Waterfall Hikes

May 08, 2023
Stories, Outdoors

One of the best ways to spend a hot spring or summer day is a hike to a waterfall. Enjoy natural beauty, challenge your body, peace out your mind, bond with friends, and take a plunge when you reach your destination. If you worked up a sweat on the hike, an icy dip will feel incredible. Here’s our guide to waterfall hikes in the Waynesboro area.



Jones/Doyles Falls

Located in Shenandoah National Park, the Jones/Doyles Falls hike can be hiked as an out-and-back to one set of falls from either direction or as a 6.6-mile loop hike to see both sets of falls. This popular hike features several places to dip your feet as well as some gorgeous spots to photograph the falls and have lunch. The parts of the trail near the water are cooled by moving air and running water, and the whole loop is shaded, so you won’t need to endure the blazing sun on your return climb back to the parking area. SNP is home to lots of wildlife, and hikers report seeing deer, snakes, and bears along this trail.

Riprap Hollow 

The Riprap Hollow Trail is also located in Shenandoah National Park. You’ll spend a lot of time exploring the mountain streams as you navigate crossings and photograph a 20-foot waterfall and some smaller cascades. You’ll also want to take a dip in the incredible 50-foot-wide swimming hole. The 9.5-mile circuit hike, which includes Riprap Trail and Wildcat Ridge Trail is widely praised as one of the best loops in the southern end of the park. Start your hike at Wildcat Ridge Trailhead (MP 91.2 on the Skyline Drive) and head down along Meadow Run. The trail connects to Riprap Trail and you’ll finish with a walk on the Appalachian Trail.

Crabtree Falls

What’s awesome about Crabtree Falls is that the bottom of the waterfall is only a few hundred feet from the trailhead. The first section of the trail is paved and flat, making it accessible for most guests. After that, the trail gets steep, but visitors hike upward only as far as they want to go. This is a serious waterfall, with some cascades dropping over 200 feet. The trail climbs close to the falls, offering stairs, switchbacks, and numerous vantage points for photography or sitting and enjoying the cascades. Signs advise against “exploring the falls” because of slippery rocks and the potential for dangerous tumbles, but the top has pools for cooling your feet. A large viewing area provides an exceptional view of the Tye River Valley. Make sure to stop at the nearby Montebello Fish Hatchery to see brook, brown, and rainbow trout up close before they’re big enough to be released in the wild.

St. Mary’s Falls

If you actually want to swim under a waterfall you’ll love the pool at St. Mary’s Falls. Located in the St. Mary’s Wilderness area of George Washington National Forest, this trail starts along VA-608 in Vesuvius. Enjoy a relatively flat 4-mile out-and-back hike along the St. Mary’s River, but you’ll encounter multiple water crossings, so wear your water shoes. The trail ends with a large icy mountain pool below a scenic waterfall. There are plenty of flat spaces nearby, so you can enjoy your lunch watching the falls. You can also explore St. Mary’s Wilderness from the trailhead along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

White Rock Falls

Start your hike to White Rock Falls at the White Rock Gap trailhead at MP 18.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This 4.5-mile loop explores hardwood forests and shady glens filled with mountain laurels and rhododendron. There aren’t many overlooks, but you will catch a view of The Priest as you return to the parking lot. The trail crosses the stream several times on wooden bridges. The 40-foot falls are scenic and the base is a pretty spot for a snack. You can wade or dip your feet in the water, but there’s no swimming hole. Families with younger kids can shorten the hike to 3 miles by starting at the Slacks Overlook (MP 20), hiking down to the falls, and returning the same way. Hikers can also extend the hike by completing the entire 9.5-mile Torry Ridge/White Rock Falls loop.

Elliot Knob

Elliot Knob is a hard 9-mile hike that rewards adventurers with two waterfalls and a panoramic vista of the Allegheny Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley from the top. Elliot Knob is the highest peak in the northern George Washington National Forest, with an elevation of 4,463 feet. It was once used as a fire lookout, and the old tower still stands at the grassy summit. This hike is considered strenuous due to its steepness and rocky sections. Hikers wishing to stay overnight at one of the primitive campsites along the trail should obtain a backcountry camping permit from the George Washington National Forest office. The parking area for this hike is along VA-42 west of Staunton. 


What are you waiting for? Cool off on one of these Waynesboro-area waterfall hikes this weekend!


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