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)
Make sure you read the local road closures before you check this hike out. They are doing some road work, maybe through the end of this year on the road going to the trail head. The Apple Orchard Access Road is still open, and you can get to it from Sunset overlook on the Blueridge Pkwy. This will take you mid-way up the Apple Orchard Falls trail, which isn't a bad place to start. Be warned, that camping there (as I did) should be taken with great caution. There are a lot of open woods and lingering forest roads that are used by various people for various things. Just be mindful of yourself, and what is going on around you. Otherwise, this was a great way for us to hike up into the AT and onto a larger 30 mile section. The colors are just perfect right now, maybe for another week or so. The stream was running nicely, and the waterfalls were beautiful, although I imainge they were not at their peak flow right now.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 11, 2013
Over all this was a very enjoyable trail with beautiful streams and water falls. Not too difficult but very steep at times.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 12, 2012
Despite seemingly much recent rain, the falls was more than a trickle and pleasant to see, as always--but not really running hard. The forest road to the parking lot/kiosk is indeed open now. Lots of apples trees dropping their fruit--good snack for the squirrels and bears (we only saw the former). Some high hanging fruit too. We added a little bit of length to this loop by heading north on the AT until we hit the Thunder Ridge shelter--about 11.5 mi total. Then linked back on the Cornelius Creek trail on the descent. Some of the swimming holes are quite inviting. Lush, green, and beautiful all around.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 05, 2012
Great hike! The main service road accessing the trailhead was closed so it adds another 2 miles (there and back for 4). Alot of downed trees due to the storms this year and trail cutting has already become apparent. There was a sign stating the trail was closed if you came from Parkers gap and was dated May 15th so who knows when the trail will be cleared completey. The trail was open just fine. Be safe while hiking. Amazing falls but not in full bloom due to it being July. Definitely will be back after early spring /late fall rains. Ranks up there with the casacades. Do it.
P.S. You'll come across a sign that says Apple Orchard Falls Trail while you are on the trail and pointing in another direction, both are trails and a journeyman already carved an arrow in the right direction and probably was confusing due to the trail cutting and bushwhacking.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
A great hike. We ended up parking at the end of Forest Road 59 and walking the road to the trail head so that added four miles to the length, but it was still a great hike. We'd done the route down from the Blue Ridge Parkway (find the geocache if you go that way!) but had never tried the Forest Road approach. I definitely would recommend this route as it seemed MUCH easier and allowed us to see more of the area. There are still several sizable downed trees from the large storm earlier this month, but they were all navigable without too much difficulty. Personally, I love the bench at the overlook above the falls, and was disappointed that there weren't any photos of it on here.
(HU Note: Jon - did you take a photo of the bench? If so, send us a copy and we'll post it, firstname.lastname@example.org)