In The Blue Ridge Mountains
By Christy Evers
Ultimate Guide to Craggy Pinnacle Rhododendron Tunnels Near Asheville, NC: Expert Tips & Insider Info to Make the Most of Your Adventure
Welcome to Craggy Pinnacle, the crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Get a FREE copy of the Craggy Pinnacle Travel Guide to help you plan your trip.
Craggy Pinnacle is a NOT TO MISS hike when traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. This relatively short hike (1.4 miles round trip) through gnarled birch branches and fairy-like mountain flora leads you to one of the most spectacular 360 views on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In my opinion, it’s the best spot for sunrise and sunset chasers.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering a trip to see the Rhododendron tunnels on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. Keep reading to find out where it is, when to go, where to stay, what to expect, what not to miss and what not to avoid. You can also watch the video guide here or have a printable travel guide sent conveniently to your inbox.
Where to find the Rhododendron Tunnels
Craggy Pinnacle Trail is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 20 Miles North of Asheville and about a 2 minute drive from the Craggy Pinnacle Visitors Center. It’s the first turn on the left after you drive through the Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel.
Parkway Entrances & Exits in Asheville
You’ll find entrances and exits to the Blue Ridge Parkway at most state and federal highway crossings. One exception is the intersection of Interstates 40 and 26. They do not provide direct access, but have signage. There are four primary entrances to the Parkway in Asheville:
- Milepost 382.6: US Highway 70 crosses, the Folk Art Center is a short drive North. The best entrance for I-40 heading West.
- Milepost 384.7: US 74A, the best entrance from I-40 heading East or coming from downtown.
- Milepost 388.8: US 25 crosses. Biltmore is three miles north.
- Milepost 393.6: NC 191 crosses. The closest entrance from I-26. The North Carolina Arboretum is located at this intersection.
Car GPS units don’t work well on the Parkway, But you can find everything easily by the mileposts, phone GPS or an old fashion map!
When to Go
The Blue Ridge Parkway is open all year round, however the roads can close due to icy conditions, downed trees, construction or road maintenance. Always check with the National Park Services Daily Updates on road closures on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This link is also included in the free Craggy Pinnacle Travel Guide that can be accessed here.
Road Closures are most likely to happen in the winter months between December and February.
March, April & May are some of the best months if you want the possibility of fewer crowds and mild weather. It can still get cold, so dress in layers.
June is the only month when the rhododendrons are in bloom. You may get some buds in late May and remnants of blooms going into July, but if you want to see the rhododendron tunnels in full bloom, mid to late June is your best bet.
Summer months are popular. The lush landscape gives the trail an other-worldly feel, as if you’ve stepped into a Lord of the Rings Novel. However, this is the most popular time and the most crowded.
Of course Fall is another popular time to visit Craggy Pinnacle. The 360 view of the summit is the perfect spot to drink in the calico colors of the season with mild weather.
Where to Stay
Above I listed the 4 main entrances to the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville. Here are a couple hotel recommendation for each exit. You can find a longer list of suggestions in the free Craggy Pinnacle Travel Guide that you can access here.
- The first entrance to the BRP is off of Milepost 382.6: where US Highway 70 crosses. The Folk Art Center is a short drive north. This is the best entrance if you’re on I-40 heading west.
2. Milepost 384.7: US 74A, the best entrance from I-40 heading East. Town Mountain Rd. from Downtown connects directly to this Route.
3. Milepost 388.8: US 25 crosses, Biltmore is three miles north.
4. Milepost 393.6: NC 191 crosses, the nearest entrance from I-26. The North Carolina Arboretum is located at this intersection.
Cabin Rentals Near Craggy Pinnacle
What to Expect
A big concern for most people hiking in the mountains is weather or not they may run into a bear or another kind of dangerous animal. Wildlife on Craggy Pinnacle is hard to spot. You may get a glimpse of a fox or coyote, but they tend to shy away from people, so sightings are rare. While I once spotted a mama bear and cub from my car on our drive to the Pinnacle, I’ve never seen one on the trail.
The only wildlife I’ve personally seen are birds, bees and rabbits.
While black bears are known to live in the area and frequent the BRP, it’s not likely they will ascend the pinnacle trail because of where it’s situated and also because it’s a popular and often crowded hiking spot. Black bears are generally afraid of humans so they are good at keeping their distance.
In the rare event that you do encounter a bear, here’s what you should do: If you talk, sing, or make any kind of loud noises along the trail, they won’t show themselves anywhere near you. If you do encounter a bear on the trail, keep your distance. Back away slowly and wait for it to move on. If it approaches, yell and make yourself look as big as possible. In the (extremely rare) event of a bear attack, don’t play dead — with black bears, you have to fight back. It’s a good idea to always carry bear spray when hiking for this reason. Never ever ever approach a bear — either on foot or in your vehicle — in an attempt to get a good photo. It’s simply not smart or safe.
If you go at the time when the Rhododendron’s are in bloom, it’s a pollinators buffet Bees are everywhere. It’s wise to be prepared for stings if you’re allergic or simply want to treat a sting promptly, however, from my experience, the bees are not aggressive. The likelihood of a sting is low.
As for the weather, you can expect the temperature to be around 15-20 degrees cooler than in Asheville.
The Climate is temperamental. It’s wise to dress in layers and prepare for any type of weather. It can be rainy, sunny, cold, warm and anything inbetween on any given day and even on the same hike. Bring a water proof jacket and water resistant shoes with good traction to prevent slipping on wet rocks or muddy patches.
My favorite hiking boots are my Timberland hiking boots. I love their ankle support and sturdy soles and they have never given me blisters. I highly recommend.
Although the hike to the summit is considered an easy to moderate hike and is a relatively short hike at only .7 miles in each directions, the terrain is rocky, steep and can get wet and slippery. Wear appropriate shoes and dress in layers.
The trail is considered an easy to moderate hike and is .7 miles to the summit, that makes 1.4 miles round trip.
As for the bathroom, expect to use port a potties located at in the Craggy Pinnacle parking lot just before you get to the trail head.
There are bathrooms at the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center which is a short distance before the Trail parking lot. However, the bathrooms aren’t always functional and the only option are the porta potties there too. It’s better than nothing, but for those of you who are picky pee’ers, I thought you’d like a heads up.
If you’re plan on taking a picnic on your hike, there are no picnic tables or seating areas on the Pinnacle trail. There are some great places to sit down and rest and have a snack tho. It’s a good idea to bring a light weight picnic blanket to sit on while you enjoy a rest as you soak in the view and hydrate. There are a few benches to sit on once you get to the top and one small bench at the base of area before the trail to reach the summit.
It’s important to note that there are no trash receptacles on the pinnacle trail, so be sure to bring your own trash bag or way to store your trash until you can reach a proper disposal. Please don’t litter this beautiful area.
If you prefer to have a picnic with tables and seating, Craggy Gardens does have a designated picnic area a few miles before the Visitor Center.
What Not to Miss
Craggy Pinnacle trail is more than just a hike. It’s the perfect trail to stop and smell the . . . well, smell the rhododendrons and feel the wind on your face. If you’re only about making it to the peak of the trail, you’re missing out on its scenic charm. This is an ideal hike if you don’t have much time, but If you can spare the extra moments, I urge you to drink it all in.
*Take time to read the informational signs about the flora, fauna and history.
*Take time to take one of the smaller trails and discover your own favorite spot to take a break or watch a sunset.
*Take time to appreciate the plant life and growth in all seasons or weather.
*Take time to view the Blue Ridge mountains from varying vantages points and overlooks.
*Take time to be silent and still. You never know when some wild life will appear.
*Don’t miss out on the visitors center. They have a variety of souvenirs, snacks, information and a quaint, heated area with rocking chairs overlooking an amazing view.
*If you’re up for a longer hike, you can find more trials at the Craggy Gardens picnic area and the at the Visitors center.
*Just because it’s a short hike doesn’t mean you can’t end up spending an entire day there!
Mistakes to Avoid
Here’s some tips on mistakes to avoid based off of my own experience and knowledge I’ve gained as I’ve frequented this trail.
The first mistake is thinking that just because this is a short hike, you don’t need to to be prepared or wear adequate clothing. It’s a huge mistake to wear footwear that could cause slippage, blisters or could result in ankle or knee twisting. It’s a mistake to not prepare for different types of weather and it’s a mistake not to bring water.
Another huge mistake is going to the wrong trail. I often hear of people hiking the trails at Craggy Gardens picnic area trail, then wondering why they couldn’t find that 360 view.
Like me, another mistake is not realizing how close the Craggy Pinnacle trail is after the Visitors center. The first time I went I completely missed the parking lot. I thought it was just another road since it’s so poorly marked.
Craggy Pinnacles elevation level means that it’s not uncommon for thick clouds to form at the peak that obstruct your view. Don’t let that stop you from reaching the top though. I’ve been to the peak of Craggy Pinnacle trail in all types of weather. Each weather system is an artist in it’s own right, painting a masterpiece with spilled light and wispy or clotted cloud on a folded mountain canvas. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite sunsets at the summit was on a day when we could barely see anything when we reached the top. As we stuck around, the clouds began to break, unveiling a spectacular show of nature. It’s a huge mistake to think that only clear days are worth reaching the peak.
When you get to the Craggy Pinnacle trail, and if you don’t see blooms at the entrance, don’t make the mistake of thinking there are no blooms anywhere on the trail. I found that the higher up I went, the more beautiful and bountiful the blooms became. Not to mention, rhododendrons bloom at different times based on elevation. If you can’t find blooms in one location, you’re very likely to find them somewhere else.
If you catch a sunset, don’t make the mistake of taking so many pictures and videos that you run out your phone battery and don’t have enough battery life left to get you safely back down the trail. It gets extremely dark after the sun goes down and the rocky trail, with not enough light, can be very dangerous. Be sure to bring a wireless phone charger or a hiking flashlight to be safe. A travel gadget that I really love is this wireless, portable charger that is also a flashlight. I adore multi-tasking gadgets!
Before you leave for Craggy Pinnacle, it’s a good idea to check the National Park Service to check to see if there are any road closures due to weather, obstructions, construction or maintenance. I do have that link provided for you in the Free Travel Guide that I created for you that can be accessed by clicking here.
Lastly, don’t make the mistake of having unrealistic expectations of the blooms. Many people come to the Rhododendron tunnels and expect every inch of every tree to be covered in fluffy flowers. The growth tend to clump together in random patches. They’re beautiful and magnificent either way, but the beauty can be overlooked by those who hold unrealistic expectations.
Have you been to the rhododendron tunnels at Craggy Pinnacle Trail? Do you plan on going? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear form you.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I’d love for you to connect with me on social media and join my video journeys on YouTube. Please follow or join me and leave a comment to say, “Hi!” I appreciate you! Happy Travels!
Happily 4 Evers After Travels & Retreats
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