For our last day in North Carolina, we decided to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway one last time and visit…
Craggy Gardens. At first, we thought this was a botanical garden up in the mountains but it turned out to be a garden of a more wild and “craggy” kind!
The Blue Ridge Parkway runs along the crest of the Great Craggy Mountains in western North Carolina. About 14 miles from Asheville on a ridge that overlooked the surrounding mountains, we stopped at the large parking area for the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center.
There are several places to access the trail within a couple of miles of the visitor center but we took the one right off this parking lot.
I loaded myself up with 2 cameras for this hike. I grabbed my infrared converted Nikon Z6 with the 16-35mm lens and my Nikon Z7 with the 24-70mm lens.
I quickly walked across the road to get a shot of the mountains that stretched out as far as I could see!
I then ran back to the trailhead to catch up with my friends. The cragginess was evident immediately. The trail was a bit rough and slippery with a few spots where we had to do some rock hopping.
The thing that impacted me the most was the thicket of bushes that in many places made a tunnel-like passage along the trail.
This was late May so many of the trees still did not have many leaves so the place was still looking a bit stark, but that added to the cragginess!
At this time of year, the garden part of Craggy Gardens was not that evident unless you slowed down and looked along the trail! There were many ferns putting out their fiddleheads.
But when I looked very closely I found all kinds of very small flowers. Most were less than an inch across! I was very sorry I had not included my 105mm lens in my kit for this hike. Fortunately, the 24-70mm lens does focus at a fairly close range so I made the best of what I had!
We started seeing many tiny Trillium plants. Some had bright red flowers.
There were many more tiny flowers to see along the trail.
We were too early for the Catawba Rhododendrons bushes which we saw all along the trail. These bright pink flowers must cover the trail in June when they bloom at this altitude!
I did find some interesting buds to photograph.
Upon reaching the top of the ridge there was a large level area that overlooked the surrounding mountains and valleys.
We stopped for a few minutes at the large covered pavilion with benches that sits at the top of the trail we had taken up. We took our group shot for this trip and then started back down the trail.
I did notice a few more flowers on the way down.
I would recommend a longer macro lens (105 to 180mm) as most of the flowers were very close to the ground. My knees and back were not happy at the end of this hike! With a longer macro lens, I would not have had to get so close!
The View from the Road
Upon arriving back at the trailhead I once again walked across the road to catch the mountains in the light and clouds of that moment!
I am always watching for the changing light and light patterns on the landscape. Sometimes the light can hinder a good image but sometimes it just wakes it up!
While I was sitting on the wall next to the parking lot I heard a bird and with my 24-70mm (not the best for bird photography) I caught this Junco as it fed in the trees.
It is always a thrill to see a bird species for the first time but when I capture an image it is amazing!
When in the Asheville area I highly recommend that you make the trip up to Craggy Gardens. Wear your hiking shoes/boots, bring your long macro lens and maybe try it a little later in the spring for those pink rhododendrons.
That is all for my North Carolina trip! I hope you enjoyed all 6 parts!
My next post will be a little closer to home…a visit to McKee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach, FL. This is one of my favorite places to visit in steamy July!!
To see larger versions of these and additional images, please visit my Craggy Gardens Gallery.
That is all for now!