A scenic hour-and-20-minute drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Boone/Blowing Rock area will provide High Country visitors with a scenic hike to Crabtree Falls. The journey south to the 340-mile mark provides several bonuses as the rider crosses the Viaduct at the 304-mile mark, passes the Linville Falls area and Little Switzerland, and then goes through a couple of stone tunnels before reaching the Crabtree Falls park.
Federal budget problems which have taken their toll along the Blue Ridge Parkway have also hit the Crabtree area. The restaurant/gift shop is closed and the camping area’s status is uncertain. Campers should check the Parkway website before making overnight plans. The parking lot remains open, however, so hikers should have no problem finding a spot for their vehicle. Trail signs to the trailhead are easy to follow, with hikers given the option of either doing a counter-clockwise loop or taking an out-and-back route to the falls using the first half of the loop. Taking the complete loop is recommended. The second half of the loop is a more gradual climb from the falls and is more scenic than the hike down to the falls, providing several views of the falls from the side. In places, the trail is alongside the stream that eventually becomes the waterfall.
Hikers should be aware that the hike down to the falls is not a leisurely stroll even though it starts that way with a gentle downhill through a natural tunnel of overhanging branches. When the steeper section is encountered, any recent wet weather can cause additional problems because numerous crossing streams tend to overflow and drift down the trail. Hikers wearing casual shoes could have problems working their way along the water-covered rocks. Heavier-duty boots are recommended and parents should keep a close watch on youngsters.
Although the falls can be heard about a half-hour before they are reached, hikers won’t get a good view until the falls are almost reached. The trail then crosses a trestle in front of the falls, providing a top-notch photo opportunity. For hikers continuing the loop, the trail almost immediately begins its climb out of the gorge. The good news is that after about 100 feet of climbing, hikers are rewarded with perhaps an even better view of the falls — another photo op’.
Depending on the time of year, the trail along the hillside leading from the falls may have an abundance of wildflowers, including trillium and large-flowered bellwort. On occasion, a deer may be spotted in the woods along the trail.
Hikers will need at least a couple of hours for this hike, not counting photo-op time, and be prepared for some slippery places. However, the views should make the effort worthwhile.