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!