Blue Ridge Parkway: Fallingwater Cascades


I was disappointed that the weather prevented me from hiking to the top of Sharp Top, one of the three mountains that make up Peaks of Otter along the Blue Ridge Parkway, north of Roanoke.  But I was still determined to hike somewhere.  Just up the road from Peaks of Otter is Fallingwater Cascades, and I decided that a hike in the rain to a waterfall wouldn’t be such a terrible thing.

I don’t remember much about the hike down to the falls, but the view at the bottom of the trail is nice.  This is a small waterfall that was probably much bigger the day after my visit (once all the rain that had just fallen on me made its way here).

You’ll have a nice view of the falls…

… and on a clearer day, you’ll probably also have a good view of the surrounding hills.  I think I took this picture about halfway up the return trail, at a point above the falls.  The hike from the falls back to the car took about 20 minutes, and it is a loop trail, so you don’t have to do much backtracking.

Headforemost Mountain

Given the foul weather, most of the roadside viewpoints weren’t very impressive, as I headed north on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Another nearby viewpoint, just up the road from Headforemost Mountain View, offered some interesting rocks…

… and a nice, shady area…

… that’s surrounded by rhododendron…

… most of which were blooming during my visit in mid-June.

Apple Orchard Mountain

A few miles north of Fallingwater Cascade, the Blue Ridge Parkway reaches its high point in Virginia.  The road climbs up Apple Orchard Mountain, peaking at 3,950 feet.

Arnold Valley Viewpoint

You’re still high on Apple Orchard Mountain, when you reach Arnold Valley Viewpoint.  The valley floor is a vertical half-mile below you.  I’ve read there’s a trail nearby that leads to an even better view of the valley.

Terrapin Mountain

I didn’t even bother getting out of the car for the view of Terrapin Mountain, elevation 3,500 feet.

Consider a detour from the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 501, to Natural Bridge.  The attraction declares itself to be one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World (its website explains that it has been included in several different lists of Wonders, mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries).  George Washington surveyed the site in 1750, and just four years later, Thomas Jefferson purchased the bridge and surrounding land from King George III.  These days, you can visit the bridge, and tour caverns and a wax museum, while staying at the attraction’s grand old hotel.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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