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Crabtree Falls Trail along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway: Everything You Need to Know

The Crabtree Falls Trail is largely considered to be the most beautiful waterfall along North Carolina’s famed Blue Ridge Parkway. This incredible hike features a 70 foot waterfall, tucked into an old growth forest with countless streams cascading down a rocky cliffside and into a beautiful plunge pool below. If you want to experience it for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about the Crabtree Falls Trail, the best waterfall hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

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Couple holding hands and walking in front of Crabtree Falls near the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina in fall
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Table of contents

About Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

Length

2.6 miles

Elevation gain

577 feet

Difficulty

Moderate

Woman sitting on a rock, looking at Crabtree Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Pass or permit?

None

Dog-friendly?

Yes, you can bring your fur-babies, but they must be on a leash.

Trail map

Man looking at a limestone cliff along the Crabtree Falls Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

How to get to the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

First things first—it’s worth noting that there’s another extremely popular trail called Crabtree Falls that’s actually located in Virginia, over five hours northeast of the one along the Blue Ridge Parkway—so be sure you’re headed to the right one!

The trailhead for this Crabtree Falls trail is located here, in Little Switzerland, North Carolina, right off the beloved Blue Ridge Highway. 

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains at sunset along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Previously, you used to be able to park right next to the trailhead when the Crabtree Falls Campground was open, from May until the end of October. However, due to the trail’s growing popularity, it was recently re-routed to start near the campground’s visitor center,  located here, to alleviate some of the camper’s issues with the limited parking.

Crabtree Falls Campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina
Crabtree Falls Campground

The road is generally very well-maintained throughout the year, but it can intermittently close in the wintertime, due to ice and snow. 

What to Expect Along the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

From the parking lot, follow the sign that says “Falls” that will lead you northward toward the campground, passing an old wooden amphitheater on your left. 

The Crabtree Falls Trail is a loop, so, after about 0.25 miles, you can decide to either hike it clockwise or counterclockwise. 

I generally think hiking Crabtree Falls counter-clockwise is the better option. Regardless of which option you hike, this is my least favorite kind of trail—with the path descending down on the front half and then ascending on the latter half, making it hard for you to judge how difficult the trail is until you’re forced to climb up. If you do the Crabtree Falls Trail clockwise, the uphill portion is shorter and thus, quite a bit steeper, whereas if you do the trail counter-clockwise, the uphill climb is longer, but more of a gentle ascent. 

Man hiking along a wooden boardwalk along the Crabtree Falls Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

So assuming you hike counter-clockwise, you’ll cross over one of the campground’s paved roads at 0.3 miles in and then start descending into a hardwood forest. Unfortunately, we visited in November, once the leaves had fallen and carpeted the forest floor, but, in the springtime and early summer, the ground here is full of vibrant wildflowers, like mountain laurel and rhododendron. 

About 0.6 miles into the trail, you’ll  hike down a series of worn stone stairs and a few long switchbacks. 

Woman hiking down stone stairs along the Crabtree Falls Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

And at just a mile in, you’ll reach Crabtree Falls, with a picturesque wooden bridge spanning the rocky creek at its base that’s perfect for taking in the stunning views and snapping photos.

Justin and I spent literally over an hour at the falls—the view is even better once you cross the bridge and it’s so fun to climb around the rocks at the base of the falls. Just remember to be SUPER careful if you’re scrambling around these rocks—they’re are extremely wet and slippery! 

Couple sitting on a rock in front of Crabtree Falls in North Carolina

Once you’re done taking in the jaw-dropping views, some hikers decide to retrace their steps back to the trailhead, making this an out-and-back trail. This shaves off half a mile from the trail, but also makes the return hike quite a bit steeper. 

Instead, I’d recommend continuing up the wooden stairs on the other side of the bridge and starting to hike up a series of STEEP switchbacks that are tightly carved into the hillside. Thankfully, these only last about 0.2 miles but, as you’re climbing, it feels like they’re going on forever! 

Man hiking down stone stairs along the Crabtree Falls Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

At 1.5 miles into the trail, you can catch a glimpse of the upper portion of the waterfall, with streams of water cascading down a moss-covered rocky outcropping.

To be honest, when we visited in the late fall, this wasn’t terribly noticeable (as in, this just sort of looked like part of the creek and I probably wouldn’t have known this was a “second” waterfall viewing, had I not read about it ahead of time), but I’ve read that this viewpoint is stunning in the spring and summer, when the creek is fuller and rushing from all the snowmelt.

Man hiking along the Crabtree Creek along the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

From here, the trail continues to climb gently uphill through the hardwood forest, following along the Crabtree Creek with a few water crossings over wooden bridges. 

Once you’ve hiked 2.3 miles, you’ll return to the campground and cross over its paved roadway twice, before rejoining the pathway past the amphitheater back to your car.

When to Visit the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

So good news—Crabtree Falls is great to visit almost year round! 

Springtime is generally cool and rainy along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but this means that Crabtree Falls will be flowing at its maximum capacity. Plus, as mentioned above, Crabtree Falls is one of the best wildflower hikes in North Carolina during the late springtime, with beautiful meadows of hawthorne, mountain laurel, and beardtongue blooming along the pathway. 

Wildflowers along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Fun fact—much of the Blue Ridge Parkway actually runs through temperate rainforests, so rain and thunderstorms are a near daily occurrence in the summertime, especially in the afternoons. So if you head here in the warmer months, it’s definitely a good idea to plan your hike in the morning. On the bright side, Crabtree Falls’ cascade will be nice and full and you can catch crab trees and rhododendrons blooming along the trail.

Just be prepared for crowds—the Blue Ridge Parkway is usually quite a bit cooler than at lower elevations in the surrounding area, which can get scorching in the summertime. Accordingly, both tourists and residents tend to flock here during the warmer months. 

Crabtree Falls flowing at maximum capacity in summer in North Carolina

Speaking of crowds, autumn is BUSY along the Blue Ridge Parkway and, given that Crabtree Falls is one of its most popular hikes, be prepared to share the road and the trail with others (and lots of ‘em!). If you’re willing to put up with the crowds, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular fall foliage, especially in the last few weeks of October and the first week of November. 

Unfortunately, we showed up in mid-November and just missed the fall colors. However, the autumn crowds had definitely waned, so we basically had the entire trail to ourselves.

Couple standing on a rock along Crabtree Creek and looking at Crabtree Falls along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Winter is the only time of year that visiting Crabtree Falls might be a bit hit or miss, given that there’s occasional road closures along the Blue Ridge Parkway, due to ice or snow, and the waterfall can, at times, be barely reduced to a dribble. 

Tips for the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

Wear waterproof hiking boots

There’s a surprising amount of roots and uneven rocks along the trail, just waiting to trip you, and it’s not unusual for the trail to be quite wet and muddy, especially in the spring and summertime. 

Crabtree Falls cascading down a cliff in North Carolina

Accordingly, I’d strongly recommend wearing waterproof hiking boots, like this pair that I use or this pair that Justin uses, that will provide better support and traction AND keep your feet dry. 

Additionally, if you have knee problems or just prefer extra support, you may want to consider bringing along trekking poles. We passed an older hiker that was struggling with some of the incline, who told us that the rocky terrain was hard on her knees—and having recently gotten trekking poles ourselves, I can definitely confirm they make hiking rockier trails a lot easier. 

Download the trail map before you hit the trail

Most of the trail is pretty straightforward, but honestly, getting from the parking lot to the campground and the trailhead is not particularly well-signed and is a little confusing. 

Woman hiking down the Crabtree Falls Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

We didn’t have cell service on this portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I’d recommend downloading the map on AllTrails+ ahead of time to make sure you can follow along the trail with GPS.

Pssst… you can get a 7-day free trial and 30% off your AllTrails+ membership, just by using this link

Where to Stay Near the Crabtree Falls Trail in North Carolina

We LOVED exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway and think it’s one of the best road trips in the United States. So if you’re planning on exploring this area for a day or three (which you totally should!), consider staying at:

Skyline Village Inn

This historic inn is run by an incredibly sweet couple, which offers super comfy beds, complimentary continental breakfast, and the perfect location for exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Woman looking at the Blue Ridge Mountains at Pinnacle Peak along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Comfort Inn

Located about half an hour from Crabtree Falls, this hotel is the perfect homebase for exploring the nearby mountain towns, with immaculately clean rooms, complimentary HOT breakfast (which we love!), and convenient in-room amenities, like a refrigerator and coffee-maker. 

Linville Falls Lodge & Cottages

If you’re looking for a homier place to stay, this property is the perfect choice, with both a nostalgic inn and cabins. There’s plenty of cozy and rustic touches, like a fire pit and a sweet little nook to eat the complimentary breakfast, plus it’s conveniently located near the Linville Gorge, which has tons of amazing hiking trails to explore.


The Crabtree Falls Trail is definitely one of the best waterfall hikes in North Carolina—I hope you love it as much as we did! Do you have any questions about the trail? Let us know in the comments below!

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