TIME: 2H 30M
LENGTH: 4.1 MILES RT
ELEVATION CHANGE: 993 ft
The picnic area where the trail head is located is encompassed by a one way road. You’ll see a large sign next to a facilities structure. When we arrived at 7:20am there was plenty of parking.
There are two options for this waterfall hike. You can do an in-and-out hike to the observation point or a loop with the option to hike down to the waterfall. There was no way I was skipping standing at the base of the waterfall. So I mentally prepared for the long climb back.
From the parking lot you walk onto a well defined trail. There is a slight decline as you walk deeper into the trail.
When you approach the AT (Appalachian Trail) cement pillar, you’ll have a clear idea of which way to go. Whether you’re doing the loop or the in/out hike continue straight on the path past the intersection.
You’ll follow the blue blazes down. Keep in mind that every step you take carries you deeper into the valley. Meaning you’ll have to climb back up if you decide to retrace your steps. There are a few portions where stairs have been made on the trail. They seem to also serve as retainers for that corner specifically.
It took us just under an hour to reach the overlook. It had rained the night before and there was plenty of water flowing down from the South River. Unfortunately, the trees obstruct the view a little. The falls are only slightly visible from this point. If you decide to walk down to the falls that will add on an additional 1.5 miles that are very steep. Trust me, my calves have not recovered yet lol.
Like I said, I wasn’t missing this waterfall. So we kept walking past the overlook until we came upon another pillar. We made sure it was pointing towards the base of the falls and we headed deeper into the valley.
You’ll get to another point on the hike where the pillar below is standing. This is not the end of the hike. Continue following the blue trail blazes on the tree to the right.
Not too long after you’ll have an awesome view of the falls. It was awesome to be the first ones there that morning and have the place to ourselves. Thank you Shenandoah ❤
The blue trail takes you right up to the falls on the right hand side.
After about an hour of hanging out and taking pictures we saw the first sign of humanity. An older couple from Naples, Florida joined us at the waterfall. They were amazing. They shared their stories with us of traveling to Iceland, Peru and several states to visit national parks. They are retired and have decided to travel as much as possible in their golden years.
Having had our fill of stories shared with the elderly couple, we were ready to head back up. We decided to save time and retrace our steps. Truthfully it was so nice and tranquil by the waterfall that I didn’t want to leave. But it was also a nice idea to leave the waterfall to the nice couple for them to enjoy alone.
I also learned a couple things about myself that day:
- I cannot wait for Tony and I to retire to travel whatever corners of the world we haven’t reached by then. We have done a good amount of traveling since we started dating in 2012 but is it ever enough? For me the answer is no. God willingly we live long lives and get to do something like the couple from Naples.
- I will hike the most strenuous hikes with steep inclines. So long as I’m going UP first. That means I’ll be hiking down at the end of my hike and I love that. I am NOT a fan of down then up hikes. Especially when gaining over 1000 ft in elevation. If I’m somewhere that requires me to do a hike like this, I’ll still do it. But I remain steady on NOT being a fan.
We also saw a few creepy critters on this hike as well. Some hiding in plain sight and others camouflaged to their environment. The frog and crayfish were hardest to spot:
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
– Anthony Bourdain