Graveyard Fields and Waterfalls – 10-15-2013

I joined my friends Dave and Lou for a hike in what is called the ‘Graveyard Fields’ which is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway around milepost 418. This is a very popular spot so expect crowds anytime. You’ll pass through alpine-like meadows, stands of Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, and young northern hardwood forests. If you like red colors in the Fall, this is the place to be ! Although the colors were not yet in their peak, it was still very nice and I am glad I went on this trip as it turns out I was only able to get in one more trip to see the leaves and they were already past peak during the only time I could go. This is an easy hike through a unique and beautiful area and it does have two main waterfalls on Yellowstone Creek and a third if you are the more adventurous type. The mountain was shrouded in fog and clouds as we drove in to the parkway that morning but it soon cleared off to be a sunny day. We chose to go to the Upper Falls first.

graveyard fields

Graveyard Fields

graveyard fields

Graveyard Fields

The trail has had some major re-routing done here in 2005 as parts of the old trail have been consumed by a small side stream and is not repairable. It can be confusing to find the upper falls as there are many spur trails running everywhere and you cross the main stream you follow in and leave it to reach another stream that the falls are on. Also once you reach the falls, the trail funnels you down to a cascade type falls which I imagine many people think is the main falls and leave without ever seeing the real falls ! You must find your way up and around a rocky area to reach the main falls that are above these cascades. It is very close and they are much higher and more vertical than the cascades so make sure you find them.

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Looking towards Graveyard Ridge from the trail that leads to the Upper Falls

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Mountain Ashe tree with Graveyard Ridge in the background

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Beautiful colors in the Graveyard Fields Valley

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Cascades just below the Upper Falls

cascades

Cascades just below the Upper Falls

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View from the top of the cascades

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View of the upper falls as seen from the top of the cascades

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Upper Falls

upper falls

Upper Falls

upper falls

Upper Falls

upper falls

Upper Falls

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View from the base of the Upper Falls looking back towards the Graveyard Fields Valley

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View of Graveyard Fields Valley from the base of the Upper Falls

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Fall colors of the Graveyard Fields Ridge and Valley as seen from the base of the Upper Falls

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Beautiful Fall colors of the Graveyard Fields Valley

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Brilliant red colors along the trail to the Upper Falls

After checking these nice falls out and getting what pics we could in the bright sun, we backtracked to where we started and followed the trail down through the meadows to Lower Falls. They call these ‘Second Falls’ on most maps. There is a network of wooden walkways and steps leading down to these falls and they are very impressive and some of the most photographed falls in the state. There was lots of people here so it was hard to get any pics without people in them and the sun was way too bright for any good shots anyway so we just enjoyed the beauty before moving on. The views through the flats were incredible. Sorry for posting so many pics here but I could not decide which ones to use as they were all so full of colors !

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Hiking across the meadows of Graveyard Fields

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Boardwalk in the Graveyard Fields meadows

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Hiking through the Graveyard Fields meadows

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The colorful meadows of the Graveyard Fields

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Graveyard Fields meadows

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Old split rail fence in the Graveyard Fields meadows, looking back towards Graveyard Ridge

dave and lou

Two old geezers (Dave and Lou) taking a break to soak in the beauty of the Graveyard Fields

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Awesome colors of the Graveyard Fields

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One of the long boardwalks through the Graveyard Fields meadows

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Amazing beauty of the Graveyard Fields

As I was taking pics of the fields, looking back the way we had came from the Upper Falls, I noticed that I could see a tiny white spot which I knew had to be the top of the Upper Falls about a mile off in the distance. I started zooming in and taking more pics and sure enough it was the Upper Falls,,,,,

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slight zoom of the Upper Falls about a mile away

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Zoomed view of the Upper Falls from a mile away

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Zoomed view of the Upper Falls from a mile away. You can now start to see the cascades below the falls.

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Zooming closer from one mile away of the Upper Falls and cascades below them.

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Signage

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First view of the Lower Falls or Second Falls as they are labeled on most maps

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Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

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Lower part of the Lower Falls

I took those pics with my pocket camera. I then setup my larger camera (which is NOT an SLR) and took a few more:

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

lower falls

Lower Falls

From there if you are feeling adventurous, you can go further downstream to what is called Yellowstone Falls. You can either take the access trail from the Second Falls up to the Mountains To Sea Trail and out the ridge that way to the overlook and pig trail down to the falls, or you can do as we did,  and just followed the small trail down the left side of the creek. It has some questionable spots as it is not the main trail but enough people obviously go that way so you can find the way without much trouble. You will end up climbing a small hill to join the high ridge above where you will find the MST and a small overlook where you can see the cascading falls through the trees. There is not a good view of them and the only way to really see them is to find the unreal steep billy goat trail down to the base of them. This is hard to find but it is there and would be considered extreme hiking in my book. We did not have time to go down on this trip but I hope to get back there soon to check those out. Just a little ways downstream from them is Skinny Dip Falls but those are more easily reached by another point along the parkway near Looking Glass Rock Overlook.

yellowstone falls

The only view we could get of Yellowstone Falls which is located below the Lower (Second) Falls. To see these very large cascading falls will require descending some VERY steep terrain.

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Trying to get a peek of Yellowstone Falls

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View looking towards the parkway from out small perch high above the Yellowstone Falls

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Zoomed in to get some colors with the rock cliffs for contrast

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View of the valley below Yellowstone Falls

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View of the valley below Yellowstone Falls as seen from our small perch high above the falls

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Looking out beyond the valley below the Yellowstone Falls

After checking out the falls and the ridge area there, I decided to take the MST back towards Graveyard Fields as I knew there was an access trail there which we had no problem finding and ended up being an easy way back to the parking lot where we started. It was a beautiful day and we had a great hike and saw some really nice colors and waterfalls. I can`t wait to come back to this area again as I highly recommend it.

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Sign found at our first intersection along the MST on our way back to Graveyard Fields and the parking lot

yellowstone creek

People standing at the top of the Lower Falls

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The MST access trail brought us out right at the top of the lower falls where we crossed this bridge to find the trail up to the parking lot

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Sign at the parking lot that kinda gives ya the layout of things although it does not show the Yellowstone Falls below the Second (Lower) Falls

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View of Graveyard Fields from the parking lot

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View of Graveyard Fields from the parking lot

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View of Graveyard Fields from the parking lot

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View of Graveyard Fields from the parking lot

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View from the parking lot

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Zoomed view from the parking lot

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Zoomed view of the parkway as seen from the parking lot

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One last look of the Graveyard Fields from the parking lot before leaving

On the way home we stopped at the Looking Glass Rock Overlook where I snapped a few pics with my pocket camera.

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Sign at Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

looking glass rock

Looking Glass Rock

Our last stop would be Moe`s Bar-B-Que in Asheville, NC. It was very good. I can’t wait until our next trip. To see more pics of these waterfalls, please visit our Photo Gallery here.

Posted on 8 November '13 by , under RATtreks.

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