In part one, we discussed the Craggy Gardens picnic area and shelter. In this post we’ll be discussing the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center and overlook. The Visitor Center is about a 3 mile drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway after leaving the picnic area…or just a short hike on the Craggy Gardens Trail. Even though there isn’t a large area to explore around the Visitor Center, there is still a lot to see and do. Let’s find out what it has to offer!
The Visitor Center is located at milepost 364.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway…45 minutes north of Asheville. There’s a small building with a shop and resource center, restrooms, and a large overlook facing westward. This is a popular stop for many visitors, not only for it’s convenient restroom and small shop, but mainly because of it’s easily accessible sunset views…which most people don’t even need to leave their vehicles to take advantage of.
But the Visitor Center is much more than a sunset stop off, it’s really a great place to learn about the culture of the area and the history of the Parkway. Inside you’ll find pieces from local crafters and artists, books about the local area, even a small stove to warm up by on cooler afternoons. The bulletin board outside relays current information about the Parkway, such as closures or advisories. There’s a lot of information to be had by stepping inside (and around) this small building.
The Craggy Gardens Trail begins at the south side of the overlook area, and takes you from the Visitor Center to the picnic area. This trail is also a part of the larger Mountains to Sea trail network…and there’s also a trail that forks off and heads down towards Douglas Falls.
However, most people stop for the views. Looking from the Visitor Center side will be views of the sunset and I-26 as it makes its way into Tennessee. If you cross the road to the other side, you’ll have great views of the Asheville Watershed, and looking north, my favorite feature of this section of Craggy Gardens – the Craggy Pinnacle Tunnel.
My favorite time to visit is during the summer months. Every area around Craggy Gardens has rhododendron blooming, wildflowers sprouting up everywhere, and it’s hard not to find a pretty picture to take. Obviously, the more popular time to visit for most is an hour or so before sunset, and I definitely agree. The weather is cooler and the views really are spectacular.
The Visitor Center really is a great place to take a break from the Parkway drive and to stretch your legs, or to hang out with friends or loved ones and enjoy a beautiful sunset. But, don’t overlook the other great things this section really has to offer.
In part three, we’ll be discussing Craggy Pinnacle.