Crabtree Falls

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, USA

About Crabtree Falls

Hiking Distance: 2.4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2012-10-19
Date last visited: 2012-10-19

Waterfall Latitude: 35.81907
Waterfall Longitude: -82.15085

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Crabtree Falls (not to be confused with the one in Virginia) was probably the prettiest of the waterfalls we saw that were directly accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What this 70ft waterfall on Big Crabtree Creek had going for it was its rippling texture amidst a plethora of Autumn colors.

Crabtree_Falls_027_20121019 - Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls

Indeed, as you can see in the photo above, it was another one of those waterfalls that Julie liked because it had “character.”

And apparently we weren’t the only ones partial to this waterfall, because it was certainly popular despite the upside-down 2-mile round trip out-and-back hike.

Despite its modest trail length, I swore it felt a lot longer than that, especially since it was all downhill on the way there and all uphill on the way back.

I don’t think the two miles included the extra ten minutes of walking from the visitor center parking lot to the Crabtree Meadows campground (where the actual trailhead began).

Crabtree_Falls_043_20121019 - Direct look at the Crabtree Falls surrounded by golden leaves near the peak of Autumn
Direct look at the Crabtree Falls surrounded by golden leaves near the peak of Autumn

Most people (like us) didn’t know about the closer trailhead parking by the campground, but then again, there wasn’t that many parking spaces there anyways.

In any case, there’s far more parking spaces by the visitor center (see directions below).

Experiencing the Crabtree Falls Trail

There was also the option to do a longer loop hike (making the round trip distance 2.5 miles instead of 2), but we met some folks who did it and they didn’t recommend it.

I guess given the amount of uphill walking on the way back to the trailhead, I don’t blame them for not desiring to prolong the physical challenge without other obvious benefits (i.e. natural attractions) other than meandering in a tranquil forest.

Crabtree_Falls_005_20121019 - Julie on the trail between the visitor center parking lot and the actual trailhead for Crabtree Falls
Julie on the trail between the visitor center parking lot and the actual trailhead for Crabtree Falls

The trail got a bit rockier and uneven the further down we went, but for the most part, it was just like most dirt trails.

There was a footbridge in front of the Crabtree Falls offering nice views.

If there’s not a whole lot of foot traffic on the footbridge and you’re not aspiring to be a professional photographer, it’s possible to use that bridge as a pseudo tripod (to save you from the trouble of lugging a tripod on this trail).

In addition to the footbridge, we (like several others) scrambled closer to the falls from both sides of the stream to experiment with different compositions.

Crabtree_Falls_017_20121019 - Julie approaching the Crabtree Falls
Julie approaching the Crabtree Falls

We definitely weren’t in any hurry to leave considering the tranquil, picturesque scenery with the Autumn colors and this pretty cascading waterfall with character before us.

Besides, we still faced a moderate uphill climb back to the trailhead so we didn’t mind delaying the painful part of the hike.

Overall, it took us over 90 minutes to do the hiking and photographing starting and ending at the visitor center.


Crabtree Falls resides in the Blue Ridge Parkway near Grassy Creek in Yancey County, North Carolina. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Crabtree_Falls_007_20121019 - The actual trailhead for Crabtree Falls was at the end of this parking lot near the campground, which we wound up walking to as we parked the car closer to the National Park visitor center
Crabtree_Falls_012_20121019 - Beyond the campsite and trailhead area, we were now on the official trail to Crabtree Falls
Crabtree_Falls_014_20121019 - Signage telling us that Crabtree Falls was a mere 0.7-mile from this point, but I swore it felt longer than that
Crabtree_Falls_015_20121019 - Julie descending some steps on the upside-down Crabtree Falls hike
Crabtree_Falls_016_20121019 - Julie meandering through some well-forested scenery along the Crabtree Falls hike though it seemed like a lot of trees had already shed their leaves
Crabtree_Falls_019_20121019 - Our first look at the Crabtree Falls
Crabtree_Falls_022_20121019 - Angled view of Crabtree Falls from the footbridge across its creek, which I used as a MacGuyver'd tripod
Crabtree_Falls_024_20121019 - More direct look at the attractive Crabtree Falls surrounded by golden leaves of the Autumn colors
Crabtree_Falls_035_20121019 - View of Crabtree Falls from further along the footbridge though there was an obstruction right in front of the waterfall from here
Crabtree_Falls_046_20121019 - I had to scramble for this direct view of the Crabtree Falls, but it was still quite photogenic
Crabtree_Falls_055_20121019 - Julie hiking back up towards the Crabtree Falls trailhead under trees with gorgeous Autumn colors

Crabtree Falls resides on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the North Carolina side.

While on the Blue Ridge Parkway, look for mile post 339.5 (roughly 42 miles northeast of Asheville).

By this mile post was the well-signed turnoff for both Crabtree Meadows and the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center on the north side of the road.

Crabtree_Falls_001_20121019 - The parking lot for the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center near the Blue Ridge Parkway mile post 339.5
The parking lot for the Crabtree Falls Visitor Center near the Blue Ridge Parkway mile post 339.5

By the way, we noticed that this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is referred to as Little Switzerland.

We weren’t sure why this was the case, but we’d imagine it might be because of the numerous tunnels weaving in and out of mountains kind of like some parts of the real Switzerland.

We drove here from Linville Falls, whose access road is 23 miles further east on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Strangely enough, our Mapsource map indicated that we visited “Upper Falls” while Crabtree Falls was much further downstream.

I’m not sure if the map is mistaken or if there’s another Crabtree Falls in the area.

Crabtree_Falls_008_20121019 - Approaching the campsite near the trailhead for Crabtree Falls
Approaching the campsite near the trailhead for Crabtree Falls

In any case, that kind of threw us off and got us questioning our GPS for a while.

Hopefully, this writeup will prevent that type of confusion (assuming you used a GPS/MapSource combo like we did).

As for some geographical context, Asheville was 35 miles (under an hour drive) north of Brevard, 63 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Greenville, South Carolina, and 130 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of Charlotte, and 247 miles (4 hours drive) west of Raleigh.

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Bottom up sweep starting with a downstream view from the bridge, then crossing the bridge before panning slowly up to the waterfall itself

Fixated on the falls and the pretty fall colors beside it

Bottom up sweep of a direct view of the falls from closer to its base

Fixated on the falls from closer to its base

Tagged with: blue ridge, parkway, yancey, crabtree, north carolina, waterfall, national park, asheville, little switzerland

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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