Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular attractions along the North Carolina stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s in the Pisgah National Forest just below Black Balsam Knob Mountain and about seven miles north of Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower. It’s probably more popular as a swimming hole than as a hike, but the hiking and camping are great. The area is so crowded that Mountains to Sea Trail thru-hikers on longer trails drop in to take a nearo and people-watch as they wash their clothes in the river.
There’s a parking lot (and bathrooms) at the trailhead. I use the term “trailhead” loosely because it’s a staircase and asphalt path that leads straight down to the lower falls. People get there early with coolers and blankets to stake out picnic spots. They let their kids wear themselves out bouldering around the banks and playing in the water all day. It gets very clogged and parking overflows onto the parkway. Fold in your sideview mirrors if you find yourself having to park there.
There are trails through the area, but most people do the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail that allows you to see both the Upper and Lower Falls as well as Graveyard Fields. It’s a pretty short and easy hike but the lines can make it unpleasant. You walk in a literal queue of strangers and find that there’s nowhere to sit when you get to the upper falls. It gets very crowded in the summer—especially on holidays like Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you’re looking to make new friends, then head out there and have fun. But if you’re looking to hike, skip this place if the parking lot is full and head up to Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain and do the Art Loeb/Ivestor Gap loop instead. The views there are worth the extra few miles you’ll have to drive.
All in all, this is a great hike for any age. Get there early, take a picnic lunch, and wear sunscreen. The persistent winds will deceive you into thinking you aren’t getting burned.
If these pictures look better than some of my previous ones, it’s because this was the first time I hiked with my Nikon D5100 DSLR. That model is a bit out of date now, I but I highly recommend anything in that line.
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