Although the bulk of the leaves have already fallen or turned brown, this time of year is perfect for taking a hike. Crunchy leaves and bare trees mean that wildlife are easier to spot, and that views through the woods are more open. Whether your preference is waterfalls, lakes, scenic vistas, or simply a walk through the woods, you’re sure to find a hike that will fit your desires and difficulty preference, and we’re here to help sort them all out.
For scenic vistas, our personal favorites are Humpback Rocks and Spy Rock. Both of these hikes should be considered fairly strenuous, as the quest for great views involves climbing to the highest point. Humpback Rocks elevation gain is 700 feet in just 1 mile, so the shortness of the hike means that the climb is quite steep. Spy Rock is a longer hike at about 2.2 miles, so your climb of 1,260 feet doesn’t seem quite as strenuous. For both hikes, the views are simply amazing.
There are several waterfall hikes in the area. Crabtree Falls is the most popular, as it is billed as the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. It is a beautiful waterfall in any season, and unique in that it can be enjoyed by anyone! The bottom section of falls is reached via a paved, handicap accessible trail, only a few hundred yards from the parking area. For those desiring a more challenging hike and different views of the falls, a climb of up to 2 miles will reward you greatly. Another great choice for a small, intimate waterfall is White Rock Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. A short hike of 9/10 mile will bring you into a sort of grotto where the waterfall pools before continuing down the slope.
For those interested in hiking to or around a lake, we recommend two of our favorites, Sherando Lake, and Mill Creek Reservoir. Sherando is very accessible, as you can park within sight of the lake. Several trails provide options of going around near lake level, or climbing higher for an elevated view of the lake. Most of these trails are pretty easy, especially the lower options. Mill Creek Reservoir is a beautiful little lake in the George Washington National Forest, accessed by walking 1.1 miles back a gravel road (forest service vehicles only). This hike is nearly level until the last couple hundred yards, when you are climbing up onto the dam. The views of the lake and the surrounding ridges are well worth this hike. Sometimes we even recommend this trail for beginning mountain bikers.
And finally, if you’re just wanting a nice walk through the woods, the White Rock Gap Trail is a great option. At 2.5 miles, you can start on the Blue Ridge Parkway and walk all the way down to Sherando Lake. This is a fairly easy trail, and provides interesting views along the way. Part of the trail travels alongside of a small creek. Another option for the more adventurous is the Torrey Ridge Trail, which travels the ridge tops for 6.5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway down to the Mount Torrey Furnace.
Regardless which trail you choose, getting up close and intimate with nature by getting off the highway and taking a hike through our Virginia mountains is sure to be a rewarding experience.