It’s that time of year again, and we’re off to explore the beautiful vistas here in Western North Carolina. Winter hikes work out better for us since we’re not as busy at this time of year. The timing might be involuntary, but this doesn’t mean the views are any less spectacular than they are in other seasons. Each season reveals its own treasures, and winter is no different. Since there is no foliage to hide the views, the shapes of our mountain ranges are clearly defined in winter. This results in interesting images created by the mountain terrain. For instance we see the rumples of a large rug in some of the folds between the mountains.
We decided to visit Graveyard Fields near mile marker 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway is only open at the whims of the weather from November to April, but this year’s warm winter has, fortunately, offered many days of trail access along the parkway. So, we decided to give Graveyard Trails a go! This is a popular trail that we often recommend to our guests but we hadn’t hiked it, ourselves, since 2002 when we were still ‘visitors’ to the Asheville area. However, once we arrived and descended down the ‘stairs’ to the trail head, we instantly remembered why this is such a popular trail. It is a relatively easy hike made more accommodating by the numerous boardwalks and bridge upgrades over the muckier areas. It is relatively flat with only a 300 foot total rise over about a mile and a half. But be aware, this can be (and was!) a muddy hike at certain spots especially after the above average rains we had here in January. If we weren’t careful, it could (and did!) become a ‘slip and slide’! The trail basically takes you through a valley seam between two ridges with lots of interesting foliage and landmarks (even in winter) along the way. The namesake ‘graveyard’ mounds are evident and the sleeping vegetation is still pretty colorful even in February. The destination upper waterfalls announced itself well in advance as we approached, and upon our arrival the rushing waters marked this as a spiritual spot like so many others in this amazing part of the world. After enjoying the falls, we retraced our steps back the the parking lot resulting in a 3.2 mile leisurley hike that took us about 3 hours. What a wonderful way to spend a winter’s day in Western North Carolina just about a half hour from the Windover Inn and Waynesville!