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Douglas Falls Wildflower Hike 7-8 miles

  • Apr 20, 2013 · 10:45 AM
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There are two ways to get to Douglas Falls.  The easy way is to drive to Weaverville from Asheville, take a right, then go through Barnardsville and up Forest Service Road 74 to the parking area, and it's 1 mile round-trip hike.  The hard way is to hike down from the Blue Ridge Parkway, about an 8-mile round trip.

We will meet at the Folk Art Center, Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway--come in off the Parkway, and park in the LOWER parking lot, which is the second right after you turn into the driveway.  Don't park in the large spaces on the left, since they are for buses.  Note: if your smartphone or GPS tells you to get to the Folk Art Center via Riceville Road, ignore it, since the Riceville Road entrance is for staff and deliveries!

Highlights: Steep, rugged, rocky trail, virgin forest, huge trees, wildflowers, beautiful 70 foot Douglas Falls.

Near: Barnardsville, NC

Distance: 7-8 miles

Elevation Gain: about 1300 ft

Time: 4-5 hours; we'll have lunch at the waterfall at the bottom

Difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous.  This is an extremely rocky and rooted trail, very hard on the knees going down to the bottom, and a definite climb coming back out.

Hike Type: Shuttle Hike in an upside down "T" configuration, starting at Craggy Gardens Visitors Center, Down and Back Up from the Falls, then to Graybeard Mountain Overlook

What to Bring:  Appropriate clothing for the weather, water, hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, camera, smart phone (if you must), lunch and/or trail snacks.  Boots are highly recommended because the trail is very rocky and filled with tree roots.  Also, it may be muddy in places.

Description: We will meet at the Folk Art Center (MP 382) and form carpools.  Please pay your drivers!  We will drive 18 miles out to the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (MP 364.5) on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  One or two drivers will leave their cars 2 miles up the Parkway at the Graybeard parking area for the shuttle later on.  The hike starts on the Craggy Gardens Nature Trail but soon turns right onto the Mountains to Sea Trail. The first part of the trail travels through high-elevation hardwood trees. At the intersection with the Douglas Falls trail, turn left off the MST. Descend on many switchbacks on a rough, sparsely used and maintained trail to a small stream; the trail levels and is a bit smoother. Cross Cascades Waterfall at 2.1 miles; be careful because it is slick and a long drop below! The trail passes very large, old-growth hardwoods then enters a virgin hemlock forest at Waterfall Creek. Cross the stream; descend on some more switchbacks to campsite and then 70' free-falling Douglas Falls at 3.2 miles.

After lunch at Douglas Falls, backtrack 2.2 miles to the MST, then turn left for 1.5 miles on MST to Graybeard Mountain Overlook (MP 363.4).

This hike is a variation of the description given online at http://www.localhikes.com/Hikes/Douglas_Falls_0480.asp and from Kevin Adam's North Carolina's Best Wildflower Hikes: The Mountains.

Wildflowers and trees we may see: Spring beauty, wake robin, false hellebore, Core's chickweed, yellow birch, wood anemone, thyme-leaved bluet, sweet white violet, bog violet, foamflower, Dutchman's breeches, toothwort, hobblebush, filmy angelica, St. John's wort, ramps, false Solomon's seal, rose twisted stalk, yellow violet, brook lettuce, bluebead lily, speckled wood lily, eastern hemlocks, painted trillium, Jack-in-the-pulpit, umbrella leaf, partridge berry, rue anemone, rosebay rhododendron, maple trees, Canada violet, and yellow mandarin.  Of course, all may not be in bloom, but late April to mid-May is listed as peak bloom season!

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  • NANCY

    The hike along the trail was amazingly enchanting...... the wildflowers were everywhere. Although most were not quite in bloom...it was still beautiful. There were also long range views to enjoy....and Douglas Falls at the bottom was like no other I had ever seen. Thank you Michael, for leading us all through this enchanted forest.....I think I even got a glimpse of fairies hiding under the many clusters of hellabores and tucked in between the moss covered rocks and fallen trees.

    2 · April 22, 2013

  • Gabrielle

    I was almost to the meeting place this morning, but a tree had just recently fallen across the road blocking all traffic in either direction. Didn't know where else to meet so I am doing my own hike for today. Wish I could have met everyone, and look forward to future meet ups.

    April 20, 2013

    • Anna M.

      If it was the tree on the parkway, we moved it!!!

      April 21, 2013

  • Michael S.

    Here's the link to last years hike from the same weekend...http://www.meetup.com/asheville-hiking/photos/all_photos/?photoAlbumId=7666352.
    We did 10.1 miles today!

    1 · April 20, 2013

  • Michael S.

    As hike leader, I apologize for the backtracking. Beautiful hike...wildflowers should peak in 2 more weeks. I'll post the link to last years hike from the same weekend for comparison.

    1 · April 20, 2013

  • Lee S.

    I wasn't always confident i was on the trail, but i made it back fine. i hope you saw the trillium bud. I hitched two rides; now i'm back in the 'ville. Hope it was a good hike. See you next time.

    1 · April 20, 2013

  • Virginia B.

    family urgency = cancellation = :(

    April 20, 2013

  • Gabrielle

    How long does it take to get to the folk art center from downtown Asheville? I only ask because I have an appointment at 9AM that may go for 45minutes.

    April 19, 2013

    • Sammy F.

      15-20 minutes depending on lights and traffic. Take 240 East to Exit 7, Tunnel Road. Go on Tunnel Road/Hwy 70 East about 2 miles. Just past the VA Hospital, turn right to get on the BR Parkway. Go north about a 1/2 mile or so, and the Folk Art Center is on your left.

      April 19, 2013

    • Gabrielle

      Thanks, I looked it up, and I think I've been there before. Thanks for the directions.

      April 19, 2013

  • Sammy F.

    P.S. Also meant to tell you, Michael--the Annual Meeting of the Southern Highland Craft Guild is at the Folk Art Center on Saturday, April 20, so there may not be that much parking.

    April 19, 2013

    • Michael S.

      We will still plan to meet there, but we'll move on to the secondary parking area if not enough space.

      April 19, 2013

  • Ron S.

    Michael, Two of us would like to do this hike but there is a afternoon work conflict. Could we meet on the trail at the barnardsville site to do the falls and that part of the hike?

    April 19, 2013

    • Michael S.

      You are welcome to try, but I don't know how the timing will work out. I suggest just doing your own thing and we'll see you if we see you.

      April 19, 2013

    • Jenny

      Hi Michael, I do hope we meet up with all. I am going the other end with Ron Shulby. We will take pics and compare:)

      April 19, 2013

  • Sammy F.

    Are you sure your knees are up for this, Michael? It's a great hike, but may be a little early for some of the spring wildflowers. Can't wait to see what you come upon tomorrow!

    April 19, 2013

  • Ben F.

    You guys may want to know that the gate is open down near Dillingham and the picnic area, FR-74. Then do other hikes in the Coleman Boundary

    April 19, 2013

  • Jill C.

    Wish I could make this one but I have family coming to visit this week-end. Hope you do this one again during the summer or fall :)

    April 19, 2013

    • Mike A

      Hi Jill, would have been fun to see you again.

      April 19, 2013

  • Betsye L.

    When will we be back in asheville?

    April 19, 2013

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