Hiking Graveyard Fields

Overwhelmed with the weight of all that is going on in our world right now, I needed to retreat into the forest for some therapy. I wanted to use my muscles to climb and scramble over rocks. I wanted to feel the earth beneath my bare feet and fill my lungs with the lush, mountain air. After contemplating various new places to explore, I chose Graveyard Fields as my frolicking grounds yesterday. I had already been there twice and knew that it had what I craved.

This 3 mile hike does not have any graves but it does have dark, twisted rhododendron tunnels, eerie meadows laden with wild blueberries, forest paths, creek crossings with many rock hopping opportunities, and waterfalls! This isn’t the place to go to seek solitude or wild, rugged trails that haven’t been smoothed by man. The beginning of the trail is paved and there have been improvements made that include a wooden boardwalk through the meadow. This is quite a popular trail and attracts many visitors. Of course, I will let you know the best spots to go off trail where most people do not venture!

Outside of Asheville, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 418 you will find the start of the trail on the right side of the parking lot. The paved trail twists through a rhododendron thicket (great place for little ones to play hide and seek), and down a wooden staircase. Here you come to the Yellowstone Creek. The bedrock here is beautifullyyellowstone5 banded, twisting in places. You could spend half a day here rock hopping in the creek! Second Falls are below this part of the creek, so you must be careful in the water where the rocks are slippery, but have fun!

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This view is just above Second Falls.  My teenage son enjoyed sliding down it but I wouldn’t recommend it. The rock at the bottom is an abrupt stop!

 

 

 

The trail continues after you cross the bridge over Yellowstone Creek.  You can take an off shoot to the right to head down many wooden steps to Second Falls. This is a popular swimming hole. The water is crystal clear, deep, and cold. Most people stop here in the summer and do not continue on, so the rest of the trail is less populated.

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Return to the main trail just past the bridge. Follow the sign to Graveyard Fields. The fields are stunning. I’ve been there with a storm approaching, fog curling in between the mountains…slowly creeping into the meadows…thunder grumbling…eerie…otherworldly. Yesterday was sunny and it was a whole new scene. The perfect picture of summer. The wild blueberries along the path were just beginning to turn ripe. We found a few sweet treasures to pop into our mouths!  In August, there will be many berry pickers… people and snakes!

You will soon come to an intersection. There is a trail on the left that leads to a stream. Turn right here to follow the main trail. Just after this, there should be a sign at another intersection. This is the Graveyard Ridge Connector Trail. You will want to turn left here. The last intersection will be the trail to the Upper Falls. This is a .8 mile in and out trail  (1.6 miles total) and is straight ahead. You can go left to continue the loop and go back to the parking lot. I wouldn’t recommend that. You would miss the best part of the trail.

Along the way to the upper falls, there will be another rhododendron thicket to the left, surrounding a creek. There are little paths that lead into this magical place of wonder. We stopped here to picnic. Soft, pink flowers accented the moss covered stones while the cool, clear water whispered  secrets to the trees.

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On you will go, as the trail goes uphill. It is uneven from here on, and you will have to step around mud puddles and small streams. There are many rocks in the path to maneuver up and around. Soon you will come to the falls area. There are several places to exit the trail and come out onto the creek. The first exit is the best. You will see water sliding down a big rock hill. Walk up the rock hill, turn a bend, and make your way on up. The wet areas of the rock are very slippery! The rock beneath your feet holds small pools of still water reflecting the sky.

You will soon come to the Upper Falls.

 

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There is no place to swim here, but you can certainly cool off. Rock scrambling is fun here, but I wouldn’t try climbing to the top. A fall could be deadly. There is a narrow path off to the right in the trees that leads up to the top. Small children or people with bad knees should not take this path as it does require some climbing. IMG_9987.JPG

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Be careful at the top. The creek is slippery. Do not go all the way to the edge. Please. Turn and follow the creek upstream to see many more wonders!  The creek up here is beautiful with shallow pools reflecting sunlight. This is where you will find solitude.

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My daughter cooling off in a pool, listening to the water.

 

 

 

 

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We stayed up there a while in silence watching a storm roll past.

 

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Once you are filled, continue back the way you came… all the way back to the loop. Go right and you will pass through another rhododendron thicket as you make your way up to the parking lot.

Happy trails!!!

 

 

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