Crabtree Falls is, in our opinion, the best waterfall on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s tall, framed by a lush forest, and tucked away in a stunning amphitheater. The combination makes for an impossibly beautiful scene.
We love waterfalls in all their different shapes and sizes. We especially love Crabtree Falls because of it’s unparalleled beauty. It’s just the right size to take in as a whole scene and seated in the perfect setting.
Before we get to the things you need to know so you can time your best visit, here are the basics about the hike to Crabtree Falls.
Length: 2.6 miles Elevation Gain: 550 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Great For: Families, waterfall lovers
When to Visit: Best between late May to mid-June
How we rate it: 5/5, Crabtree Falls is the ideal waterfall, it’s absolutely beautiful.
How long does it take: 2:30 hours, you can definitely go faster but take your time and enjoy it.
Crabtree Falls Trail
The trailhead for Crabtree Falls is at 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway between Mt. Mitchell and Little Switzerland. There is a fairly large parking lot and once you park it’s easy to find the trailhead. As always with any trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, check for closures before you go.
The first part of the trail takes you through Crabtree Falls Campground. This section of the hike isn’t so beautiful but if you are thinking about camping you can spy on the best spots.
Once you leave the campground the trail begins descending pretty steadily. This is a loop trail, either way you decide to tackle the hike you’ll be going down to the waterfall and climbing out. The trail is well marked and easy to follow.
Should you hike Crabtree Falls clockwise or counter-clockwise?
The biggest thing to consider is whether you like steep hikes up or down more. Immediately after Crabtree Falls, or before depending on which direction you take, there is a series of switchbacks that gain (or lose) 250 feet of elevation in two tenths of a mile. That’s steep.
If hiking down never hurts your knees then go clockwise. For everyone else go counter-clockwise and take breaks along the way. The climb is only as intense as you make it.
Other cool stuff on the hike
Aside from Crabtree Falls there is another small waterfall about half a mile from Crabtree Falls along Big Crabtree Creek. It’s not tall but it is very relaxing and you can rest along the creek bank without interruption.
The other awesome thing is an epic view of the surrounding mountains on the upper edge of the switchbacks. You’ll need to walk down a short but narrow trail surrounded by rhododendrons but as soon as you emerge it’s amazing.
I wouldn’t bring young children to this spot, there is a cliff at the edge of the small overlook.
There is a series of rocks strewn about at the base of Crabtree Falls. We always climb around and look at the waterfall from different angles. You don’t need to do that to get a great view. The view is perfect from the trail’s edge.
Give yourself plenty of time to spend at the waterfall. It’s wide and loud and impressive.
When is the best time to visit?
What makes this such an amazing waterfall is the wall of water surrounded by the thick forest. If you are local to the Blue Ridge Mountains you probably already know that in winter our mountain forests look like a mass of dead trees.
You probably also know that in late summer, unless it’s rained recently the waterfalls are a little slim.
If you want to have the fullest experience late May to mid-June is the best time visit. Before mid-May the waterfall will be swollen but the forest will just be budding. Even if trees are leafing out in surrounding areas they may not be at Crabtree Falls.
You also want to go early or pretty late in the day, unless you like hiking with a lot of other people around, which is a good option if you are a solo hiker and not yet comfortable alone in the woods.
By mid morning, especially on weekends, the trail will be filling up.
If you can’t visit during that period and can only go on the weekend and it’s midmorning, don’t worry. This is a great waterfall and it’s unlikely other people are going to ruin the experience. The viewing area is huge, you’ll be able to take it all in.
Camping at Crabtree Falls
You may want to consider camping at the campground. Here is some of the information you’ll want to know.
Tent Sites: 63
RV Sites: 18
Open Season: May 27 through October 31
Amenities: Flush Toilets, potable water (that means you can drink it). No electric hookup or showers
If you aren’t familiar with the climate in the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll want to know that at night it’ll be chilly for most of the season.
If you aren’t sold on camping but want to stay nearby you can find lodging in Little Switzerland or Albert’s Lodge near Mount Mitchell. We stayed at Albert’s Lodge recently and though the décor was a little dated the rooms are large we had a great stay.
You can absolutely travel to Crabtree Falls, hike to the waterfall, find somewhere to eat and head home. You’ll have a great visit. But if you have time and want to make a fuller visit here are some other awesome waterfalls and a bunch of amazing hikes you may want to consider adding to your trip.