Hiking to a waterfall is an exercise in patience. From the quiet of the trailhead, the muffled hum of moving water amplifies with each step. Anticipation builds. The background hum turns into a roar. You’re getting close.
If your destination is Crabtree Falls, you won’t be disappointed. The 60-foot cascade off the Blue Ridge Parkway promises and delivers a big payoff. The echoes of a high volume of water plunging from the falls can be heard for more than half of this 2.5-mile loop hike. The water pours off a narrow mouth and spiders out across a broad rock face, producing a flow that is powerful and elegant.
The National Parks service has installed a footbridge across the base of the falls with a built-in bench. The falls feature a series of rocks around its base that offer a number of natural places to sit. Spend some time here and notice how the light changes and highlights different features.
The hike features a good bit of elevation change and some narrow, steep stone staircases. It is not recommended for families with small children. The park service rates this hike as strenuous on a sign at the trailhead, but there are benches spaced along the trail and it should be achievable for most moderately healthy hikers with a bit of pacing.
The trailhead for the falls is in the Crabtree Falls campground at mile marker 339.5, which is open seasonally. For hikers interested in the hike in the off-season, park in the lot off of the Parkway, hike past the amphitheater and follow the signs for Crabtree Falls to the trailhead. The hike is marked by an orange diamond blaze.
Mount Mitchell State Park is 19 miles south of the falls along the Parkway, and Linville Falls is located 23 miles to the north. Enthusiastic hikers could easily achieve more than one hike in a day, provided they started early enough in the morning.