Fort Lauderdale Airport to Port of Miami Transport

FLL to PortMiami by Road

Fort Lauderdale Airport to Port of Miami is 26 miles by road and takes between 45 minutes and 1 hour depending on the route and traffic.

What is the best way to get from FLL to PortMiami on the day of your cruise?

Fort Lauderdale Airport to Port of Miami Route Map

The Fort Lauderdale Airport to Port of Miami route by road is marked in light blue. For a larger version of the map, please go here: FLL to PortMiami Map

Fort Lauderdale Shuttle Transportation Locations

You will generally receive a final email confirmation containing your Pickup Location at the FLL Airport. Please have your cellphone ON at the time of the pickup just in case the driver has difficulty finding you.

STOP 1: Between Terminals 1 & 2
Outside the baggage claim, you need to turn RIGHT ( facing the street ) and go to the designated pick-up area for COMMERCIAL Vehicle Only at the end of terminal 1
From Terminal # 2, passengers arriving on DELTA, AIR CANADA: Outside the baggage claim area, you need to turn LEFT ( facing the street ) and go to the designated pick-up area for COMMERCIAL Vehicle Only.

STOP 2: Between Terminals 3 & 4
From Terminal # 3, passengers arriving on AMERICAN, CANJET, SUNWING, US AIRWAYS, JET BLUE & BAHAMAS AIR: Outside the baggage claim area, you need to turn RIGHT ( facing the street ) and go to the designated pick-up area for COMMERCIAL Vehicle Only – located at the end of the terminal 3.

From Terminal 4, passengers arriving on SPIRIT, WESTJET, SUN AIR AND ALL INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS: Outside the baggage claim area, you need to turn LEFT ( facing the street ) and go to the designated pick-up area for COMMERCIAL Vehicle Only – located between terminal # 3 and 4.

Child Safety

If federal, state, or local law requires your child be secured in a child safety seat, please bring one as it is the parent’s or caregiver’s responsibility.

In Florida, it is the responsibility of the supervising adult to ensure that any child under 5 years old is seated in a federally-approved child car seat.

Florida law states:

  • Children 5 years old or younger must be secured in a federally approved child restraint system:
    • Children 4 years old and younger must use a separate car-seat or the vehicle’s built-in child seat.
    • Children 4 through 5 years must sit in either a separate car seat, a built in child seat or a seat belt, depending on the child’s height and weight.
  • Children under 18 years old must be in a seatbelt.

Though not required, the DHSMV recommends children 12 years old and under to ride in the back seat of the vehicle when possible. This is due to safety concerns for air bag deployment, which can be dangerous for young children.

To learn more, please read this informative page by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

RideShare Options

I recommend Uber and Lyft above any of the other options listed below. These are PRIVATE transfers with no waiting in line or delays such as multiple stops.

Granted, some folks do want to use phone-based apps, some do not trust rideshare drivers, some travel with kids under 6 and prefer large bus travel where child restraints are easier to manage (if needed) , and so on. I do wish they’d reconsider!

  • UberX or Lyft – $40 to $50 (cheaper with promo codes) – up to 4 people with few bags
  • UberXL or Lyft XL – $70 to $80 (look for promo codes) – up to 6 people with few bags

Surge pricing is uncommon at South Florida airports because there are many drivers. When it happens, just wait a few minutes!

  • Request a ride when you’re ready to walk outside

Be sure to choose a ride option that suits your group size and luggage storage needs.

Also choose which rideshare pickup area is closest to you. The rideshare pickup areas are located between terminals.

  • Exit on the lower arrivals level

Follow the signs to the rideshare pickup area near you, either between Terminals 1 and 2 or between Terminals 3 and 4 on the innermost curb. This is where all Uber/Lyft drivers at FLL meet travelers for pickup.

  • Wait curbside

When you get to the pickup area, you’ll see signs denoting different stations within the pickup zone. To make it easier to find your driver, message them through the app and let them know the station where you’re standing.

Shared Shuttles

Please understand a shared shuttle means exactly that – not private! These transfers are cheaper because:

  • You share a van or bus with 10 or more passengers.
  • Departure may be delayed while waiting for a few passengers.
  • Some have fixed departure times, others adapt to bookings on the day.
  • Unless included in your booking, the driver tip is excluded and expected.
  • Van may stop several times at the airport terminals to pick people and again at different cruise terminals to drop them.
  • Generally operate between 7am and 1pm on cruise days only – increased rates may apply otherwise.

GO Airport Shuttle – $28.75 (including tip)

Quick Shuttle – $22

SAS Transportation – $15

MJS Transportation – $15

Jiffy Jeff Transportation – $15

QLS Transportation – $15

JR Shuttle Service – $20

Private Shuttles

These generally provide quotes for 4 or 5 passenger vehicles but you can request anything from a limo to a charter bus! The good news – it is YOUR schedule not theirs and there’s no waiting on other passengers.

Quick Shuttle – $74 (up to 4 people)

South Florida Shuttles – $75 (up to 5 people)

Larry’s Private Car & Limo Service – $96 (up to 4 people, tip included)

JR Shuttle Service – $69 (up to 5 people)

Standard Taxi – roughly $78 metered and can be higher (up to 4 people)

Cruise Line Transport

With so many excellent shared and private transportation options available (at lower cost) from both FLL and MIA, it is hard to recommend booking a transfer with a cruise line. Remember, the cruise lines outsource your ride – they DO NOT own or operate their own vans or buses! You are not getting anything special!

But if you insist, here are a few cruise lines and fares to help you decide.

These bus transfers are generally available between 10am and 1:30pm but check your voucher for accurate times. Representatives in colorful jackets will assist you near the baggage claim areas. You will normally get a boarding number and asked to wait until your number is ready to board.

Then you wait until the bus fills!

Norwegian – $25

Carnival – $31.99
Terminals 1 & 3: – Near baggage claim #3
Terminals 2 & 4: – Near baggage claim #1

Royal Caribbean – $29.95

Disney – Only from MIA ($21), no transfers from FLL

Rail Transportation

Generally not recommended because it takes too long in the Florida heat and you have to cart your luggage all over the place!

Tri-Rail cost $13 (single) and takes 1h45min including a FREE transfer to the Fort Lauderdale Station, the MetroRail fare and a Rideshare from Overtown Station to PortMiami. That’s a lot of slow travel!

For more details, please read – FLL to PortMiami on Tri-Rail

Brightline cost $28-$48 (single, depending on options) and takes 1h15min including a Rideshare transfer to the Fort Lauderdale Station, the Brightline Fare and a Rideshare from Miami Station to PortMiami. That’s also a lot of slow travel but Brightline is very nice.

Rental Car

While renting a car at FLL is painless, the drop-off near PortMiami is not! The smaller Downtown offices can get very busy on heavy cruise days and you may have to deal with lines of people either waiting to park and drop off, or waiting to get on the FREE port shuttles.

Port of Miami Rental Car Drop Off locations with FREE shuttles closest to the Port are:

  • Downtown Miami – Hertz, Budget, Avis/Payless
  • Miami International Airport Rental Car Center – National, Dollar, Thrifty

You may see other rental car offices and companies near PortMiami but those DO NOT provide shuttle services. If you book a car rental with any other company you have to arrange your own Port transfer.

Cost of the one-day rental from FLL and FREE PortMiami Shuttle – I’ve seen rates as low as $50

Unless you have good reasons for doing so, I normally DO NOT recommend booking a rental car on the morning of your cruise from FLL to PortMiami.

For more information about Rental Cars, please read Car Rental to PortMiami.

Virgin Brightline Train – West Palm Beach Airport – Fort Lauderdale Airport – Miami Airport

Unfortunately the Virgin Brightline train does not operate to or from Miami International Airport (MIA), Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) or West Palm Beach Airport (PBI). The trains operate between stations near, but not directly at, these airports.

Transfers are needed between MIA and the Brightline Miami Station, FLL and the Fort Lauderdale Station and PBI and the West Palm Beach Station.

If you need less luxury and easier train access, I suggest you consider Tri-Rail.

Brightline Train Route Map

You can see a larger map here – Brightline Route Map

MIA Transfer Options

  • MetroRail Orange Line – Board at the Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre Station – 15 minutes – $2.25. A short walk outside over a rough sidewalk. Then board FREE MIA Mover to terminal – 4 minutes
  • Taxi – Choose from two pickup areas outside the station – 20 minutes – estimate $30
  • Uber/Lyft – Choose from two pickup areas outside the station – 20 minutes – estimate $16
Overtown Station - Northbound
Overtown Station – Northbound

FLL Transfer Options

  • Broward County Transit Bus – Route 1 – Board at Broward Central Terminal. This is a short but rough walk in a sketchy neighborhood – Arrive at Upper Level of Rental Car Center – 25 minutes – $2.
  • Taxi – Pickup area outside the station – 15 minutes – estimate $16
  • Uber/Lyft – Pickup area outside the station – 15 minutes – estimate $11
County Bus Route 1 at FLL
County Bus Route 1 stop at FLL (across the road from Terminal 1 – use the cross bridge)
County Bus 1 South at Central Terminal Fort Lauderdale
County Bus 1 Southbound to FLL at Central Terminal Fort Lauderdale (across from Brightline)

PBI Transfer Options

  • Palm Tran buses are nearby but inconvenient to the Airport.
  • Walk 4 blocks to the Tri-Rail Station and take the FREE shuttle bus (not a good option)
  • Taxi – Pickup area outside the station – 10 minutes – estimate $18
  • Uber/Lyft – Pickup area outside the station – 10 minutes – estimate $11
WPBI Tri-Rail Bus at PBI
WPBI Tri-Rail Bus at PBI (outside baggage claim across the road)

Brightline Train From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale

Takes about 40 minutes and cost between $10 and $30 depending on time of day and options booked.

Brightline Train From Fort Lauderdale to Miami

Takes about 35 minutes and cost between $10 and $30 depending on time of day and options booked.

Brightline Train from West Palm Beach to Miami

Takes about 75 minutes and cost between $15 and $35 depending on time of day and options booked.

Link to the Brightline Home Page

Fort Lauderdale Airport FLL to Port of Miami – Tri-Rail and MetroRail

FLL to Port of Miami Trains

Fort Lauderdale Airport FLL to Port of Miami via Tri-Rail and MetroRail offers the cheapest transportation options for cruise passengers. It may not be the most convenient but you do not have to deal with rush hour traffic and you can save a good bit of money.

How long will FLL to Port of Miami take?

  • The Tri-Rail section of the ride = about 30 minutes
  • The FREE shuttle bus from FLL to the Tri-Rail Station – about 15 minutes
  • The Green Line of MetroRail from MetroRail Transfer Station to Overtown Station = about 20 minutes
  • From Overtown MetroRail station to PortMiami via a rideshare service = about 10 minutes
  • Waiting Time? Add 30 minutes in total

Total travel time = about 1h45mins

How much will FLL to Port of Miami cost?

In 2019:

$3.75 for Tri-Rail + $2.25 for MetroRail (discounts for certain payment methods) + $7 for Uber = $13 or $9.50 per person when two travel together.

  • By the way, if you want to avoid MetroRail, Uber from the Tri-Rail/MetroRail Transfer Station to the Port of Miami cost about $17 and will take roughly 30 minutes.
  • Once you arrive at Overtown Station, you can save even more money if you use public transportation such as the FREE Metromover and Coral Way Trolley (to PortMiami), but this will take too long and you may end up a long way from your cruise terminal.

How does Tri-Rail compare to other transfers?

With two people traveling, a taxi or private sedan fare from FLL is roughly $40 per person, a shared shuttle about $25 pp and Uber roughly $20 pp. Then consider the tip as well.

A road transfer takes 45 mins to an hour but is very traffic dependent.

Route Map

In the map below you can trace the complete route from FLL to PortMiami. For a larger map, go here: FLL to PortMiami Route Map

Tri-Rail from Fort Lauderdale Airport

Please read my detailed description of how to ride Tri-Rail from FLL to Miami Airport MIA. BUT – this time please choose the Tri-Rail/MetroRail Transfer Station as your destination and not MIA!

Tri-Rail Train
Tri-Rail Train

Arriving at the Tri-Rail/MetroRail Transfer Station

Exit Tri-Rail and look for the Green Line MetroRail train going south to Overtown MetroRail station! Buy a ticket at the kiosk (you will need an EASY Card or EASY Ticket for a discount transfer fare). An attendant is available to assist you with tickets during the day but hours are limited!

The ride to Overtown takes about 20 minutes.

MetroRail-Train. NOTE – The Orange Line is shown. Please transfer to Green Line South

Arriving at the Historic Overtown/Lyric Theatre MetroRail Station

I suggest to arrange your Uber or Lyft ride while a few minutes away from the station! This way you do not have to wait long.

Tell your driver which cruise line/ship and/or the terminal (if you have this information).

The ride should take about 10 minutes depending on traffic conditions.

MetroRail - Green Line
MetroRail – Green Line from Tri-Rail Transfer Station to Overtown Station

Fort Lauderdale Airport FLL to Miami Airport MIA – Tri-Rail

Fort Lauderdale Airport to Miami Airport via Tri-Rail is the cheapest option. It may or may not be the most convenient choice – that depends on you!

At $3.75 one-way the price is right. The question is, can you and your party handle the following challenges:

  • Lifting and pulling luggage into a bus, off the bus, into the train, off the train then into elevators or up and down escalators, into a tram and off the tram
  • About 90 minutes travel time
  • Waiting outside (under cover) in the Florida heat

Map of the Route

Here is a link to a large version of the Map – FLL to MIA Transportation Map

Fort Lauderdale Airport Procedure

You may want to purchase water and/or a snack for your train trip.

Once you claimed your luggage, look for the signs to Ground Transportation then step outside looking for the Tri-Rail bus stop.

Tri-Rail FLL Sign
Sign to the Tri-Rail Bus Stop

There are 3 stops – at west end of Terminal 1, between Terminals 2 and 3, and between Terminals 3 and 4. The bus arrives at Stop 1 then Stop 2 then Stop 3 in this order. See image below.

Tri-Rail FLL Bus Stops
Tri-Rail FLL Bus Stops and travel direction

You are looking for bus FLA Fort Lauderdale Airport Station as shown below.

Tri-Rail FLL Bus Stop
Tri-Rail FLL Bus Stop
Tri-Rail FLL Bus to Airport Station

The route to the station changes somewhat between weekends and weekdays but the trip takes only 15 minutes or less.

At the Tri-Rail Station, purchase your ticket from one of the kiosks, cash, credit or some debit cards. Your destination is Miami Airport Station. You CANNOT purchase tickets on the train!

Purchasing your Tri-Rail Ticket

For Tri-Rail Schedules, please visit Tri-Rail.

The train may stop 6 times before arriving at Miami Airport and plan for about 45 minutes travel time. Restrooms are available onboard. Do not expect much in terms of scenery along the route! You can take a nap and not miss a thing.

Inside a Tri-Rail Train
Inside a Tri-Rail Train

Miami Station Arrival

Take the stairs, escalator or elevator and follow the signs to the Airport then look for the MIA Mover – a short walk.

Look for the signs to the MIA Mover

MIA Mover is a driverless tram to the Airport Terminal. The ride takes about 3-5 minutes.

MIA Mover
MIA Mover

You arrive at the Airport Terminal on Level 3. Use the diagram below to find your way from there!

MIA Floor Levels
MIA Floor Levels – MIA Mover is on Level 3

Palm Beach International Airport to Port of Miami

How to get from Palm Beach International Airport to Port of Miami (PortMiami), or vice versa?

Cruise passengers find occasional cheap or convenient flights to PBI then wonder if it makes sense when compared to more expensive flights to MIA or FLL. It is roughly 75 miles (120 km) by road depending on the route.

Some Concerns

It depends! You have to consider your arrival time, the number of people in your party, your budget, the amount of luggage you are carrying, your mobility (walking and getting on/off trains and buses and vehicles), and so on.

If you land early there’s the potential traffic delays between West Palm Beach and the Fort Lauderdale / Miami areas. During morning rush hour the highways are busy! (I-95, Florida’s Turnpike and even Rte 1) .

Giving the uncertainty of the traffic situation, I generally recommend to avoid road transfers in the early morning (rental car, rideshare, taxi, shuttles) and to book a train ticket on either Tri-Rail or Brightline. After 9am, the traffic situation improves!

You also have to consider flight delays if you arrive on the morning of your cruise! It can get stressful if you arrive late AND you are still 2 hours or more from PortMiami!

Available Options

Nevertheless, here are your options:

  • Rental Car – I’ve seen rates as low as $55 one-way in a mid-size car. 1h30mins
  • Rideshare – Estimate about $80 for UberX (1 – 4 passengers with few bags). You may experience surge pricing during peak hours (just wait a while and try again). Pickup is on the Arrivals level.
  • Taxi – Don’t. It is too far.
  • Shuttles – Shared shuttles are not readily available. Private transport will cost upwards of $180 per one-way trip (up to 4 passengers).
  • Rail – Tri-Rail or Brightline to Miami (no service to PortMiami). Tri-Rail has a free shuttle from PBI to the station. Fare is $6.90 plus cost of one transfer ($16). 2 hours. Brightline will cost $15 – $35 depending on options plus cost of two transfers ($13 + $16). 1h15mins

Rental Car Advice

Once you arrive in Miami, not all rental car companies offer free shuttle transfers to PortMiami! Be careful who you book with and where you drop off!

For rental car options with free shuttles to PortMiami, please read Rental Car Drop off with Shuttles.

Rail Advice

Unfortunately neither Brightline nor Tri-Rail stops at Palm Beach Airport. As shown on the map below, you need a transfer service to either station.

Palm Beach Airport Rail Transfers
Palm Beach Airport to Tri-Rail or Brightline

The Tri-Rail transfer is a free bus service. To board the shuttle to Tri-Rail from PBI, follow the signs in the airport to Ground Transportation. The stop is located on Level One, Baggage Claim- you will see signs for TRI-RAIL.

A rideshare fare from PBI to these stations cost about $13 per trip.

Brightline takes you closer to the Port of Miami. Their Miami station is connected to PortMiami via the FREE MetroMover and FREE Trolley bus (but this takes a long time) or use rideshare for about $8 (recommended).

With Tri-Rail you normally disembark at the Miami Airport Car Rental Center and take rideshare from there ($18 and recommended) . You can also exit at the Tri-Rail station and transfer to MetroRail to reach downtown from where you can rideshare or use the FREE trolley bus.


Please visit Tri-Rail for fares and schedules.

Please visit Brightline for fares and schedules.

Port of Miami Rental Car Drop off – FREE Shuttle

Port of Miami Rental Car Drop Off locations with shuttles closest to the Port are:

  • Downtown Miami – Hertz, Budget, Avis/Payless
  • Miami International Airport Rental Car Center – Alamo, Enterprise, National, Dollar, Thrifty

You may see other rental car offices and companies near PortMiami but those DO NOT provide shuttle services. If you book a car rental with any other company you have to arrange your own Port transfer.

Downtown Miami Rental Car Directions

Do not be intimidated when considering a Downtown vehicle drop or pickup! The streets are actually very easy to navigate; just take note of the one-way options and plan ahead! Please watch the videos below for clear directions!

Avis, Budget and Hertz are on the same one-way street! As shown on the map below, make sure you turn onto SE 2nd St near the Bayside Area. It is a one-way going west!

TIP – If you set your GPS to the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott you will arrive very close to these 3 agencies!

You will find Hertz, then Avis then Budget on the right side of the street so stay to the right as you drive west along SE 2nd St.

  • AVIS – Book Port Of Miami Shuttle For Cruise Ships, Q8M
  • Hertz – Book Miami – Port of Miami, 229 Southeast 2nd Street
  • Budget – Book Port Miami Cruiseship Shuttle (P2F)
Downtown Miami Car Rental Offices
Click to Enlarge – NOTE – Alamo, Enterprise and Sixt DO NOT offer shuttles to/from the cruise terminals from their downtown locations.

Miami International Airport Rental Car Center Directions

Alamo, Enterprise, National, Dollar and Thrifty rental car offices are located in the same building! Once you return the vehicle, you will be directed to their Port of Miami Shuttle van just outside the door. Sometimes the wait can be as long as 45 minutes depending on traffic.

Customers needing shuttle service to the Port of Miami must book the Miami Cruise Ship location (National – MIA/Dollar – MIAP01/Thrifty – PM4), as the return location and return the vehicle to the Alamo, Enterprise, National, Dollar or Thrifty rental counter at 3900 NW 25th Street (Miami Airport location) .

Cruise Port Miami Rental Car Locations
Cruise Port Miami Rental Car Locations

Please see this handy PDF with directions from avarious points around Miami –

Car Rental at Port of Miami

Downtown Miami Car Rental

Car Rental at Port of Miami can be confusing because there are no rental car offices at the cruise terminals! Here is what you need to know:

Let’s assume you arrived at PortMiami and cleared customs. How do you get to your rental car?

  • Use the free shuttle from your rental car company. But be aware only a few rental car companies offer free shuttle from PortMiami. Those are listed below.
  • User a taxi or rideshare (Uber/Lyft) to the rental car office of your choice. I highly recommend you go to the Miami International Airport Rental Car Center where you have a much larger choice of companies and vehicles.

If you use the free shuttle service, you will end up at one of two places – Downtown Miami or the Miami Airport Rental Car Center. Please look at the map below.

  • Hertz, AVIS/Payless and Budget shuttle vans will take you to their downtown offices. You will NOT be taken to the airport location!
  • National, Dollar and Thrifty shuttle vans will take you to the Miami Airport Rental Car Center. You will NOT be taken downtown.
  • That’s it – you have NO other choices!
Miami Car Rental Shuttles
Miami Car Rental Shuttles (click to enlarge)

Be aware the Downtown locations can get busy when there are several ships in Port at the same time. It is a shorter ride to Downtown but you may wait longer in line to get your vehicle.

If you are intimidated by the idea of driving in Downtown Miami, DO NOT BE! It is actually very easy to navigate. The airport area is rather busy and confusing with toll roads and major highways to consider.

Experienced cruisers prefer the Miami Aiport rental car location because all the rental car companies are represented and the process is generally easier and less frustrating than dealing with smaller offices!

Good luck with your car rental at Port of Miami experience! Here is more information about the Miami International Airport Car Rental Center.

Port of Miami Car Rental Shuttle

PortMiami Car Rental Shuttle

Which car rental companies provide shuttles to/from Port of Miami?

Hertz, Budget and Avis/Payless have Downtown locations with shuttles to PortMiami. DO NOT drop your vehicle at the airport when using these companies when planning to shuttle to the Cruise Terminals.

Companies with Port of Miami shuttles to/from Miami International Airport include National, Dollar and Thrifty.

Miami Car Rental Locations for Cruisers

There are two locations of note for cruise passengers – The Rental Car Center at Miami Airport and the Miami Downtown area near PortMiami.

Note – there are no rental car facilities at the PortMiami Cruise Terminals.

If you are planning to drop the car at either location, always make sure you use the CORRECT DESTINATION in order to use the FREE shuttle service to your cruise terminal.

Look for destinations such as “Dollar – Miami Cruise Ship” or “Miami – Port of Miami” or “Port of Miami – Shuttle for Cruise Ships”. Be very careful with this!

Then – check the address of the destination! As mentioned above, Hertz, Avis/Payless and Budget run shuttles from their downtown locations ONLY, whereas National, Dollar and Thrifty operate only between the Rental Center and Port of Miami!

Upon arrival by air at Miami International Airport, cruise passengers should follow the signs to the Rental Car Center (described in another post).

Miami Airport Car Rental Center

Miami Downtown Car Rental Directions

Here are two excellent videos with clear directions to the car rental locations in Downtown Miami.

Safety Kit for Waterfall Hiking

Hiking Emergency Kit

Safety Kit for Waterfall Hiking

The mountains of Virginia can be dangerous and a safety kit is essential for adventurers looking for waterfalls! This is especially true in Shenandoah National Park where the most impressive waterfalls require serious backcountry hiking – also known as bushwhacking!

Hiking is much more pleasant when one is prepared and confident. Over-confidence and plain stupidity, however, can be fatal. Know your capabilities and plan for the unexpected.

Here are my tips for staying safe while hiking to the waterfalls of Virginia.

General Observations

Fortunately one can enjoy most of Virginia’s waterfalls after short walks or hikes on busy and well-maintained trails. Folks walk in flip-flops and swimwear (for dipping in the cool water)!

Should something go wrong help is nearby thanks to the crowds on most days as well as the good road systems to the trailheads.

But when you get more serious about photography your hiking patterns change:

  • You often hike in the dark to catch a sunset or sunrise at a waterfall
  • You study weather forecasts and go when heavy rain is expected or on cloudy days (best for long-exposure images)
  • You rock-scramble to precarious positions for better angles and light-situations
  • You hike off-trail (bushwack) in search of undiscovered waterfalls and scenic nature photo opportunities
  • You carry photo equipment that can be bulky (tripods for example)
  • You often hike alone. Not by choice but partners who share your enthusiasm are hard to find.

If you are interested in getting away from the beaten trails and discover spectacular waterfalls and scenery then read on! The next sections are for you!

Basic Safety Gear and Tips

Here are a few essential safety tips for everyone regardless of capability and experience.

Hike with a Buddy

There are safety in numbers and if you have a compatible hiking partner try and team up.

Often a hike can be much easier if you have two vehicles and park one at the trailhead and the other at the end of the hike. In Shenandoah for example this  can save a lot of hiking time if you can hike down and avoid the return trip uphill!

Having said all that, an incompatible hiking partner can slow you down and even add dangers to your hike. If you plan for a 3 hour hike but end up struggling for 6 hours with a slow partner then you may run out of water, daylight and many other problems could pop up. If you have a strong partner who are an experienced rock climber then he/she may put you in danger by encouraging you to go beyond your comfort zone.

So it works both ways.

I hike alone and prefer it that way. I hike to my capabilities and I plan accordingly.  I compensate for the lack of a buddy by being well-prepared.

In summary, if you have a compatible hiking partner then consider yourself very lucky and enjoy the company!

Leave a route plan

Tell your wife or boyfriend or family member where you are going, how long you plan to hike and when to expect you back.  Always do this.

Failing this, leave a printed plan in your car at the trailhead. This will give the rescuers an idea of where to look especially when there are many trails in the region.

Study the area of your hike and print a paper map

Yes, I have a phone and a GPS but I ALWAYS have a printed topology map of my hiking area. Topology maps are excellent for discovering potential waterfalls and showing steep versus flatter areas in case I need an alternate route.

I use Garmin’s Basecamp in combination with my GPS to study/print the topology.

Create important waypoints for your GPS

Before every serious hike I add a dozen or so landmark waypoints in my GPS. The parking area, the estimated positions of waterfalls, estimated junction points with other trails, estimated positions of streams/creeks and so on.

This is very easy to do with Garmin’s Basecamp.

With these waypoints I have reference points to aim for. It prevents me from wandering aimlessly and getting lost.

Remember in the thick woods one has no reference points. You cannot see the sun and since I hike mostly on cloudy days it becomes almost impossible to find east or west!

Bring a GPS

A phone alone is not good enough. I use my phone to take quick pictures and video but mostly I try to keep it fully charged in case I need it in an emergency.

I use a small Garmin GPS and will not hike without it.  There are many kinds but the best GPS will have a “trailing” or “breadcrumb” setting. This allows one to see where you’ve been making it easy to retrace your steps.

Wear the proper clothing

Do not venture off-trail in the Virginia mountains without proper hiking gear.

I am not going into details here. What to wear depends on many factors including the weather and the expected condition of the trails.

In Shenandoah I can tell you the going gets very rough. If you bushwhack you can expect clusters of 6 feet tall thorny plants and stinging nettles of all kinds. There are trees on the ground with underbrush so thick you can hardly see through. The ground is spongy and you can sink into swampy stuff up to your knees when you least expect it. The rocks near the waterfalls are very slippery and mostly impossible to navigate. Most of the time you have to hike a wide circle to get from a lower waterfall to another further upstream.

Your clothes must help protect against:

  • Thorns and stinging plants – long pants, long sleeves, gloves
  • Poisonous snakes (bulky pants for example worn over hiking boots)
  • Rain, sweat and sun – quick-dry materials work best
  • Bugs (Mossies, gnats and ticks) – treat your clothes with repellent and pack a headnet

Use thick socks and make sure your boots are worn. Blisters are unwelcome when bushwacking!

About Ropes

If you are hiking to waterfalls near high cliffs it makes sense to think of ropes, correct?

I do not carry ropes.

If you are a rock-climber who understands the mechanics of ropes then go for it. Otherwise, ropes will give you a false sense of security that may kill you.

When I see a rock-face that may require ropes I take a detour and avoid it.

I suggest you do the same!

I have yet to encounter a waterfall that could not be photograph because I did not have ropes.

Pack an Emergency Kit

I try to hike early in the morning giving myself plenty of daylight in case of an emergency.

Nevertheless, I am always prepared to spend a night in the woods. Hopefully I will be rescued before dark the second night but I can survive a few nights if I have to.

In the next section I discuss my Emergency Kit.

Emergency Kit – basic (click to enlarge)

My Emergency Kit

I hike with a large fanny-pack! Not very manly but I prefer to not have a pack on my back. The reason is the thick woods. When I crawl underneath brush and tree branches, a backpack gets stuck.

I can swing my fanny pack to the back or front and even carry it when needed. It gives me easy and fast access to my emergency kit and water.

I carry (2 x 0.5 liter) of water for every 6 miles I plan to hike. In a major long-term  emergency I will drink water from the streams treated with pills. I do carry a small bag of Gatorade powder to help with dehydration after many hours of heavy sweating!

All my emergency gear is stuffed inside a dry-bag. When crossing streams and photographing waterfalls chances are I will slip and get wet. At least my emergency things will stay dry!

The key is to have all I need but stay very light-weight. Most things listed below are small and easy to pack.

NOTE – Not everything below is stored in my Dry Bag. For example, I wear the Cool Towel and the pepper spray.

      • Emergency Blanket

    • Survival Tool – mine has a compass, mirror, whistle, light, some digital info such as temp, time and date, magnifying glass

        • Small swiss knife with wood saw (not shown in my picture)

        • Fire-starter

        • Head net – to keep the gnats at bay

      • Knee Brace – can also be used on  arms and legs

      • Poncho – not to wear when hiking (will get stuck in the woods) but to stay dry at night

      • Charging battery pack for GPS and Phone. Remember the cables!

    • Bandaids
    • A few Protein or Energy bars
    • 6-pack of water-purification tablets

        • Eye-drops – in case things get stuck in my eye
        • Pepper-spray – can be used for black bears but mostly when meeting strange people in the back woods

      • Headlamp

    • Maximum DEET – must deter everything including ticks

        • Toilet paper
        • Two Glow Sticks – helicopters can see these!

      • Cool towel – use as a headband, neck band, scarf or cap!

Falls on Cabin Creek in Virginia

Falls on Cabin Creek

Falls on Cabin Creek in Washington County, Virginia

The Falls on Cabin Creek is a scenic roadside waterfall (actually a pretty cascade) located on private property but clearly visible from the road.


From Rich Valley Rd north-west of Abingdon, turn north on Fall Hill Road (CR 684) and the waterfall will be on your left after 1.8 miles. You can pull over on the narrow road and take a quick picture but do not linger long and please do not trespass! It is tempting to scramble down the bank to take a closer look but don’t!

Unfortunately you may find some trash at the foot of the falls. Some it are just the result of flooding but folks also use ravines to dump their old tires, appliances and furniture.

The Falls on Cabin Creek can be found on our Virginia Waterfall Map.


Trail Map-Falls on Cabin Creek
Map-Falls on Cabin Creek (click to enlarge)