The 10 Most Gorgeous Waterfalls in Virginia – Trail Maps and Photos

10 Most Gorgeous Waterfalls in Virginia

A reader bought my book and suggested I compile a list of the 10 most gorgeous waterfalls in Virginia! I should be qualified because over the last few years I hiked to 95+ publicly accessible waterfalls in the Commonwealth of Virginia; I’ve seen most of them if not all!

If you are unfamiliar with VIrginia waterfalls, here is a relaxing video showing about a dozen waterfalls for your inspiration to get out and explore!

The Task

At first, it sounded like an easy task. I sat down, looked at my photos and videos and wrote down my favorites. Unfortunately, I ended up with not 10, but 26 gorgeous waterfalls and unsure about a few more! I was in trouble! It became a much tougher project because there are so many stunning waterfalls to choose from.

Now, several weeks later after some serious internal turmoil, doubts and many changes, I am finally ready to reveal my Top 10 list! But first, let me start with a few disclaimers.

Waterfall Selection Criteria

Any compilation of “best” waterfalls should be read with some scepticism. I’ve see very popular but totally ridiculous lists. Were those written by writers in armchairs depending on Google Searches for their information?

You may disagree with my list, but rest assured I physically hiked to every qualified waterfall shown in my book and on this website! My selection is based on personal experience and not on Photoshopped images of waterfalls from the internet! Let me explain my selection process.

  • Publicly accessible – Virginia has a handful of beautiful waterfalls located on private properties. A few owners allow access when contacted but I decided to exclude those from my research for safety and privacy reasons.
  • Drop Falls versus Cascades – The geography of the Commonwealth (basically the lack of high mountains) is more suited for cascading waterfalls. Think of these as a series of giant steps with water crashing over it. Many are impossible to photograph in whole due to the rough terrain, thick vegetation and sheer height of the cascade. For this reason I prefer waterfalls with larger drop zones -think of these as water tumbling over a cliff.
  • Seasons matter – I compared the waterfalls based on their impact when in full flow. For example, in early Fall most waterfalls in Virginia run almost dry with very weak flow. I suggest you explore my selection in late Winter/early Spring or after sustained periods of heavy rain.
  • Access trails – A few of the waterfalls on my list require serious bushwhacking. Others can be seen from your car as you drive by! I did not consider ease of access as a selection criteria!

Words of Caution

Virginia is a large State with long distances between waterfalls, often requiring driving over curvy backroads in mountainous terrain. It is challenging to photograph every waterfall in full flow especially after or during heavy rain. Do not rush and please drive safe!

When venturing off-trail to visit some of the waterfalls on my list, please prepare yourself using my “Bushwhacking Guide“. It’s rough out there!

Use My Book to Guide You

My book covers all the waterfalls on my list and many more – it is a basically the complete guide to waterfalls in Virginia! You will find photos, maps, directions and profile information of each trail.

The 10 Most Gorgeous Waterfalls in Virginia

Here is my list IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER! It is nearly impossible to rank them!

Just click on each to read more about the location, directions, trail, profile, etc.

NOTE – Some of the articles below describe a series of waterfalls along a creek. I use the number system that’s common in Shenandoah National Park – #1 is closest to the main road, then #2 then #3 and so on.

My particular choices along each creek are:

  • Falls of Big Creek #3
  • Falls of Naked Creek #2
  • Falls of Doyles River #1
Roaring Run Falls

Roaring Run Falls in Virginia

Roaring Run Falls in Botetourt County, Virginia If you are looking for an exciting hike next to a stream to ...
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Falls Run Waterfall

Falls Run Waterfall in Virginia

Falls Run Waterfall in Shenandoah County, Virginia If you thought there are no waterfall surprises left in Virginia, think again ...
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Tank Hollow Falls in Virginia

Tank Hollow Falls is a very scenic 60 feet waterfall in the town of Cleveland in Russell County, Virginia. What ...
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Upper Waterfall of Little Stony

Waterfalls of the Little Stony National Recreation Trail in Virginia

Waterfalls of the Little Stony National Recreation Trail in Scott County, Virginia The waterfalls of the Little Stony is an ...
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Lower Cascades Falls

Cascade Falls in Virginia

Cascade Falls in Giles County, Virginia As one of the most popular waterfalls in Virginia, the 66-foot Cascade Falls is ...
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Lower Shamokin Main Falls

Lower Shamokin Falls in Virginia

Lower Shamokin Falls in Nelson County, Virginia The 1.8 mile trail to Lower Shamokin Falls is one of our favorites, ...
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Falling Spring Falls

Falling Spring Falls in Virginia

Falling Spring Falls in Alleghany County, Virginia Here it is, the most beautiful roadside waterfall in Virginia and a must-see ...
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Doyles River Falls #1

Falls of the Doyles River in Virginia

Doyles River Falls in Shenandoah National Park (Albermarle County) Doyles River Falls (there are two waterfalls to be exact), is ...
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Falls of Naked Creek 2

Falls of Naked Creek in Virginia

Falls of Naked Creek in Shenandoah National Park - Page County The East Branch of Naked Creek is a waterfall-rich ...
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Falls of Big Creek 3

Falls of Big Creek in Virginia

Falls of Big Creek in Shenandoah National Park - Page County The amazing Falls of Big Creek are no longer ...
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Falls of Jones Run in Virginia

Jones Run Falls #2

Waterfalls of Jones Run in Shenandoah National Park – Albemarle County

The out-and-back Jones Run Trail is one of the easier waterfall hikes in Shenandoah making it a good starter hike if you are unsure about your hiking abilities.

Along the 1.8 mile (3.6 miles return) trail are two pretty waterfalls and a cascade. The trail gradient is gentle.

You have two options to see the Falls of Jones Run. I park in the Jones Run parking area and prefer the out-and-back because I want to get down early and fast to begin my shoots long before other hikers arrive.  Then rush to the next waterfalls before the sun rises too high!

If you want a longer and steeper hike that includes the two waterfalls of the Doyles River, you can park at mile 83 (Browns Gap) then combine the Browns Gap Fire Rd, the Doyles River Trail, the Jones Run Trail and the Appalachian Trail for a 5.8 mile loop hike!

Directions

To hike down to the Falls and back, park at the Jones Run Trailhead (Mile 84.1). It is a popular hike on weekends so it is best to arrive early!

Please see our Virginia Waterfall Map for accurate locations.

Trail Map

The trail curves steady downhill. At 1.6 miles, Jones Run Falls #1 comes into view on your left.

Jones Run Falls #1
Jones Run Falls #1 (click to enlarge)

Continue downhill for a short distance and you will suddenly stand above Jones Run Falls #2. From here a short switchback takes you to the base of the Falls at mile 1.8. This is the main waterfall along Jones Run.

Jones Run Falls #2
Jones Run Falls #2 (click to enlarge)

At this point you can return back to the parking area but I suggest you continue downhill for just a few minutes to see the Jones Run Cascades.

Jones Run Falls #3 (cascades)
Jones Run Falls #3 (cascades)

NOTE – You can continue down the trail until it meets up with the Doyles River Trail. A left turn will take you to two stunning waterfalls but I will cover these in an upcoming post.

Trail Map - Jones Run Falls
Trail Map – Jones Run Falls (click to enlarge)

  Trail Profile

Jones Run Falls - Trail Profile
Jones Run Falls – Trail Profile

Falls of Tumbling Creek in Virginia

Big Falls of Tumbling Creek

Falls of Tumbling Creek near Saltville in Smyth County, Virginia

The Falls of Tumbling Creek are high on our list of must-see nature destinations in Virginia. And the best part? You can drive right up to these waterfalls – all it takes is some adventurous driving on a steep, curvy and bumpy country road.

When the Creek is flowing hard waterfalls are seemingly everywhere! In fact, you really need additional pairs of eyes – the driver must focus on the narrow road while passengers look for photogenic cascades and waterfalls.

There are several pullouts along the way but photographers must share these with local fishermen; Tumbling Creek is a very popular trout fishing stream.

Directions

From Saltville, drive north on Allison Gap Road then turn left onto Poor Valley Road (613). Turn right on Tumbling Creek Road (747) then follow it for 7 miles or so all the way to Laurel Bed Lake.

After major rains a high clearance 4WD will be best but on most days any vehicle will work.

The three major waterfalls are above the steep switchback section of the road and before the left turn to the lake. In that short section you will find Twin Falls, Big Falls and Upper Falls along with several other smaller cascades.

Information about the area can be found here – Big Tumbling Creek Clinch Fee Fishing Area.

Tumbling Creek Twin (Lower) Falls
Tumbling Creek Twin (Lower) Falls

Tumbling Creek Upper Falls
Tumbling Creek Upper Falls

Trail Map

Tumbling Creek Map
Tumbling Creek Map (click to enlarge)

Scott’s Run Waterfall in Virginia

Scott's Run Waterfall

Scott’s Run Waterfall in Fairfax County, Virginia

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is home to several challenging hiking trails and a photogenic waterfall appropriately named Scott’s Run Waterfall!

The area is popular with local hikers (and their dogs) and the recommended parking lot fills early on weekends!

The 1.5 mile (return) hike has some gentle uphill sections but the trail is well-maintained and easy on the feet. You do cross Scott’s Run twice but should not get your feet wet thanks to the artificial stepping stones!

Scotts Run Trail
Scotts Run Trail

NOTE – Unfortunately the Preserve suffers from vandalism and littering. It is not uncommon to find trash and graffiti next to the waterfall which is a shame.

Scott’s Run Nature Preserve Home

Directions

From the Beltway, exit to Georgetown Pike (VA-193) west towards Great Falls. The Preserve parking area is 0.6 miles away on the right.

Scotts Run Trail Parking
Scotts Run Trail Parking

Walk north towards the kiosk and follow the light-blue blazed trail. The waterfall is at the end where Scott’s Run spill over into the Potomac River.

Please look at our waterfall map for clear directions.

Scotts Run Trail
Scotts Run Trail

Scotts Run Trail
Scotts Run Trail

Scotts Run Trail
Scotts Run Trail

Trail Map

Trail Map-Scotts Run Falls
Trail Map-Scotts Run Falls (click to enlarge)

Trail Profile

Scotts Run Trail Profile
Scotts Run Trail Profile (click to enlarge)

Falls Ridge Falls in Virginia

Falls Ridge Falls

Falls Ridge Falls is a spring-fed travertine waterfall about 80-feet (according to officials but I think it is lower) in height.

The calcium deposits make it very unique in Virginia.

Turn right (west) onto Route 603 (North Fork Road). Follow winding Route 603 for seven miles until you see a red private bridge on the left.

Turn left onto Falls Ridge Road; cross the bridge and railroad tracks. See the slideshow below for photos.

Immediately across the tracks, turn left onto a gravel road that follows the tracks briefly, then curves to the right and fords a small stream.

Just past the stream there is a fork. Bear left and park on the side of the road near the preserve entrance sign. (Do NOT go to the right up the hill!). The trails start across the open field.

Falls Ridge Falls can be found on this Google Map.

The hike is only 0.9 miles including a visit to the nearby caves. Once you reach the T-junction the falls will be just to your right as shown on the trail map below. I suggest you go to the falls first then continue with the loop towards the caves and back to your vehicle. On top of the hill is another small waterfall once you cross a small bridge. Very scenic!

Trail Map

Map-Falls Ridge Falls-3D
Map-Falls Ridge Falls-3D (click to enlarge)

Trail Profile

Falls Ridge Falls Profile
Falls Ridge Falls Profile (click to enlarge)

Video Slideshow of the Trail

Big Branch Falls in Virginia

Big Branch Falls

Big Branch Falls in Shenandoah National Park (Albemarle County, Virginia)

This beautiful corner of Albemarle County just inside the edge of Shenandoah NP is known for wonderful swimming holes as well as attractive Big Branch Falls.

Big Branch Falls is an easy hike because the trail is flat and well-maintained – as long as you do not mind getting your feet wet at the crossings!

Plan to go early on weekends or you will be sharing your day with plenty of UVA students from Charlottesville meaning parking becomes a huge issue! We suggest you go during the week.

Directions

You can reach the Falls from Skyline Drive via the Moormans River Trail but it is a steep, hot hike and I prefer the cool walk along the river! So let’s focus on getting there from outside the Park.

Please look at our Virginia Waterfalls Map for exact locations!

Make your way to the town of Crozet then drive towards Stinson Vineyards. At Whitehall turn left on Sugar Hollow Road (CR-614) then drive past Charlottesville Reservoir to the parking area which can be muddy. Parking can be difficult on busy days so plan to arrive early and park sensibly please!

Big Branch Falls - Parking
Big Branch Falls – Parking

It is a very pleasant and flat 2.15 mile hike to Big Branch Falls. You have to cross the North Fork of Moormans River three times. Most of the time these are easy crossings but when the river runs fast you have to be very careful.

Big Branch Falls - Crossing
Big Branch Falls – Moormans River Crossing

The crossing areas and pools inbetween are popular swimming holes in summer. But the river offers many opportunities to get away from the crowds and swim in solitude (if you can find parking!)

Do stop at a pleasant cascade just before you reach the main Falls!

Big Branch Falls - Cascade
Big Branch Falls – Cascade

Trail Map

Trail Map - Big Branch Falls
Trail Map – Big Branch Falls (click to enlarge)

 

Upper Shamokin Falls in Virginia

Upper Shamokin Falls

Upper Shamokin Falls in Nelson County, Virginia

When the Stony Creek flows hard, these Falls are smokin’, especially the Falls at Lower Shamokin (covered in another post)! But Upper Shamokin should not be missed either!

The Falls are inside the Wintergreen Resort which makes access a little more challenging than it should be, but do not be concerned about that!

Even at low levels this waterfall is very scenic and the 1.8 mile (roundtrip) trail is steep enough to provide a nice workout any time of the year.

But the trail is steep in places and very rocky so please wear proper shoes!

NOTE – It is possible to reach Lower Shamokin Falls via a maintenance road starting just below Upper Shamokin but it is a much better hiking experience when you start from a different parking area below Lower Shamokin. This trail will be covered separately.

Directions

Assuming you do not want to enter Wintergreen and deal with the security folks at the gate, make your way to the Blue Ridge Parkway and pull over at mile 9.6 – Dripping Rock Parking. There is room for 3 maybe 4 cars only so go early!

Step onto the Appalachian Trail North (east of the road) and follow it for 0.4 miles (just keep left at the split soon after the start. Now for the tricky part – at 0.4 miles look for a spring on the right. You actually have to turn right onto a faint trail just before the spring!

Spring - turn just before here
Spring – turn right just before here

DO NOT APPROACH ANY OF THE HOUSES. Stay on the trail next to the tiny creek that source the spring.

Follow this faint trail down the hill until you get to Laurel Springs Road. Turn left and walk a short distance until you see a yellow trail marker to the Falls on the right. Follow the trail downhill until it split to form a loop. You can go either way – we prefer to turn left and loop around clockwise.

HOWEVER – If the Creek is high you will stay dry if you go right and down to the Falls then return the same way. If you go left you have to cross the Creek.

You will soon hear/see the Falls to your right. Stay on the trail which gets rough at times. When you reach a rough dirt road after 0.4 miles, turn right, cross Stony Creek then turn right again next to the Creek and make your way up to the Falls.

From the Falls you zig-zag uphill over very rocky terrain to complete the loop then retrace your steps back to the parking area.

Trail Map

Trail Map-Upper Shamokin Falls (click to enlarge)

 

Trail Profile

Upper Shamokin Falls Trail Profile
Upper Shamokin Falls Trail Profile (click to enlarge)

Slide Show

Rose River Falls in Virginia

Rose River Falls #1

Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park – Madison County

Rose River Falls is one of the prettiest in Shenandoah! After heavy rain there may be several parallel falls tumbling over the 67 ft rock face.

The first 0.5 miles is also a horse trail – please know horses have right of way. After 0.9 miles the Rose River comes into view of the left. Follow the trail to Rose River Falls #1 (main falls) at 1.25 miles.

But there is more! Continue to mile 1.35 then bushwack down to Rose River Falls #2. You will see the top of the falls first then carefully make your way down to its base – it is very steep.

Rose River Falls #2
Rose River Falls #2

Rose River Falls - Falls 2 - Bushwhack
Rose River Falls – Falls 2 – Bushwhack

Directions

Park at Fishers Gap Overlook at mile 49.4. I prefer the area along the fire road nearby BUT DO NOT BLOCK the road. Then cross Skyline Drive and enter the trail.

Rose River Falls - Parking
Rose River Falls – Parking

Please study my Virginia Waterfall Map for precise locations.

Trail Map

Trail Map - Rose River Falls
Trail Map – Rose River Falls (click to enlarge)

Trail Profile – Rose River Falls

Profile - Rose River Falls
Profile – Rose River Falls (click to enlarge)

St. Mary’s Falls in Virginia

St. Mary's Falls Virginia

St. Mary’s Falls – Augusta County, Virginia

This very popular waterfall between Lexington and Waynesboro, St. Mary’s Falls, should be on everyone’s to-do list!

It has everything most hikers look for – plenty of parking on a well-maintained unpaved road, a very steady and gradual trail and a beautiful waterfall at the 2.2 mile mark!

St. Mary’s River gorge used to be a very active mining area until the 1950’s. In places some remnants of its past can still be seen.

Directions

It is best to study our Google Map!

From Steeles Tavern, drive east on SR-56 for 1 mile then turn left on SR-608. After 2.2 miles turn right on to stay on SR-608 and drive a short distance to St Mary’s Road. Turn right.  The parking area is 1.4 miles away where the road ends.

The trail (while rocky in some areas) is easy to follow (orange markers) as seen in our slide show below. Be aware you have to cross the creek no less than 5 times meaning your feet will get wet after a rainy period!

Trail Map

Trail Map-St Marys Falls
Trail Map-St Mary’s Falls (click to enlarge)

Trail Profile

St Marys Falls - Trail Profile
St Mary’s Falls – Trail Profile (click to enlarge)

 

Trail Slide Show

Roaring Run Falls in Virginia

Roaring Run Falls

Roaring Run Falls in Botetourt County, Virginia

If you are looking for an exciting hike next to a stream to a very photogenic waterfall then Roaring Run Falls should be near the top of your list!

But there is more! You can follow the trail upstream to the waterfalls and return via a different forest trail that includes a scenic viewpoint and a visit to a 19th century iron furnace!

Roaring Run Furnace
Roaring Run Furnace

The trail is beautifully maintained and you cross 3 bridges on your way to the Falls – you do not have to get your feet wet!

Roaring Run Creek
Roaring Run Creek

Roaring Run Recreational Area offers much more than a waterfall! It is the kind of place one can visit time and time again to hike and picnic.

Directions

Always study our Google Map of Virginia Waterfalls for accurate locations of every waterfall.

From Eagle Rock, drive north on US220 and turn left on Craig Creek Road (VA615). After 5.5 miles turn right on Roaring Run Road (VA621) and look for the entrance to Roaring Run Recreational Day Use Area on the left after 1 mile.

On the trail map below you can see the two main trails. We prefer to hike in a clockwise direction – upstream 0.6 miles to the Falls on the Streamside Trail and return via the furnace on the Woodlands Trail (1 mile).

Shortly after the 3rd bridge there is a sliding rock cascade which is great fun on a hot day! Bring your swimwear!

Roaring Run Creek - rock slide
Roaring Run Creek – rock slide

Trail Map

Trail Map-Roaring Run Falls
Trail Map-Roaring Run Falls (click to enlarge)

Trail Profiles

Streamside Trail Profile
Streamside Trail Profile (click to enlarge)

Woodlands Trail Profile
Woodlands Trail Profile (click to enlarge)