Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and we'll send you a FREE Printable NC Waterfalls Checklist!

Crabtree Falls (How to Reach this Incredible Waterfall near Little Switzerland)

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on October 20, 2023.

Disclaimer: This site uses demographic data, email opt-ins, display advertising, and affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure and Privacy Policy pages for further explanation.

Crabtree Falls is an incredible 70-foot waterfall inside the famed Black Mountains, in the heart of Western North Carolina. It’s one of the first we wanted to visit, and worth adding to your bucket list!

The falls sit off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 339.5 and straddle the Yancey and McDowell county lines. To reach Crabtree Falls, you’ll hike along a moderate route and can return the same way or choose to complete the 2.5-mile loop.

In this guide, we’ll share which way to go down and back, along with more info about the falls and places to visit nearby. Crabtree is such a beautiful waterfall and because it sits between Asheville and the High Country, we know this is a pretty popular place to visit.

That’s why we should probably get moving and show you just how to enjoy it.

Organization Note: If you’re searching for something specific about the Crabtree Falls hike, here’s how we’ve organized this post.

  • Crabtree Falls Directions
  • Parking
  • Leave No Trace Reminder
  • Campground
  • Crabtree Falls Trail Hike Info
  • Crabtree Falls Swimming Info
  • The Return Route
  • Things to Do Near Crabtree Falls
  • More NC Travel Guides

Read More: 50+ Beautiful Waterfalls Near Asheville (Within 2 Hours)

Where is Crabtree Falls NC? (Directions)

Closest Address: 39000 Blue Ridge Parkway, Marion, NC

The Crabtree Falls trailhead is very easy to find. It’s along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 339.5, is closest to Little Switzerland (6 miles away) and Burnsville (13 miles away), and is between Asheville and Boone, North Carolina.

Our map of waterfalls in Western NC includes the location of Crabtree Falls. You can also find it on our Western NC Map and our North Carolina Travel Map.

Read More: Asheville NC Map of Attractions (+ 7 Surrounding Counties!)

Crabtree Falls Parking

Crabtree Falls NC
When you arrive at the parking lot, remember that an amazing waterfall awaits.

There are two parking options for the Crabtree Falls hike. If you’re not staying in the campground, the Crabtree Falls Trailhead parking lot right off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 339.5) has many spaces but can fill up quickly, especially during summer and fall.

There are port-a-potties at the parking lot, but remember to bring your own hand sanitizer and possibly toilet paper.

Leave No Trace Reminder

While hiking to Crabtree Falls and elsewhere in North Carolina, please leave no trace. Pack in and out, and please do not litter in our beloved public spaces.

If you’d like to lend a helping hand, bring a grocery bag and pick up any trash you see!

Read More: 100+ Hiking Trails in North Carolina

The Crabtree Falls Campground

The second parking option is the Crabtree Falls campground if you’ve booked a spot. This site offers comfortable tent and RV camping, flush toilets, a dump station, and drinking water.

Grills/fire rings and picnic tables are provided at each site.

27 sites are available for reservations, and 54 Crabtree Falls campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since the availability of first-come, first-served sites cannot be tracked through Recreation.gov, please arrive with a backup plan in mind. These sites must be booked in person at the campground kiosk.

Hiking the Crabtree Falls Trail

For the Crabtree Falls hike, we recommend descending from the shorter section (0.9 miles) of the loop and returning via the longer section (1.6 miles), much steeper and trickier as you get closer to the falls.

The first landmark on the Crabtree Falls hike is the amphitheater.
  • If you park at the Blue Ridge Parkway-adjacent Crabtree Falls parking lot, you will pass the amphitheater on the left before arriving at the Crabtree Falls campground.
  • Keep going straight, and you will see the campground parking lot with another sign for Crabtree Falls. That’s the shorter section of the Crabtree Falls trail (0.9 miles).
  • Follow the shorter section, and you’ll slowly and steadily descend into the dense forest. During the summer, plenty of rhododendrons and mountain laurels bloom along the path.
  • You will reach Crabtree Falls in just under a mile.
  • The closer you get to the roaring waterfall, the trail grows steeper.
  • Stairs, rocks, and some muddy sections (depending on recent rain) will become part of your journey. However, the scramble is worth it when you reach the incredible view that awaits.

Read More: Great Hikes near Asheville

Arriving at Crabtree Falls NC

Seeing Crabtree Falls up close is one of our favorite things to do in North Carolina.

If you’ve arrived when there’s been significant rain, you’ll see a massive stream of water cascading over the pillowy rocks. When you arrive, there will be a bridge over the creek that offers excellent views.

Crossing the creek and scrambling along the rocks will give you a better, up-close view of the falls. However, we don’t recommend doing this without proper footwear and alone. We also urge you to practice caution at the falls and not take uncomfortable chances.

When we visit, there is little to no cell service available at the falls, so emergency workers will not be able to reach you in case of injury quickly.

Can You Swim at Crabtree Falls?

There’s a small wading pool at the base of Crabtree Falls, but not deep enough for swimming. The rocks are slippery throughout the base of the falls, especially when there’s been significant rain.

Please practice caution and remember that emergency workers will not be able to reach you quickly, due to the remoteness of this waterfall.

Read More: 20+ Kid-Friendly Waterfalls In NC (Easy Hikes And Swimming Holes!)

The Return Crabtree Falls Hike

bridge on loop at Crabtree Falls

You can return the same way, but we suggest completing the loop.

This adds an extra half mile to your trip, but the scenery is gorgeous and not as tricky as the rockier, shorter section.

  • The loop will quickly ascend above the waterfall with narrow switchbacks, but then the trail will eventually (and slowly) meander along a creek.
Loop trail at Crabtree Falls
  • You will pass a second smaller waterfall and cross a wooden bridge that arcs over the creek at 1.65 miles of the loop. We suspect many choose to complete the loop this way but have always found this route less crowded and worth the extra mileage.
  • You’ll eventually reach the campground but at a different spot from where you started. Take the road to the left up the hill and look for the information booth.
  • From there, follow the signs back to the trailhead and see the amphitheater to your right shortly after.

Read More: Hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk

Things to Do Near Crabtree Falls NC

Here are a few places near Crabtree Falls NC, including some prominent Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway Linn Cove Viaduct Near Crabtree Falls NC
Linn Cove Viaduct.

Here are some of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway landmarks (especially during fall) within 40 miles of Crabtree Falls, ordered from north to south:

Mileposts count down from 339.5 (Crabtree Falls) when going north and up when heading south.

Read More: 60+ Awesome Things to Do in North Carolina in October

Little Switzerland

5 miles away (15 minutes)

Little Switzerland is the closest town near Crabtree Falls and one of our favorites throughout North Carolina.

The charming town of Little Switzerland is the closest to Crabtree Falls. If you drive southeast on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Crabtree Falls, you will eventually reach the mountain town.

Here, you’ll find a small pocket of stores, a restaurant, and the Switzerland Inn, a mountain resort that is one of our favorite places to stay in North Carolina.

The sweeping views and well-appointed chalets are why we love this place. Hopefully, you’ll get to stay there and see what we’re talking about.

Also, don’t forget to grab the incredible North Carolina barbecue served at the Switzerland Café!

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (20+ Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Spruce Pine

9 miles away (20 minutes)

Downtown Spruce Pine

Spruce Pine is fun to visit, especially during apple picking season when the Orchard at Altapass comes alive. The NC Mineral and Gem Festival in August is another great festival in town, but as mentioned, we think you’ll like this place every weekend.

We also love Emerald Village and each gem we’ve taken home. Walk around downtown Spruce Pine and frequent local shops like Burnette’s Country Store. We guarantee you’ll find something for your home or gear for your next time out.

And if you’re looking for a camping spot to enjoy, we’re huge fans of Springmaid Mountain. This family-friendly retreat sits on 400 acres with cabins, campsites, ponds for swimming and fishing, and much more.

Burnsville

13 miles away (21 minutes)

Things to do in Burnsville downtown

Burnsville is primarily associated with Mount Mitchell but it’s a wonderful town on its own. You’ll find a variety of historic buildings and great local businesses (including restaurants) around Town Square.

Nu-Wray Inn and the Parkway Playhouse are two great examples. Toe River Arts serves many artists in the area and each August, the Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair draws creators from all over NC, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Roaring Fork Falls

13 miles away (30 minutes)

Roaring Fork Falls near Mount Mitchell

You can easily hike to Roaring Fork Falls and Crabtree Falls in one day. First, you’ll need to reach Roaring Fork Falls, which is more of a stroll than a hike.

We still love the short and easy path. It’s mostly flat and paved and was once a fairly active forest service road. The highlight is a 100-foot-long cascade that weaves along the rocks, framed by rhododendrons and greenery.

Read More: 4 National Forests in NC (Things to Do + Why We Love Them!)

Setrock Creek Falls

16 miles away (35 minutes)

Setrock Falls distance

Setrock Creek Falls is just down South Toe River Rd from Roaring Fork Falls. The 75-foot waterfall is also reachable via an easy hike.

To and from the waterfall is a mostly flat 1-mile path, originating at the Black Mountain Campground.

While the parking lot may be nearly full when you arrive, the hike and falls are not as crowded. This could be for multiple reasons.

One big reason is that the Black Mountain Campground serves as the trailhead for the 12-mile round trip Old Mitchell Hike that’ll take you to the summit of Mount Mitchell.

Read More: 30+ Great Things to Do in Pisgah National Forest

Mount Mitchell State Park

26 miles away (45 minutes)

Mount Mitchell State Park near Crabtree Falls NC

Mount Mitchell State Park is the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet and is a scenic drive from the Crabtree Falls parking lot. If you aren’t tired from the Crabtree Falls hike, head to the top of Mount Mitchell via a short 0.25-mile paved trail for panoramic views.

Read More: 25+ Beautiful North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain State Park is 31 miles away from Crabtree Falls (50 minutes)
The Private Attraction is 34 miles away from Crabtree Falls (1 hour)

Grandfather Mountain Mile High Swinging Bridge

Grandfather Mountain means a lot of different things, including just the mountain, the non-profit tourist attraction with the mile-high swinging bridge, or the NC State Park.

You can reach Grandfather Mountain’s NC State Parks side from the bridge, where some difficult hiking trails and rewarding views await.

  • The Grandfather Trail (2.4 miles) is reachable via the Underwood Trail (0.5 miles). The Grandfather Trail is advanced-level and will take you to the Calloway Peak, the highest of Grandfather Mountain’s four summits.
  • The Grandfather Trail also connects with the Profile Trail (3.6 miles), another popular yet tough hike in this state park. The Profile Trail leads to both the Profile View and Foscoe View.

July is a great time of year to visit for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. This exciting event brings colors to Macrae Meadows with pageantry, athletic competitions, and more to celebrate North Carolina’s Scots-Irish heritage.

Read More: Elk Knob State Park near Boone (and 7 Great Things to Do!)

Asheville

50 miles away (1 hour)

Asheville is the closest city to Crabtree Falls.

Downtown Asheville is about an hour from Crabtree Falls and is a great base for this trip. After hiking Crabtree Falls, you will probably work up an appetite, and luckily, there are plenty of excellent restaurants back in Asheville.

In case you didn’t already know, Crabtree is one of many waterfalls near Asheville, and also one of our favorite day trips from the city.

And if you aren’t staying in Asheville, we recommend a trip there to check out places like Biltmore and the Western NC Nature Center. The WNC Nature Center and the Asheville Museum of Science are two of our favorite kid-friendly things to do in Asheville!

Read More: How to Enjoy Christmas at Biltmore

Banner Elk

38 miles away (1 hour)

Hiking Trails near Banner Elk NC Elk River Falls
Elk River Falls near Banner Elk.

And then there’s Banner Elk, a lovely small town with gorgeous surroundings. Head over to Elk River Falls and Otter Falls. We can’t leave out Waterfalls Park, another of the many impressive waterfalls near Banner Elk.

Speaking of outdoor spaces, spend some time at Apple Hill Farm, a working alpaca farm and you’ll come away refreshed and recharged. Banner Elk is also home to some of NC’s finest wineries, including Banner Elk Winery and Grandfather Vineyard.

Many folks love spending time at nearby Sugar Mountain Ski Resort or Beech Mountain (home to the Land of Oz).

Still, Banner Elk is a great spot to hang out, grab some food, ride the exhilarating Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, and enjoy yourself in the High Country.

Read More: Hiking Roan Mountain via Carvers Gap (near Bakersville)

Blowing Rock

46 miles away (1 hour 15 minutes)

Blowing Rock downtown 1

Head over to Blowing Rock for great food, a stroll downtown, or a walk along the Glen Burney Trail. Three of the best waterfalls in Blowing Rock (and nearby) await if you decide to hike the Glen Burney.

We also love visiting The Blowing Rock, one of North Carolina’s oldest attractions. Of course, we can’t leave out Tweetsie Railroad, a longtime family favorite, throughout the season and during Christmas.

While in Blowing Rock, we recommend checking into Chetola Resort for ultimate relaxation after hiking Crabtree Falls! You also can’t go wrong if you stay at the Historic Green Park Inn. Many famous people have checked in there, too!

Boone

47 miles away (1 hour 15 minutes)

Things to do in Boone NC

The High Country is packed with fun in and around Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. Crabtree Falls is one of many places included in our guide covering day trips from Boone.

Speaking of which, Appalachian State University, incredible breweries, great restaurants, and more things to do await in Boone. Annual events like Boonerang Fest keep this more-than-a-college town on our minds.

Read More: 25+ Beautiful Waterfalls near Boone (within 2 Hours)

Ready to Hike to Crabtree Falls?

Crabtree Falls, North Carolina is a significant geological marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s the last feature in the Blue Ridge Mountains before the parkway veers west into the Black, Pisgah, Craggy, and Balsam Mountains.

Beyond its importance, Crabtree Falls holds a special place in our hearts as one of our first waterfalls and we hope to keep revisiting over the years.

If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time here, we’d love your thoughts on this awesome place. And for those who haven’t yet visited, we’d love to hear about it after you do!

Don’t forget to share your Crabtree Falls NC adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Things to Do Near Crabtree Falls

We’ve featured Crabtree Falls and surrounding places in many of our North Carolina Travel Guides. Here are a few of them.

3 thoughts on “Crabtree Falls (How to Reach this Incredible Waterfall near Little Switzerland)”

  1. Growing up my family would camp at Crabtree Meadows every year. It was nice and clean and enjoy going to amphitheater to hear stories of mountains with some were a little spooky! We would drive to Mt.Mitchell for hot showers and wash clothes and get best foot long hot dog in Spruce Pine. When my sister and I walked to falls in 2019 the trails were hard to follow and water flowing across trail and it was a little harder than we remembered but enjoyed every minute! It is beautiful.

    Reply
  2. I have read from some people that the complete loop is a little treacherous above the falls. We will have a six year old with us, among other older children. Do you suggest these falls? I would love to see it! If so, would the out and back trail be better for the younger, inexperienced children? I appreciate your help.

    Reply
    • Hi Christine,

      I’d concur with those who’ve said the full loop can be tricky for a littler one. The out and back would be a bit longer but overall easier for you and your kid. Hope that helps and hope you enjoy Crabtree Falls!

      Reply

Leave a Comment