Graveyard Fields (5-1-15)
Graveyard Fields, located at Milepost 418.8 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a spectacular high elevation valley lying in the shadow of nearby Black Balsam and Tennent Mountains. It obtained its rather dark name after a combination of winds and logging reduced its thick spruce-fir forest to naked stumps dotting the landscape, resembling gravestones. Adding insult to injury the fields suffered two catastrophic wildfires in the 1920's and 1940's which further denuded the landscape and even sterilized the soil. Conditions are harsh at these high elevations so life has been slow to return. Today only a few scattered trees and small patches of laurel and blueberry have managed to repopulate the landscape.
Containing two very scenic waterfalls and covered in scattered thickets of laurel and blueberry, Graveyard Fields today is one of the more popular hiking destinations for those traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. As a result it is absolutely overrun in the summer months, when I tend to avoid it. This cool, cloudy late spring day offered up a last chance for me to get out and walk its trails in relative solitude before the summer crush. On this day I'd be doing the generic loop through the valley with a short side trip up and over adjoining Graveyard Ridge to mix things up a tad. Along the way I'd stop at Second Falls and see what spring wildflowers I could find. With spring greens already spreading over the lower elevations this hike was a nice opportunity to step back a few weeks in time for one last pre-leaf season hike. I love Graveyard Fields...hopefully this album will offer you a glimpse why...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.320310, -82.847057
Route Type: Loop + spur Difficulty: MODERATE
Hike Length: ~3.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 48'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 4,900' Max. Elevation: 5,300'
Total Vertical Gain: 600' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 200'
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Graveyard Fields Loop (unblazed), MST Connector (unblazed), Mountains-to-Sea (white), Graveyard Ridge (orange), Graveyard Ridge Connector (yellow)