Last Updated on April 13, 2021
Last Updated on April 13, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Crabtree Falls is an incredible 70-foot waterfall in the heart of Western North Carolina, inside the famed Black Mountains. It’s one of the first we wanted to visit, absolutely 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.
- Hiking to Crabtree Falls
- The Return Route
- Nearby Places to Visit
- Map of Crabtree Falls (and Other Nearby Waterfalls)
Our map includes the location of Crabtree Falls (closest to Little Switzerland) and more waterfalls near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk. It’s also not far from Asheville but is a bit of an outlier, when compared to other falls near there, Brevard, and elsewhere in Western NC.
Crabtree Falls Trailhead Parking
The Crabtree Falls Trailhead parking lot right off the Blue Ridge Parkway has quite a few 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.
From the Parkway-adjacent parking lot, you will pass an amphitheater on the left before arriving at the campground. Keep going straight and you will see the campground parking lot with another sign for Crabtree Falls.
Hiking to Crabtree Falls
We recommend the shorter section (0.9 miles) of the loop, as the longer section (1.6 miles) is much steeper and trickier as you get closer to the falls.
Follow the shorter section and you’ll start slowly and steadily descending into the dense forest. During the summer, there are plenty of rhododendrons and mountain laurels blooming along the path.
You will reach Crabtree Falls in just under a mile.
The closer that you get to the roaring waterfall, the trail does grow 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.
If you’ve arrived when there’s been significant rain, you’ll see a massive stream of water cascading over the pillowy rocks. There will be a bridge over the creek when you arrive that offers great 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 do not take any uncomfortable chances.
When we’ve visited, there has been no cell service available at the falls, so emergency workers will not be able to quickly reach you in case of injury.
The Return Route
You can go back the same way, but we suggest completing the loop. While this adds an extra half mile to your trip, the scenery is gorgeous and not as difficult 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.
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 to be 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.
Please, Go See Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls 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 one we hope to keep revisiting over the years.
If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some time here, we’d love to know your thoughts on this awesome place. And for those who haven’t yet visited, we’d love to hear about it after you do!
Nearby Places to Visit
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Crabtree Falls is surrounded by interesting nearby places in either direction on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Mile posts count down from 339.5 (Crabtree Falls) when going north and up when heading south.
Stay tuned, as we plan to cover the Parkway in much more detail.
We mentioned Asheville and the High Country but Little Switzerland is the closest mountain town to Crabtree Falls. Here, you’ll find a small pocket of stores, a restaurant, and a mountain resort (Switzerland Inn) that’s one of our favorite places to stay in North Carolina.
The sweeping views and well-appointed chalets are just a part of why we love this place. Hopefully, you’ll get a chance 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!
Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet and is a short 20-minute drive from Crabtree falls. If you aren’t tired from Crabtree Falls, head to the top of Mount Mitchell via a short 0.25-mile paved trail for panoramic views.
Asheville is 45 minutes from Crabtree Falls and is likely your base for this trip. After hiking Crabtree Falls, you will probably work up an appetite and luckily, there are plenty of amazing restaurants back in Asheville.
The High Country
The High Country is packed with fun in and around the towns of Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk.
You can grab a bite at a delicious restaurant there or head over to Blowing Rock for great food, a stroll downtown, or walk along the Glen Burney Trail. While in Blowing Rock, we recommend checking into Chetola Resort for ultimate relaxation after hiking Crabtree Falls!
And then there’s Banner Elk, a lovely town with gorgeous surroundings. Many folks love spending time at nearby Sugar Mountain Ski Resort or Beech Mountain, but Banner Elk itself is a great spot to hang out, grab some food, and enjoy yourself in the High Country.