Are you looking for a hike with lots of streams? If so, this is a hike you should do, and is one of the most popular hikes in the Jefferson N.F. You will either be right next to streams or within sight of a stream for about 90% of this hike. The highlight of the trail is the 200’ Apple Orchard Falls with a very nice viewing area constructed by the Forest Service in 2000. Shane “The Mountain Lab” joined us on this hike and true to Lab nature, he was wet most of the trip!!
There are some great camping spots within the first mile of the trail and a really good one near the end of the Cornelius Creek Trail just prior to the parking area. For such a short hike it has some of the best stream views of any hikes we have done in Virginia.
From the parking area take the bridge to the left of the kiosk to begin the hike on the blue blazed Apple Orchard Falls (AOF) Trail. In 0.2 miles you will come to an intersection, bear right and stay on the AOF Trail. About 1.0 mile later you will arrive at two bridges and another campsite, take the 2nd one over the creek continuing up on the AOF trail. The next 0.75 miles starts climbing more steeply until you reach Apple Orchard Falls. You will want to stop here and have lunch and get some good photos of the Falls.
Beyond the Falls you will start to climb a series of wooden stairs coming very quickly to the only overlook with a wooden bench of the whole circuit, and just beyond that another small waterfall. Go another 0.3 miles to the intersection of the Apple Orchard Falls Road (a seeded fire road) and take a right. Follow it 1.0 mile to the blue blazed Cornelius Creek Trail. The Fire Road bears to the right but stay straight to go on the Cornelius Creek Trail.
Follow the Cornelius Creek Trail for 2.2 miles to the parking area. The trail follows Cornelius Creek and will include two crossings. The creek was flowing well on our trip and made for difficult crossings and some wet feet. There are also some very good swimming holes on the way down. There are multiple places you will want to stop and take photos of the creek flowing over the rocks.
Warning: Be careful of the plentiful stinging nettles near the creeks and ticks on the fire road.
Note: An alternative parking area if all you only want to see the Falls is at Sunset Field, near Milepost 78.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is approximately 1.5 miles down to the Falls from Sunset Field.
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Reviews For The Apple Orchard Falls Hike (5 Most Recent)
My 11-year old and I hit the trail for a weekend backpacking trip. We only hiked about 1/4 of the route (from the north end, clockwise to the falls) before setting up camp for the weekend, and although the portion of the circuit that we backpacked on was definitely easy, as you approach the falls the terrain gets steep...and rocky. My son and I just threw on daypacks for that hike up to the falls and the ankle-busting trail was making us sweat like pigs!
At sunrise the coyotes were howlin', and one even ran past the campsite! We saw bear droppings on the trail, but never saw a bear.
If you are looking for solitude, then this probably isn't the trail for you.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 12, 2014
It may seem like you are on the wrong road once it turns to gravel, but stick with it until the last 2.23 miles as listed on the summary of directions. We camped on the Cornelius Creek side of the bridge on Friday night. It was walking distance to the parking area, so we were able to enjoy a little car camping the first night. Enjoyed being close to the creek and the rope swing, overall nice campsite. Packed up Saturday morning and hiked down the Cornelius Creek Trail (backwards of the route on the summary). Pretty steep grade going that way. I would recommend the other direction to keep the grades more manageable. Took the connector trail vice going all the way to the AT and around. Connector trail was noticeably thick with grass (seems as if its not used alot), plenty of Blackberry bushes. If you head up there in a few weeks they will be ripe with berries. Made it around to the falls. Nice view worth the hike. Followed the Apple Orchard Trail around to the campsite shown halfway up the trail. CAUTION: BEAR... didnt bother us, but there was a friend hanging out across the creek. If you overnight this Bear bag is a necessity. Overall a nice hike, especially when we made it into a weekender.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 12, 2014
Our group of four spent two nights on this trail over the weekend. It's well marked and easy to follow. Take the steep parts slow and it will be a breeze. We basically hiked the entire loop the first day and spent the whole second day swimming in the creek and swinging on a rope swing someone left. The best swimming hole is mentioned in the description and the rope swing is really close to the parking lot on the Cornelius Creek trail. The campsites are well used and really close to the trail. Privacy might be an issue if the trail was crowded. Watch out for stinging nettle.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 05, 2014
Decided to drive to the trail access of of FR 3034 which will take you in below the falls. This was not a good idea for someone in marginal health. The trail was steep and rocky. My ascent according to my handheld GPS was about 487 feet and at a 17 grade.
Of course some sections were a relative breeze, but the steep and rocky sections will make your pay for your euphoria. I turned around at the wooden footbridge that was the beginning of the switch back leading to the lower part of the falls. With only a tenth of a mile to go this was dissapointing, but based on my questionalble knee and the reports of the intensity of the climb from others knowlegble, the right thing to do! I will attempt the climb from the Sunset Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway as it is reported that the trail albeit steep is better maintained and therefore safer for someone at my climbing level.
Date of Hike: Friday, June 20, 2014
I was excited for this hike, but it didn't really live up to my expectations. I found it to be much more strenuous than I was expecting (and I hike a LOT), the trails were not clearly marked (the sign for the AT and the rest of the Apple Orchard trail about half way up would freely spin in its hole), and parts of the trail was overgrown with thick waist-high weeds (to be expected, of course, but makes me wish I had chosen spring/fall to hike this trail instead). Also, don't be like the boob that I hiked with who parked at the beginning of the gravel road and forced us to walk to the trailhead. By all means, DRIVE up the length of that gravel road if the gate is open! It is by my rough estimate at least 1.5-2 miles, which wastes your energy for the real trail. I am not completely writing off this hike, but I definitely had a poor experience my first time hiking it. I would recommend going in early/mid spring or mid/late fall through winter. Keep in mind that the trail is UP UP UP there are practically no flat spots until you begin the ascent downward. The grade is fairly steep with lots of little rocks to trip over. I think the difficulty of this hike is harder than it is portrayed here. This means that if you are an inexperienced hiker or looking for a fun family outing you really should look elsewhere. The only saving grace about this LONG day hike is the copious amount of streams and swimming holes, although when I went the water was still pretty chilly (probably 65 degrees).