the Folk Art Center
Folk Art Center is conveniently located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where
it intersects with route US 70 in east Asheville. If you are looking for
an easy stroll through the woods, this is a good place to start. The Mountains-to
Sea Trail crosses the parking lot - you can head either north or
south for some easy walking. Heading north, there is a bit of a hill after
about 1/4 mile, but there's a resting bench at the top. After 1 mile the
trail crosses the Parkway and heads into more moderately-difficult terrain.
Heading south from the Folk Art Center, you can have an easy walk, closely
following the Parkway to a bridge across the Swannanoa River. A "calveat"
- the trail crosses a cow pasture at the river's edge. (Call the Folk
Art Center at 828-298-7928 for general information about the center and
the neighborhood trails.)
Gardens at Asheville
at 151 Weaver Boulevard , close to UNCA in north Asheville - call 828-252-5190
for general information, or visit their site at www.ashevillebotanicalgardens.org.
The Botanical Gardens are a wonderful place to take an easy AND educational
walk. They have one of the finest collections of native wildflower gardens
in Asheville. If you really want to learn about wildflowers, this is the
place to be. The gardens are run mostly by volunteers, who would be glad
to share their knowledge with you. They also have a very nice little gift
shop with a good collection of guide books , some of the nicest t-shirts
and greeting cards I've ever seen, and of course some plants for sale.
828-665-2492 for general information, or visit their website at www.ncarboretum.org
. This new arboretum is located on the south side of Asheville. The entrance
is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here you can wander among the many planned
gardens, each with a different focus and renewed regularly, or take
an easy woodland walk. There are also more extensive trails here,
if you feel like making a day of it. This is a very popular place for
walking and running, though it's big enough to remain uncrowded.(The Arboretum
has maps available.)
Craggy Gardens Visitor Center is on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost
364.6 . There is ample parking and an information center with facilities.
The Craggy Gardens Trail leads up from the visitor center to the top of
Craggy Flats. Here you will find a taste of Scotland, and maybe even a
taste of blueberries if you arrive in September.There's a great view and
even a place to sit at the top of the Flats. Look for the trailhead at
the south end of the Visitor Center Parking Lot. Follow the trail roughly
southwest from the parking area for about 1/2 mile until you reach the
old Craggy Gardens Shelter. To your left, the trail continues mildly uphill,
under Rhododendrons and across the "flats" to an overlook. Best time to
go is in June when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Here you will
see both the Catawba and the Rosebay Rhododendrons. Just north of the
visitor center is another parking area on the left with yet another trail
leading to the top of Craggy Pinnacle. This trail is slightly longer and
steeper than the Gardens trail. If you don't feel like walking, just pull
over at the Visitor Center for great roadside views.
you're in the mood for something easy but different, try the Pink Beds
Loop Trail. The Pink Beds is an area of naturally-formed mountain
bog. As you walk the easy loop trail, you'll see patches of wet, boggy
ground covered in mosses, ferns, and some unusual flowering plants. The
far side of the loop is "temporarily" inaccessible due to a beaver dam
that flooded the trail - but walk as far as you can, then turn back. There
is a small section of the Mountains-to Sea trail that joins the two sides
of the loop before you reach the flooded section, and you can use it to
complete the loop. The trailhead is at the Pink Beds Picnic Area parking
lot. From Asheville, take the Parkway south to the intersection with route
276 (milepost 412). Take 276 south for 4 miles and look for the picnic
area entrance on the left - it is well marked.
the descent is steep, there's a paved pathway and the rest of the walking
is easy. Park at the Graveyard Fields overlook on the Parkway, between
mileposts 418 and 419. Take the paved path downhill. From there you have
a few choices of loop trails. This is a heavily-visited area and there
are a few misleading false paths - read the trail sign at the overlook
before you proceed. The trail to the lower falls is being rerouted and
improved. The loop trail to the upper falls is worth the walk - it's mostly
easy walking until you get near the falls, where the trail becomes somewhat
steep and very rocky. Graveyard Fields is also an excellent place to find
Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel in bloom.
||EASY TO MODERATE
for wide open spaces? For a relatively easy hike, you can do a short section
of the Art Loeb Trail in the Shining Rock Wilderness. It is somewhat steep,
somewhat rocky but short, and I can't think of a better place to fly a
kite. Take the Parkway south (west) of Asheville and go 1 mile past Graveyard
Fields (at milepost 418). On the right, look for Forest Service Road #816
- it's paved but inconspicuous. Follow FS 816 about 1/2 mile and look
for where the Mountains-To-Sea Trail crosses it - most likely you will
see a number of other cars parked along the shoulder of the road here.
Park on the shoulder. Follow the trailhead on the right-hand (east) side
of the road. After rising slightly through a spruce grove, the Art Loeb
Trail and the MST part ways. Follow the Art Loeb Trail, which is the left
fork. It will take you up to the top of Black Balsam Knob in less than
a mile. Fantastic views, open space and clear skies in spring and fall.
Pisgah Inn is a popular stopping place for day and overnight travelers
alike. Perched atop the ridge at Parkway milepost 407.6, there is plenty
of parking, facilities and a really nice restaurant. (Call the Inn at
828-235-8228 for info.) For easy walking, just wander around the Inn.
You can follow 1.1 miles of the Buck Springs Trail to a Parkway overlook
with great views. Look for the trail sign at the northeast corner of the
Inn parking lot, and head northeast. (Note for info: the MST is also following
this trail, and continues on the north side of the overlook as the Shut-In
Gap to Bull Gap
2 mile (approx) section of the MST.
From south to north: Park at Craven Gap at milepost 377.4 and follow the
white blazes north. The trail heads generally uphill but not steeply,
tending to wander up and down following the contour of the ridge. After
about 3/4 mile you can see the Tanbark Ridge Parkway Overlook downhill
to your right. There is a short access trail from the overlook. A little
farther on you reach a rocky outcrop with fine winter view of Tanbark
Ridge. This outcrop bears a large patch of Prickly Pear cactus - this
tells you that the slope here is dry, warm, and facing south/southeast.
Most of this stretch of trail is on the sunny, warm and dry side of the
ridge, making for a pleasant early spring walk. Continue about another
mile, crossing a couple of coves along the way - here's where the steeper
parts of the trail are, but not too steep and not for very long. Reach
Bull Gap at the end of the two miles, where Ox Creek Road crosses the
BRP at milepost 375.7 .
more strenuous walk in the Inn's neighborhood, (see previous section),
stop at the Mt. Pisgah Parking Area which is 0.2 miles north of the Inn
parking lot. Follow the Mt. Pisgah Trail north to an obervation deck at
1.2 miles. There is a steep section to this trail, but it is short (1/2
mile). On this trail in late summer, the air is perfumed with Angelica.
Fantastic views .
is a moderate-to-strenuous loop in Shining Rock Wilderness, about 6 miles
long. the trail can be steep and very rocky in places. Shining Rock is
riddled with trails and trail crossings - there are many ways to make
a loop , and just as many ways to get lost. When hiking Shining Rock,
follow trail descriptions and/or bring a map with you.For this hike, take
the Parkway south (west) to Forest Service Road 816, on the right approx
at milepost 420. Drive about 1/2 mile on FS816 to the point where MST
crosses the road, and part on the shoulder. Follow the trail on the right-hand
(east) side of the road. After climbing through a spruce grove, the MST
and Art Loeb separate. (At ths point, you can follow my directions or
follow them in reverse - either way there will be a climb at the end.)
Follow the MST which is the right fork. It gradually descends then follows
a level path around the side of Black Balsam Knob, then rises sharply
on a staircase up & over a shoulder of the knob. After that, it descends
to an unnamed gap where you will find a wooden signpost and a three-way
trail crossing. Take the leftmost fork, the Graveyard Ridge Trail towards
Ivestor Gap. (Go straight to take the MST to Graveyard Fields, or the
right which is the other section of the Graveyard Ridge Trail also towards
Graveyard Fields.) From here it's an easy gradual climb to Ivestor Gap
in about 1.5 miles. At Ivestor Gap, many trails intersect. Take the Art
Loeb, which rises gradually through a broad Laurel thicket, to the top
of Tennent Mountain (this is the toughest section of the trail, covers
about 1 mile). Continue on the Art Loeb, up & over a ridge, finally
reaching the top of Black Balsam Mountain in about another 1.5 miles.
Follow the Art Loeb down Black Balsam to your starting point.
6 miles one-way. From the Parkway: park at milepost 359.8 (Balsam
Gap). Follow the trail north through spruce-fir to Point Misery, Little
Butt, and finally around Big Butt to Cane River Gap and NC197. Along the
way there are two outcrops with excellent views. The first view, of the
Cane River valley and the Black Mountains from Celo Knob to Potato Knob,
is at the crest of Little Butt. The view is unspoiled except for
the road and towers on Mt. Mitchell. The second view is from a knife edge
just south of where the trail skirts the east side of Big Butt.
From this vantage, one can see south and west as well as east. At about
the 5 mile mark, the trail begins a steep descent-supposedly 26 switchbacks
but we keep losing count! At 6 miles the trail reaches an intersection
of dirt roads, one of which is NC197.
THE MOUNTAINS TO SEA TRAIL
SECTION I: FOLK ART CENTER TO BALSAM GAP
Mountains-to-the Sea Trail crosses the entrance road to the Folk Art Center.
Heading north from the entrance road, the MST follows the Blue Ridge Parkway
closely at first, then bears left to climb a small ridge before crossing
the Parkway at mile 1.0
trail ascends gradually.
is a rock outcrop on the left, with view of the Haw Creek Valley.
to the crest of a knob at 2.8 miles, the trail descends, bears left, and
levels out as it skirts the mountainside below the Parkway.
MST crosses the Parkway at Craven Gap and ascends the ridge above the
side trail on right that leads the the Parkway at the Tanbark Ridge Overlook.
Ox Creek Road.
to Bull Gap. To the left is Ox Creek Rd. Ascend to shoulder of Bull Mt.
by easy switchbacks. Ascend gradually on southeast slope of Bull Mt. Pass
viewpoint above Bull Creek. Continue gradual ascent through area of rocky
Rattlesnake Lodge site (ruins) and junction with Rattlesnake Lodge trail
on right, which descends 0.4 miles to the Parkway at the south end of
the Tanbark Ridge Tunnel. From the Lodge site, continue ahead on old road.
Cross small stream. Ascend through Mountain Laurel thicket. Switchback
left. Cross stream. Leave Laurels and continue ascent along western slopes
and rocky coves of Bull Mountain.
in gap. Ascend steeply and cross east side of Rocky Knob. Cross Rich Knob
and Wolfden Knob.
steeply to Lane Pinnacle (5230 ft.) and a view to the southeast. The MST
turns left. Descend from Lane Pinnacle and follow ridge crest, passing
outcrops with fine view of Great Craggy Mountains on right (east). Woodfin
watershed is on left. Pass through gap. Ascend briefly to ridge top, and
descend to Potato Field Gap and the Parkway.
woods again on left (west) side of Parkway. Continue ascent.
road to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, Forest Service Road #63, and junction
with Snowball Trail. The MST continues straight ahead across road.
side trail on left to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Turn right, joining
trail from picnic area to Craggy Gardens Shelter.
bald, and arrive at Craggy Gardens Shelter (5640 ft.). To the north is
Craggy Pinnacle. Beyond shelter, side trail on right leads uphill 100
yards or so to a southerly overlook. MST continues straight ahead.
makes a sharp turn left and downhill. (If you continue straight ahead,
you reach the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Parkway, with great
roadside views.) The MST descends, skirting Craggy Pinnacle to reach junction
with Douglas Falls Trail on the left at milepoint 18.2.
Falls Trail junction.
crosses Parkway near Greybeard Mountain Overlook (5606 ft.). Pass through
stands of spruce on south side of Bullhead Mountain. Skirt west side of
at bald with views of Big Butt, the Black Mountains and many more. Descend
through stand of spruce. Follow ridge with little change in elevation.
to Glassmine Falls Overlook at Parkway milepost 361.2. Trail closely follows
Parkway, climbing over Walker Knob.
Balsam Gap (5320 ft.) at Parkway milepost 359.8.