Maybe you’ve hiked to the Cascades in Giles County. The 69-foot waterfall is one of the most popular sights in the region, drawing thousands of visitors to view and splash around beneath the cascading water that gives the waterfall its name.
But have you seen the 200-foot waterfall in Bottom Creek Gorge near Bent Mountain? How about other waterfalls in Craig, Montgomery and Giles counties, at Fenwick Mines, Falls Ridge and Mill Creek?
In a region with lots of mountains, hills and rolling streams, you’re going to see waterfalls. After all, water must get down off the mountains some way. Thanks, gravity!
This autumn, families should get out and see some of the region’s falls. Remember, they don’t call autumn “fall” for nothing. Leaves fall, water falls, we all fall for waterfalls! (But don’t fall off the waterfalls. They can be dangerous, after all.)
Bottom Creek Preserve, Montgomery County
Bottom Creek plummets for 200 feet, creating a spectacular scene that can be viewed from an overlook after a hike of about two miles. The Nature Conservancy, which owns the preserve, calls it the second-highest waterfall in Virginia (some websites refer to it as the Bent Mountain Waterfall, or Bent Mountain Falls). The creek flows through a gorge that creates a series of furious rapids known as “The Kettles.”
The 1,657-acre preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy is about a half-hour from Roanoke, over Bent Mountain along backroads near the Roanoke and Montgomery lines. Trails loop the preserve for about four miles and are fairly easy to hike. For directions and information, go online here: https://bit.ly/3lHWeLD.
Stiles Falls, Shawsville
This pretty 40-foot waterfall can be seen after a 1.5-mile hike from Camp Alta Mons, which was the Crockett Springs Resort in the early 20th century. More info here: https://www.altamons.org/hike.html.
Falls Ridge Preserve, Ironto
Another Nature Conservancy preserve, Falls Ridge, rises above the North Fork of the Roanoke River. It features an 80-waterfall that careens over limestone deposits that TNC calls one of the largest such exposed beds of calcium carbonate, known as travertine. TNC’s website reports sinkholes are also visible, which indicate “the existence of underlying caverns which have never been explored.”
The loop trail is a little more than three miles total. The preserve is located about eight miles off North Fork Road (Virginia 603). Complete directions can be found here: https://bit.ly/2Z9i8zE.
Fenwick Mines, Craig County
This popular recreation area, operated by the U.S. Forest Service, entices kids to splash around during warmer month. Fall, though, is still an excellent time to take a one-mile walk, see the old mining pits and arrive at a small waterfall on Mill Creek.
Mill Creek Falls, Narrows
Called “Best Hike to Take Your Dog On” by the Roanoke Outside Foundation, Mill Creek Nature Park in Giles County features trails for hiking and mountain biking. The trails pass four waterfalls on Mill Creek and Mercy Branch. Some of the best views of falls are along steep trails, though. More info here: https://virginiasmtnplayground.com/mill-creek.
The Cascades, Pembroke
Like I said, this is one of the most popular hikes in the region. Some intrepid hikers even visit frozen falls on frigid winter days. And other hikers take a conservancy trail beyond the waterfall to a cliff called Barney’s Wall.
The tiny town of Pembroke offers some dining options to sate your post-hike hunger. The Cascade Café, Riviera Mexican Grill and Bluegrass BBQ are all located on U.S. 460 near Cascade Drive, the road that leads to the waterfall.
Apple Orchard Falls, Botetourt County
The spectacular 200-foot waterfall is accessible from the Sunset Field Overlook near milepost 78 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 2.9-mile out-and-back trail is moderate, with a few tougher climbs up steps on your return trip. (Who hikes down, must always hike back up, the old saying goes. Actually, I just made that up).
Western Virginia boasts plenty other waterfall hikes, which include Roaring Run in Botetourt County, Dismal Falls in Giles County, Falling Spring in Alleghany County and Blue Suck Falls in Douthat State Park.
Roanoke Outside has a website dedicated to waterfall hikes in the region (https://bit.ly/3kqWA9P) with maps and directions.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has a list of top Virginia State Park waterfall hikes (https://bit.ly/3CxSKlH).
How many falls can you fall for this fall?