Hiking and exploring are a huge, huge part of how I regenerate when I'm "spent". Fresh air, exercise and immersion in nature -- that's where I go to recharge and I usually go home inspired with a new idea for my artwork. What does a mountain trail have to do with oil painting and my art studio? Everything.
So if you're visiting Asheville, here are a couple more hikes I am always recommending: Graveyard Fields and Skinny Dip Falls. Both are a wonderful way to spend the day and are both easy hikes (no excuses not to enjoy!).
Graveyard Fields is a super popular hiking destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 418.8). The Yellowstone Prong is the water source for two waterfalls in a mile-high valley filled with wildflowers and surrounded by Blue Ridge mountains with 6,000-foot peaks. The area got it's name years ago from the tree stumps and surrounding trees that looked like grave stones in a graveyard setting. The trees were toppled by a huge wind several hundred years ago. Then in 1925, an intense fire burned the recently logged area, and the forest has been slow in recovering since. This provides a stark contrast to most hiking in the Asheville area.
Their beautiful hiking trail (Graveyard Fields Loop) is about four miles. Start from the overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a map on the sign at the parking area. Take the trail at the lower end (right side looking away from Parkway) of the parking area. This descends down a paved path through a thick patch of rhododendron, down some steps and to a bridge. Cross the bridge, turn right along the trail until you come to the first trail intersection to the right, and descend a long flight of steps to viewing platform for Lower (or Second) Falls. You can get a closer look from the boulders at the base of the falls. You can even slide down a portion of the waterfall! This beautiful waterfall is just short hike from the parking area. It's a popular swimming hole to get splash around in the cool mountain water and slide down part of the waterfall. The rocks are slick and there are no lifeguards on duty. So be careful!
Skinny Dip Falls
Skinny Dip Falls are beautiful. Really one of our favorites. It's a refreshing swimming hole and soaking spot on a hot summer day with clear, cold water. And it's a beautiful waterfall setting to enjoy any time of the year without getting wet with multiple cascades and pools. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway (at Milepost 417 at Looking Glass Rock overlook), it's easy to find at the end of a 1/2 mile hiking trail from the Parkway overlook.
Sorry, Skinny Dip Falls is not clothing-optional. And In addition to a nice "jump off rock" into a deep pool (about six feet deep), there are several places to wade or have a seat in the cool mountain water.