Check Out This Must-Do Waterfall Hike in Virginia
One of our favorite things to do is ask our authors what are their favorite hikes that had to be excluded from their books. And Phil Riggan, author of the newly-updated 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Richmond definitely delivered. Technical trails, tall cascades, and views for days—what could be better?
Crabtree Falls may not be the easiest waterfall to hike in Virginia, but certainly one of the most beautiful and worthwhile and located near the center of the Commonwealth.
If you pick the right time of year when there is ample water flow and the leaves on the trees haven’t yet nudged their way in front of the white water, Crabtree Falls can be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia. Though it drops nearly 1,300 feet, it is not “the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi” because it is a series of waterfalls and not one distinct drop.
My visit to Crabtree Falls was in late April, when there was plenty of water cascading down the falls and just before spring’s green explosion, so my view was not hindered. After years of trying to get in a family day trip from Richmond (about 120 miles east, far out of the range for 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Richmond), I finally took a chance to solo hike the trail on the way back to Richmond from Roanoke. It added an extra couple of hours to the drive, but worth the extra effort.
The hike up Crabtree Falls is relatively challenging due to the rocky terrain and the elevation gain of nearly 1,300 feet. I’d recommend sturdy hiking shoes for this one, though some of the lower levels of the trail can be managed with any type of footwear. There is danger around the falls itself as the constant spray from the falls keeps the rocks slippery. More than 30 people have died in the past few decades at Crabtree Falls, so take extra precaution near the edges of the trail, especially near the water.
Hiking at a brisk pace while also taking time to admire the falls at the overlooks, it was about an hour and a half round-trip. From the parking lot, it is a 1.7-mile climb to the top along a series of switchbacks and overlooks. Over the years, volunteers have built wooden and stone stairs along some of the more difficult sections, especially as the trail passes near the falls. Beyond the top of the falls, the trail extends another 2.1 miles along a much flatter and less challenging section to a junction with the Appalachian Trail (3.8 miles total from the parking lot).
The park is located in the George Washington National Forest in Nelson County, just six miles off the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 27 on State Route 56. The parking lot for Crabtree Falls is located at 11581 Crabtree Falls Highway, Montebello, VA 24464. Parking fee is $3 at the honor park sign. Open from dawn to dusk daily. Pet-friendly. Leashed dogs only. Contact is (434) 263-7015.