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

Henry David Thoreau

Another Watery Adventure - South River Falls

Friday June 1, 2018                                                                                  Most Recent Posts
Big Meadows Campground                                                                         Lewis Falls-An Adventure
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia                                                          Foggy Meadow and Moving On

I want to start off by saying I’ve done this hike before and am really looking forward to doing it again with so much water.  It’s a long hike with the most fun going down and a long SLOG coming back though if you come back up the River side trail rather than the fire road, it’s much nicer.  That’s what I intend to do.

I drive down the Skyline Drive and stop for one of the gorgeous views along the way.


The trail begins at the South River Picnic Area so there is plenty of parking.  I’m the only one here when I arrive.


There are two suggested hikes on the board in the picture above.  One is to go to the falls observation point and then turn around and go back the way you came.   Out and back. The second is a loop. You go to the observation point then  continue on the red marked South River Falls Trail, turn left onto the South River Falls Fire Road and turn left on the AT to return to the parking lot.

The third not mentioned on the sign is the one I’m doing which is to go to the Falls Observation point, continue on the trail but take the fire road to the right not the left, down the dotted line all the way to the actual falls at its end and then return via the South River Falls Trail rather than the Fire Road which is just a horrific boring slog up hill all the way.

Things are wet – not a surprise.


Even the stone walls are dripping.


While I’m taking these pictures a group of 4 passes me hurrying down the trail.


The trail follows the south river all the way to the observation point and there are numerous views that are gorgeous all the way down.


I’m further on down when the group is coming back.  I say “wow that was fast”.  They tell me they had to turn around at the point you have to cross the river.  “There just isn’t any way across it is so flooded.”   OK, now what?


I continue on to take a look and sure enough, swift water, stepping stones under water.  Looks very sketchy.

But I’ve been here before on previous trails this year.  It takes me a while to buck up my courage but I do.


If you’d like to see exactly what I was facing.  Check out this video.


Great, I’ve made it, on I go.


And then the trail is headed down for another crossing. 


Well now what?  If I don’t cross here, I have to go back and cross the last one again.
Here’s a video of the second crossing.  Even more adventure than yesterday for sure.

Crossing this one cements my understanding that I am not coming back up this trail but will have to slog back up the fire road which I HATE.  But that’s for later. 


For now I’ll enjoy the beautiful water.


On I go past more dripping rocks.


Made it to the stone view point which is of course full of water and  mud.


Like Lewis Falls, I climb up on the rock rim looking for the view.


My first wildlife sighting of the day doesn’t seem to be concerned.


Guess he’s smelling something since there doesn’t appear to be anything to taste.  Thanks to Sondra I know he is a Broadhead Skink and not a salamander.  When I researched him, I also learned he is the largest skink in the southeast.   Love my commenters.

Here’s my view of the upper part of South River Falls.  Like Lewis Spring, it’s distant and only partial.


Unlike Lewis Spring Falls, there is a way to the bottom of South River Falls.


But going there will nearly double your hiking distance.


I follow the South River Falls Trail on beyond the viewpoint.


On the trail I find my next wildlife sighting. 


I have no idea about snails either but his shell is really lovely. 


Also on the ground I find the Tulip Poplar Flower.  When they fall off is about the only way you can see them on these tall forest trees.


Finally I climb up to the Fire Road where those doing the loop will turn left and I’ll turn right to follow that dotted line on the map.

The road is more of a road to the left than to the right.  It’s not used  much at this point anymore as a road.   It becomes rough, rocky and narrow.


There’s quite a bit of wash out.


Not sure what tributary this is but it clearly has a lot more water than usual.



Things get muddy and slick.

But finally I find the bottom and see the South River again below the falls.  If I cross it here, I’ll be headed out of the park in a very short distance.


Normally, you actually can cross the river here but I wouldn’t try it today.



I’m at the final leg of the fun part of this adventure.  I have to climb up these rock steps to the base of South River Falls.  Here’s what I saw and heard at this spot.  This is the second video I took of this since I couldn’t hear myself over the water so I did it again and I sound like I’m screaming.



The trail gets narrow, the steps more difficult to see.



I’m getting up above the river.



Almost there.


And finally the end of the trail, the base of South River Falls.  With the water so high, it’s difficult to find a place to get a good picture.  Usually you can climb down on the rocks and get beyond the trees, but the rocks are under swift moving water now.

Several of these Red Spotted Purple Butterflies (aka White Admiral) are hanging around the water.  One kindly stops flitting and poses for a photograph.


So far I haven’t seen anyone else on the trail other than the 4 who turned back.  Maybe no one wanted to brave the two crossings  I’m here for quite a while just enjoying the majesty and power of this fantastic waterfall.  And then almost hopping up the trail come this young couple from a college in Maryland.  Her brother has loaned her his very expensive Nikon camera (nice brother I think) and we trade pictures in the mist of the waterfall.  You can see the spots on my lens which I quickly wipe off.


From a bit further away away the mist is less though the bright water thundering down puts me in the shadow.  The falls is just breath taking.  I am SO glad I braved the trail down.


Its just too powerful to get out in the middle for a picture of the tippy top.

The trail back down to the fire road seems even more rocky than on the way up.


I can see the river off to my right but where is the trail?


An ankle twister’s delight.  I’m particularly careful having broken my ankle twice now since 2001.



I reach the bottom and begin the hike back.  It’s up, up, up over 2 miles.



I reach where I would have turned  left for a more interesting climb back up on the South River Trail by the river.  But I’m passing it up becasue of the tricky water crossings.  I don’t want to press my luck.

Another mile up the road to the AT.  Ugg!


Not sure a mile has ever seemed so long as it does on this rocky road.


It’s a steep incline as well.  Needless to say, I don’t recommend it.

I make it to the AT turn off with 13, 055 steps and 5.97 miles hiked.  I have a half mile to go to the parking lot.


More rocks, more up.

More mud as the AT becomes a stream.

But here I am, at the cross roads of the AT and the South River Falls Trail.  Next stop, Ruby.


This is an absolutely great hike but obviously you have to be prepared that the down hill is the most fun and by the time you get back up, you’ll need to look at your pictures to remember why you worked that hard on the return!


  1. Wondering if we will ever get this far east at the right time to do some of these hikes you have documented so well. The falls is really pretty, but I do despise those slippery wet rocks. Once again, you are a trooper.

  2. Wow, you are brave. I have gone all the way down on that hike before, but it's been years. I am sure we just hiked back up. I love rushing water, too, but that would be beyond my comfort level. Glad you got those pictures. They have got to be unusual with that much water. Thanks for sharing!

  3. The never ending rain has been a pain this year...but the beauty it adds to the falls is AMAZING!!! Glad you were able to cross safely and capture that wonderful photo of the falls at the bottom:o))

  4. Looks like a really good time to visit the falls:)

  5. My goodness, you are so brave, Sherry! Had it been me, I would be like those four hikers. Did your shoes get wet? At least the reward after your crossings was indeed a beautiful water fall. I find waterfalls soothing and mesmerizing too. I hate rocky and muddy trails, it makes the going a bit tougher.

  6. Was that beautiful hike before the heat wave or is it always cool up there?

  7. What'a Hike! Must have been such a great feeling to be there and enjoy that falls...The mud is no fun I recall hiking on the AT and a sudden storm turned the trail into a river of flowing stones that bruised our shins it was high...we took cover and waited it out but that made for a LONG hiking day. Your lizard is a broadhead skink, I have them in my own yard.

    1. Thank you Sondra. I've changed the text to reflect your knowledge. Now if I can just remember the next time I see him. Fun to have them in your yard. Where are you?

  8. What a great year for seeing the falls! But those stream crossings look really challenging. I'm not so sure I'd tackle them hiking alone. And those rocky trails on the way back up do not look like fun. Still, it looks worth the effort! Love that giant snail and the beautiful butterfly.

  9. Only 13055 steps? Must have been one of you more easier hikes... :cD

  10. The waterfalls are amazing with all the water there, so nice to see after all the fire we've seen.

  11. The falls were gorgeous and boy was the water flowing! Glad you made it across both times. Being alone it could have been a disaster if you had slipped.

  12. No wonder there's so much lush green moss on these rocks. You are far braver than I when hiking alone. Thanks for taking video. I could feel the energy of the water's flow. Though a slippery hike those falls were worth it along with all the big and little along the way. I truly enjoy hiking with you. So how deep was it?

  13. I thought the dripping walls were the best until I saw the amazing full water over the rocks. Your videos make your words seem all the more daring!! Warrior Trail Woman you are :-)

  14. Did you have to hike with water in your boots? That is awful, but I don't see how you would get across crossings without just wading across something firm. Your videos give a great sense of the extra water the rains have brought to the falls and streams - what a treat! Take care out there!!


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