillium.  After easily following the signs we reached the parking lot and trail head for the loop.

The first part of the trail is wide and only gently sloping.   We passed the point where the return of the loop joins on the left and began to hear water running in the distance.  Soon we descended a set of stone steps and the trail got narrower and steeper.  I was stopping frequently to photograph the wide variety of wild flowers.

There was a tree down across the trail that we had to stoop to pass under then another set of stone steps led to what looked more like a small creek then a trail.  We walked in two segments of trail about one hundred feet each that were under an inch or two of water  but there were lots of rocks to walk on.  The sound of the water was getting louder.

After a fairly steep section with switchbacks we arrived at the falls.  There is a nice bridge over the creek with a bench at the center.  We took pictures, enjoyed the falls, and ate our snack.  We had only seen a couple of single hikers on the trail up to this point but now several groups of hikers including dogs seemed to arrive all at once.

We decided to head on up the trail.  The stone stairs on the far side of the bridge are in need of repair but not too hard to negotiate.  Beyond the stairs the trail climbs fairly steeply away from the falls but is not technically difficult.  Once the elevation is gained this side of the loop becomes almost level.  One section of the trail has a stone wall along the side.

When we crossed the creek again above the falls it was much quieter.  The trail follows the creek past quiet little holes until it turns and follows a smaller run towards the campground.  We reached a sign pointing one way to complete the loop and the other way to the campground.  We shortened our hike about a half mile by cutting across the campground following the signs for the amphitheater.  

This trail is well signed and easy to follow with just a few places that could use maintenance.  I would not hesitate to bring the children on this hike.  The Spring wildflowers were a special treat.  The hike would be shorter as an out and back on the first section instead of a loop but we would have missed the painted trillium that were only on this part of the trail and the chance to walk along the creek.