Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Lewis Falls Trail in Shenandoah National Park

Tuesday Afternoon June 8, 2015
Big Meadows Campground
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia



The Lewis Falls Trailhead is on the back of the picnic area/amphitheater parking lot.  To start out, we get to walk a short way on the Appalachian Trail again. You almost can’t hike anywhere in the park without ending up on a piece of the AT.






And sure enough, there goes an AT hiker.



The Lewis Falls Trail takes a right hand turn and from there of course we start DOWN. There’s no where to go but down when you are already on the ridge. And like most trails here there are a lot of rocks to watch out for. You have to stop if you want to look around. In many places, there is no looking away from the trail if you are moving.






We do stop along the way to watch what I think is an Appalachian Azure rather than an Eastern Tailed Blue because of the absence of the small orange spots on the hind wing.  I get several shots of her as she moves in and out of the light.  I could have stayed all day but she had to be on her way.






Back to the rocky trail.



But then there is this big tree to hug.


And Mountain Laurel along the trail to appreciate.





Rocks get bigger.  The trail goes more steeply down.



We can see the Blue Ridge behind this rock through a break in the trees.



A great old tree has fallen and been cleared from the trail leaving this gorgeous burly bark which seems as beautiful to me as any painting.





Back to the rocky path this time with roots to make it more precarious.




And finally we’ve come to where the Lewis Falls Trail continues back up there on the left of this photo.  Time to take the yellow spur trail on the right down an even steeper short trail to the observation point.  We’ll go back the trail on the left.




On the way there is another lovely view of the Blue Ridge although the haze does block the Alleghany Mountains beyond.



We are following one of the streams that makes up the falls and stop to admire it.






At this point it is not only very rocky but now the rocks are wet and slick and we have stupidly left our hiking poles back at the campsite.  DUH!   I have picked up a nice volunteer pole to help me along but even though I suggested he do the same, David has not.  Is that a guy thing?





The last bit has apparently been so slick and treacherous for the past 75 years that the CCC originallyl installed a hand rail to get to their viewing platform.  




The platform looks a lot like the one from my South River Falls Hike on Sunday.  Because of the rains, it is full of water.  So rather than stand in water over my shoes, I climb up on the wall and look for the falls.



Also like my South River Falls Hike, the view is very obstructed.  Can you see the falls there in the middle?




These are the best shots I can manage from here.  They look nothing like pictures I’ve seen of these falls.  The pictures even from recent books, must be years old.  Is that really fair to lead your readers to believe that’s what they will see if they take this trail?




The falls is called Lewis Falls and Lewis Spring Falls in different trail books.  At 81 feet in height, it is the fourth highest falls in the park.  It is described as a “gentle falls cascading from two creeks and then descending to a false bottom where it spills once again.”  In a 2006 trail book I have I quote “You have a commanding view of the falls from an overlook constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.   Not sure I’d describe even my zoomed in pictures below as a commanding view.

I can see both streams tumbling over but I can’t get a picture of them.  You can see the “false bottom” in both of these pictures below but you can’t see it tumbling further down.

It’s really really lovely, what I can see of it and I do fear that people may start trying to make their way down for a better view.  This would be very foolish but people are, aren’t they.




We eat a bit of our lunch here and when another couple descends the slick rocks and tries to find a picture point, we let them have it to themselves and head back up with the help of the railing.  I wonder whether the park service will repair this overlook if it becomes deteriorated.




We’re back at the rocky intersection of the continuation of the trail and our return to the top.  That means only one thing.  UP UP and more UP.




Unlike last year in the Rocky Mountain National Park, David is having trouble with the inclines and has to stop often.  He tells me to go on ahead so I climb to top of the Lewis Mountain Trail where we will pick up the AT for the rest of the return. I wait for him there.

I find the door to the Big Meadows water supply which apparently comes from Hawksbill Creek which feeds Lewis Falls.



I also find these interesting shelf fungus.  You certainly can’t miss them with their color.








Since yesterday I have learned that these little rocket shaped flowers are called Fly Poison.  All parts of the plant are toxic.   Apparently it was used by Native Americans to poison crows that attempted to damage their crops.  Early Americans round up the powdered root and mixed it with molasses to kill flies in their homes.   Why do we need Dupont?









This last section of climbing on the trail will take us to Big Meadows Lodge.



There is a spur off to the Black Rock Overlook.  As we approach it, the rocks increase in size.
These are known as Black Rock cliffs.



Black Rock is at 3721 feet.   Here too the views are hazy.  But the big problem is that we are facing west and it is late in the afternoon so the sun is turning everything white including big sections of my photographs.








The views from Black Rock are better in person than in these photos especially with the giant white sun.  It is a nice ending to the falls hike.  We definitely hiked down and then back up to the very top.


  1. I never got back to leave my opinion the last time you hiked to the falls overlook. . .I think a little judicious pruning is beneficial. . .not talking manicured here. . .

    We once volunteered at a State Park where the Supervisor decided au naturel was his chosen method. . .there ended up being no access to the shoreline from which the kiddos could fish. . .so what was the point of going to the lake? But that's just me. . .when I do a hike expecting a reward. . .and there is no reward, I'm always hugely disappointed. I'm sure you still enjoyed being "out in the woods."

  2. Ahh nature. Hard to control sometimes, especially something as ephemeral as a waterfall. There are amazing photos of Yosemite Falls, many descriptions of it over a century or more, but if you go there at the wrong time, it is but a wisp, and sometimes it isn't even there. I so get the vegetation overgrowth thing as well. When Mo first built this house in the forest, it was quite sunny and the trees were lovely. Now we live in a very dark forest with very little sky. Those dang trees just keep growing! LOL

  3. As Sue mentioned the lighting to different places is constantly changing. As you said the sun was turning everything white in the late pictures. Timing is everything. The time of day. The time of year. If the you have the time to find that perfect angle for your picture.
    For those of us that have yet to visit the area it looks great.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  4. That's quite a rocky trail! Although I'm certainly no expert, it seems there would likely not be so much dense growth if there hadn't been so much artificial fire suppression over the years. I know that's true in the west, at least. Glad you identified the wildflower -- and good point, who needs Dupont??

    1. There have been many many fires in Shenandoah. Seems like one a year almost. The problem is these mountains are so fecund. Things grow at a rate that is astonishing.

  5. I've taken this hike, too, and felt like part of it was on a rocky cliff with a steep downside on the right, but I didn't see that you mentioned it. One wrong step and you would be on your way down. Maybe I'm confusing it with another trail. Strangely, my cell phone rang while I was hiking there. It was so incongruous with the setting, and I couldn't believe that I could get reception. It was a college friend calling to wish me a happy 4th of July and she, too, was shocked that she was able to get me. The trail looks like it's in no better shape than when I hiked it several years ago. I did notice a small path down the mountain side towards the falls, and I would love to know how anyone who took it got back up. They would have had to crawl on hands and knees. All that to say that the trail gave me a couple of stories to tell, but I don't think that I'll hike it again. Thank you for identifying the wild flower. I see that every summer. It's lovely. I do love the Big Meadows area. Our tradition is to go hiking on the Drive on July 4th, and we always try to visit the Big Meadows Visitor's Center. My great grandfather's name is in the book of residents who sold land to make the park - Daniel Scott Shiffett. They lived near the Sandy Bottom overlook in Rockingham. The house where my mother's family lived on her grandparents' land was located right where the road goes by Sandy Bottom Overlook. There's something about seeing "Pap's" name there that keeps me coming back. My father's ancestors settled in the Southwest Mountains in Stony Point in the 1700's, so it's no wonder that we think of ourselves as mountain people. It's genetic! Loved seeing David for what was too brief of a time and hope to catch up with you both at some point. Stay cool!

  6. Maybe the view is best in the winter? Unless the falls are frozen... can't win I guess. ;c)

    I'm not a big fan of leaving everything natural, there needs to be some common sense applied so certain things can be made accessible to the public. It's a two edged sword.

  7. Nice hike, but like so many hikes in the rocks, you have to stop to look around. Regardless, we love hiking in and on the rocks!!! Just great to see the two of you out and enjoying the things you love:o))

  8. Ooooh that's an ankle biter (or worse) of a trail! Those shelf fungus are very interesting and striking!

  9. The problem with waterfall hikes is that they usually go down first! We don't like to hike down at the beginning because you have to come up at the end. Glad David made it out:) Love that gorgeous fungi! How pretty!

  10. I think the NPS is always in a quandary about pruning and every park does their own thing. But when a great view is advertised it should be a great view. The rest of the hike looks gorgeous even with all the rocks. Obviously lush and moist to have those delightful fungi.

  11. Love your delicate little butterfly. That trail reminds me of a really good watermelon, worth picking through all the seeds to enjoy the fruit - those are some nasty rocks and roots! Yes, it's a guy thing to not need a stick - until they then need a crutch :-( Wonderful to see all that lush greenery - and would love to find a visible falls as well :-)))

  12. What a beautiful trail. Love the fungus and the old burly wood. Nature is the best artist! :)

  13. Great views! The trail conditions remind me fondly of some trails up in Algonquin.

  14. I can relate to letting a butterfly go...and move on :)
    Those red shelf fungus are pretty, I have not seen a red one before. Thank you too for identifying the flower glad I did not touch those when I saw them last year.

  15. I was impressed with the red fungus. I always remind myself of the little saying....a fungus among us whenever I see one. Looks like quite a hike. I love finding wild flowers, some the same but many new to me flowers. I can't wait to do some sploring! Sending good and strong thoughts to David.

  16. Your post brings back wonderful memories of all the trips we made to Skyline and all the hikes we did there.

  17. I've got to ask - ever pick up ticks with all that tree hugging you do? ;)


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