Today I want to share two amazing hikes that we did while staying in Asheville, NC. These two short hikes are very close together on the Blue Ridge Parkway, although you do have to drive a short way between trailheads. Definitely go for the views, as you’ll get some incredible sights of the Blue Ridge Mountains and I highly recommend doing the Pinnacle as a sunset hike. Back in Asheville, there’s no shortage of breweries to check out! We suggest pairing it with Burial Beer Company in the Brewery District area of town. Keep your eyes peeled for more hikes from North Carolina in the coming weeks, and don’t worry we’ll be back to hiking in the ‘Burgh asap!
THE HIKE: Craggy Gardens & Pinnacle
Length: 3 miles total
Elevation Gain: 816 ft total
Time: 1.5 – 2 hours
Trail use: Hiking, leashed pets
Parking: Large lot at trailhead but fills up quickly
Craggy Gardens and Craggy Pinnacle are actually two different hikes, but they’re so close together that I decided to group them into one! One of the best parts of Asheville, aside from the 29 breweries and world class food, is the proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This meandering road is known for its stunning beauty as it climbs through the Blue Ridge Mountains. It runs for 469 miles, linking Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains. All along the Parkway there are scenic pull offs and hiking paths to explore.
The Craggy Mountains are situated in a particularly high elevation area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In fact the highest point in the Appalachian and the highest point in eastern North America is only a few miles away! Because of this, they have a unique environment in which catawba rhododendrons flourish. Although we were too late this year, visitors flock to this area in June to see the pink and purple blooms at their peak. The Craggies are only about 30 minutes away from Asheville so this is a great place to check out if you’re staying in town.
We did this hike our first evening in town! After leaving Hilton Head, we drove 5 hours to Asheville and wanted to do a sunset hike to cap off the day. Craggy Gardens area was constantly mentioned as a great place for views along the Blue Ridge Parkway so we went for it! First, we did the Craggy Gardens loop which was 1.9 miles out and back. You can park either at the Gardens picnic area or at the visitor center for this hike! I’d suggest parking at the picnic area so you build up to the viewpoint at the visitor center. We did the opposite and while the hike was still lovely, it didn’t have the same “wow” factor!
When doing this hike, make sure to wear sturdy shoes and maybe even bring hiking poles! The high elevation causes a lot of condensation so even when it’s not raining, the trails can be quite damp. BUT this also means SO MUCH GREEN. We had a blast on all of our hikes around Asheville hunting for wildflowers and mushrooms and we were not disappointed! Along the Craggy Gardens trail, you’ll also encounter some shelters for backpackers and a delightful gazebo that looks out over the mountains. We also walked through an interesting area called a bald. These areas of unexpectedly little vegetation are common in the Southern Appalachians but no one knows their origin. Unlike an Alpine zone where the lack of tall vegetation is expected, these are environments that could support large hardwoods, but don’t for some reason. It’s so odd to be deep in the woods and then suddenly spill out on a large open area!
After you finish up at Craggy Gardens, it’s time to get back in the car and drive the few miles up the road to the Craggy Pinnacles. Try to time this part just right to get there well before sundown so you can catch the whole experience! Craggy Pinnacle is a quick 1 mile out and back but be prepared to spend some time here! Oh and the hike up to the Pinnacle is pretty steep. We definitely had to stop and catch our breath a few times! And at 5860ft in elevation, you might notice a slight difficulty in getting a lungful. As you near the top of the pinnacle, there are several scenic viewpoints to check out. First, head to the upper viewpoint which offers 360 degree views of the area! There’s a large stone structure that can accommodate several hikers, so you’ll have plenty of room to take in the views. The evening we went, it got a bit crowded up there so we went to the lower viewpoint and had the spot nearly to ourselves. Guys, I cannot say enough about how incredible watching the sunset here was. We took so many pictures, but nothing quite captures the intense colors and the swirling mist as the sun sunk behind the mountains. If you only get one hike in Asheville, make it this one. Oh and bring a sweatshirt, it gets chilly up on the ridge! After the sunset, carefully make your way back down to the parking lot. We were able to see pretty well in the dusk but bring a headlight or flashlight if you’re concerned about visibility!
I cannot say enough good things about this hike! And if you ever go while the Catawba rhododendrons are blooming please send me a picture!
THE BEER: Burial Beer Company
Address: 40 Collier Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Distance from Trail Head: 20.8 mi, 38 mins
Food?: Full Menu
Details: Outdoor seating, dog friendly
H&H Rating: 5/5
Okay okay, you can probably tell that we didn’t go to this brewery after our hike. BUT who says you can’t hop then hike?? We had some time to kill before checking into our AirBnb for the weekend so we decided to check out the famed Asheville breweries before heading for a hike. Not sure I would recommend this method but hey we were on vacation! I had heard a lot of good things about Burial Beer and even our Airbnb host said it was their favorite in the area. So naturally, it was at the top of my (long) list of Asheville musts. Honestly it’s so difficult to decide where to go around here cause there’s just too many options and frankly I just can’t drink that much beer. We eventually had to just let go of wanting to try as many places as we could and just enjoy the moment. Hence, Burial Beer.
The Burial story started when some beer-minded friends decided to start their own brewery after years of homebrewing and beer blogging in the Seattle area. Eventually, they found Asheville and decided the artsy, small-town vibe was the perfect fit. They started Burial Beer Co in 2013 with a modest system. Within a year, they already needed to expand to accommodate demand! Within a few years, their following grew so much that they were able to purchase an old forestry site used by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 40s and turn it into a huge production facility, office and a taproom & restaurant. Today, Burial also has locations in Raleigh and Charlotte. Talk about exponential growth!
We visited their OG location in the South Slopes of Asheville. This was such a cool space with the indoor taproom giving some spooky crypt-like vibes and the outside patio feeling like a cookout party. I loved the red van sitting out back and learned it was actually the van that the founders drove cross-country in to start the business in Asheville! How cool! This location also has a full kitchen so no doggos inside but it seemed like they were welcome in the outside space. We really like the beer here, everything was delicious! And the names were cracking us up. As could be expected from the brewery name, they lean in pretty hard with the heavy metal atmosphere so all the beer names were so over the top. Personally, I’m not sure if they’re just pretentious or poking good natured fun, but we chose to interpret them as humorous.
- Culture Keepers – Festbier – 5.8%
- To Be Free of Clear Meaning and Willing Comprehension – IPA – 7%
- Portrayals of Ephemeral Beings – Pale Ale – 5.8%
- Currents of Radiance – Kolsch – 4.7%
SUM UP: Craggy Gardens and Pinnacle are must-do hikes when visiting Asheville. Both hikes are short and beginner friendly, although there are some steep inclines and potentially slippery rocks. Try to time the Pinnacle hike to be there for sunset, it was an incredible experience. Both of these hikes are along the Blue Ridge Parkway only about a mile apart, but be aware that the two trails do not cross so you will have to drive between the trail heads. These are popular trails so you might encounter some trail traffic. Make sure to pack layers as the temperatures on the Ridge can be vastly different than in town. Afterward, there is no shortage of awesome breweries to checkout. We went to Burial Beer Co for some delicious beer in some heavy metal digs.