Graveyard Fields: The best of all worlds

Graveyard Fields is a land lost in time. The trail takes hikers through mountains, fields and waterfalls for the best of all worlds. Those looking for an easy to moderate hike will be pleasantly surprised by all Graveyard Fields has to offer.

Graveyard Fields is located off of the Blue Ridge Parkway, headed toward Asheville. To access the fields, take 107 toward Waynesville. The exit for the Parkway is on the left. The fields are about 40 minutes out, located at mile post 418.

Despite the name, no graves exist within the area. According to the Blue Ridge Parkway Information Guide, the land got its name from tree stumps destroyed in a wind storm in 1925, which gave the appearance of graves.

The trail starts and ends at the Graveyard Fields overlook. There are a few signs explaining the fields’ history as well as a map of the trailheads, which all loop around to meet the overlook. Upon both entering and exiting the trails, hikers will be led through different tunnels of rhododendron, only adding to the beautiful yet scary appearance.

Once out of the tunnel, hikers will cross the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River. The bridge crossing the river offers views of the clear, rocky river stretching both up and down mountain as far as the eye can see. On any given day, one can see scores of tired families taking advantage of the cool mountain water.

Farther along the trail are various off-shoots leading to the lower falls, upper falls and back to the parking lot. Although these off-shoots exist, each one loops back to the main trail. The hike to the upper falls and back can be made in about two hours, longer if hikers take time to rest and enjoy the scenery. The upper falls trail leads through a few large fields dotted with campsites and dried up creeks. Wooden walkways provide an easy hike for the first portion, crossing over all creeks but one. This one will require hikers to step on stones to avoid getting their feet wet. The farther along the trail one gets, the muddier the trail becomes, so good boots are a must.

Though the hike starts off easy, the trail winds up a mountain laden with stones and tree roots. Hikers with back or knee problems may need to rest along the way. The farther up the trail extends, the harder the hike becomes.

When the falls become almost visible through the brush on the right, the main trail will branch off to the right. For a more expansive view, hikers should take the one on the right, which is so overgrown it is almost easy to overlook. The right trail can be dangerous thanks to the wet rocks hikers will have to climb and is not recommended for children. The rocks are arranged so that a person could very, very carefully climb to the middle of the waterfall. From here, hikers can look up to see the falls themselves or look down on the rest of the mountain.

Hikers should note the moderately difficult terrain toward the end of the hike and take precaution. As previously mentioned, sturdy hiking boots with ankle support are a must to keep feet dry and ankles from getting twisted on the steep, rocky climb up the mountain. Small children can enjoy the Yellowstone River and the milder portion of the hike but may have trouble with the more strenuous portion. Animals are welcome as long as they’re on a six-foot leash. Allow at least two hours for the hike and always bring sunscreen and water.

Visitors to the parkway will enjoy the beautiful scenery Graveyard Fields has to offer year round. In summer, the rhododendron blooms its purple blossoms and in fall, rich oranges and red litter the ground. The Fields offer an experience hikers can enjoy year-round.