Blue Ridge Parkway | FALLINGWATER CASCADES PARKING AREA (MP 83.1)

One of many cascades on Fallingwater Creek near the Blue Ridge Parkway

One of many cascades on Fallingwater Creek near the Blue Ridge Parkway

View: None
Trails: Fallingwater Cascades Trail
Picnic Tables: None

The Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway serves as parking for its namesake trail, the Fallingwater Cascades Trail, a 1.6-mile loop trail. If you want something longer, hike the Fallingwater-Flat Top National Recreation Trail, a 10.4-mile hike. This is a combination of the Fallingwater Cascades Trail and the out-and-back Flat Top Trail.

Falling Water Cascades Trail

Distance: 1.6 mile loop
Time: 1 to 2 hours, depending on stops to photograph the various cascades
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Fallingwater Cascades Trail (click to enlarge)

Fallingwater Cascades Trail (click to enlarge)

The Fallingwater Cascades Trail is a loop trail that you can access at either the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area (where I started from) or the Flat Top Trail Parking Area just .4 mile to the south. I recommend starting at the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area because it is larger, and on a nice day during the tourist season you are more likely to get a parking spot. Roadside parking is always an option when the standard parking lots are full.

The hike starts off on a descent to Fallingwater Creek, at which point it follows a portion of the creek downstream to the bottom of a valley before heading back up to the parking lot. Along the way are views of the water as it tumbles over small rocks and large boulders.

Begin the hike by following the directional sign in the parking lot towards Fallingwater Cascades, which sets you off hiking the trail in the counterclockwise direction. According to the sign, the cascades are 2,000 feet away (about .4 miles). You may be tempted to forego the loop hike and just see the cascades, a .8-mile round trip hike versus a 1.6-mile loop hike. However, in 2,000 feet you will only be at the upper level of the Fallingwater Creek cascades, and they are rather tame at this point. To get to the section where the water really starts to flow, you must hike another quarter mile or so, by which time you are nearly at the halfway point on the loop hike. Thus, you might as well finish the loop, as there’s no reason to turn around now just to save a few tenths of a mile. Besides, you’ll end up seeing the same things twice if you turn around.

Trail sign at the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Trail sign at the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The first part of Fallingwater Cascades Trail is the easiest, though it does descend somewhat steeply. People with knee problems will feel the pounding when hiking downhill, so if you have hiking poles, definitely use them on this trail. At .4 mile you come to the first of two crossings of Fallingwater Creek. This is the farthest upstream that you will be on this hike, and it is where the cascades begin. Once you cross the bridge it is possible to work your way down to the creek and get a photo of the water as it rushes towards you.

Upper cascades on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Upper cascades on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Upper cascades on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Upper cascades on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The next section of the trail follows the creek as it flows downhill, and the descent is much steeper, allowing the water to pick up speed as it spills over an increasing number of rock terraces. The trail gets so steep that staircases, both wooden and stone, have been constructed to help hikers reach the bottom. The descent is extremely rocky, treacherous on the ankles, and as far as downhill hikes go, strenuous. As I hiked down the hill I was relieved that I didn’t have to return back this way since I was hiking the entire loop…and praying for an easier exit out of the valley.

Steep and rocky terrain on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Fallingwater Cascades Trail

Steep and rocky terrain on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Fallingwater Cascades Trail

Until the trail reaches the bottom of the valley, it runs along Fallingwater Creek and passes numerous cascades. As with the first cascade, if you are agile, you can get right down to the water.

Largest cascade on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Largest cascade on Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cascade along Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cascade along Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

It takes about fifteen minutes from the original creek crossing to get to the second crossing, which is done via large stepping stones.

Second crossing of Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Second crossing of Fallingwater Creek near Mile Post 83 on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cascade at the lower Fallingwater Creek crossing, Blue Ridge Parkway

Cascade at the lower Fallingwater Creek crossing, Blue Ridge Parkway

Once you cross the creek you’ll begin your ascent out of the valley. The hike up is nearly as strenuous as the hike down, but it is about a quarter mile shorter.

The start of the ascent out of the valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Falling Water Cascades Trail

The start of the ascent out of the valley on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Falling Water Cascades Trail

As you climb out of the valley, be on the lookout for a Fallingwater Parking Area sign, for if you miss this left turn you will end up on a 200-foot connector trail that leads to the Flat Rock Trail Parking Area and the Flat Rock Trail. It is .3 mile from the intersection to the parking lot, and the hike is up a moderately steep hill.

Intersection with the Falling Water Cascades Trail and the Flat Top Parking Area connector trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Intersection with the Falling Water Cascades Trail and the Flat Top Parking Area connector trail, Blue Ridge Parkway

Hike back to the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Hike back to the Fallingwater Cascades Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I originally hiked the Fallingwater Cascades Trail back in September 2015, and there was barely a trickle of water flowing. The cascades were fantastic during my October 2020 trip. The lesson learned is that if you get to the top of the cascades only to find that there is very little water flowing, there is no reason to hike farther unless you are just out for exercise.

View downstream from the first crossing of Fallingwater Creek in September 2015

View downstream from the first crossing of Fallingwater Creek in September 2015


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Last updated on November 14, 2023
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