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The Cascades/Barney's Wall - Pembroke, Virginia

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8.4 mls
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5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,600 ft
USFS Cascades Hiking
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Giles County Cascades
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From:

e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park at the restroom and information center at the Cascades Recreation Area. Fee parking.
37.35337, -80.59969

Near Pembroke, in Southwest VA, is one of the most beautiful waterfall and creek trails in Virginia in our opinion. The hike up the lower trail is one photo opportunity after the other with the trail never going further than 30 yards from Little Stony Creek before finally reaching the amazing lower falls.

See HU Note below about directions to the Upper Falls sent to us by one of our hikers. This hike can be done as a 4 mile round trip to the 69’ foot lower falls (800’ Elev gain) or as an 8 mile round trip (1600’ Elev gain) taking in the lower falls and Barney’s Wall to see 700’ foot sheer cliffs with great views of the New River Valley. This is a very popular hike on the weekends so come early, do the falls, and then proceed to Barney’s Wall for a little more solitude.

HU Note: For our hikers who are movie buffs, this hike is minutes away from Mountain Lake Conservancy & Hotel where much of “Dirty Dancing” was filmed. We stopped here for dinner on the way home, great food and service!

The un-blazed trail begins to the right of the bathroom and Information Center at the far end of the parking lot. Very quickly you will arrive at the first bridge. We chose to go across the bridge and take the lower trail as we heard it was the more picturesque of the 2 trails. You could return on the upper trail if desired to get a different perspective of the creek. The lower trail weaves its way alongside the creek for a mile before reaching the second bridge and rejoining the upper trail. Keep your eyes open for remnants (stairs to no where) of the trail that were destroyed in the 1996 flood. From the 2nd bridge to the lower falls is about 1 mile with many more places to stop and take photos. The lower falls will come into view as you pass a large boulder. Your time to do this trail will depend largely on how often you stop and how much time you spend “soaking” in the views and possibly taking in a dip in the large pool below the falls. This is the turn-around point if you decide not to continue to Barney’s Wall. Retrace your steps down either the Lower Trail or take the Upper Trail when you get to that intersection at the 2nd large bridge you crossed earlier.

To continue to Barney’s Wall, head up the wooden stairs taking a left onto the trail instead of a right to the falls observation deck. In about 200 yards you will reach an open area with a sign post directing you to the Conservancy Trail. It is a fire road for 0.4 miles. At the fork in the road bear left and take another left in about 50 yards at the Conservancy Trail sign post. It is more of a trail from this point on and is Yellow-blazed. This is a pleasant uphill walk in the woods, crossing a small creek and finally reaching the Barney’s Wall intersection on the left in 1.1 miles. The sign was leaning against a tree so keep alert as it could be easy to miss. The spur trail to Barney’s Wall (0.4 miles) is also yellow-blazed and passes through a few seemingly healthy stands of Hemlocks, a rare treat in VA these days! Just before the cliffs you will see a campsite (not sure of the camping rules since this land is conservancy property), the trail bears to the right of the campsite. You will have a great view of the New River Valley looking over towards Blacksburg. If you have no fear of heights, lie on your stomach and look over the edge to get an idea of how tall the cliffs are. As always, be careful near cliffs, especially when wet. This is a great place for lunch, you may even have company (Eastern Fence Lizard) and if you listen carefully towards the south-east, you will hear the roar of Little Stony Creek.

From this point turn around and retrace your route back past the lower falls and to The Cascades parking area.

HU Note: There is a second set of falls about 0.5 miles beyond the lower falls. The upper falls can be reached by continuing along the trail that runs to the left of the lower falls (the same one you used to reach Barney's Wall). Exactly one half mile above the lower falls there is an unmarked but well established path on the right that leads downhill. You should be able to hear the falls from the turn and they are located about a tenth of a mile down the hill. (Photo and directions courtesy of Kyle K.)

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Hiker Reviews For The The Cascades/Barney's Wall Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the The Cascades/Barney's Wall hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 09, 2015
I hiked the Lower Trail to The Cascades, then went to Upper Cascades before climbing to Barney's Wall and continuing onto Butt Mountain fire tower. Even though there were 50+ cars by 11:30 AM, I saw hardly any people on the Lower Trail. I highly recommend the Lower Trail, it stays by the creek the entire way and passes by numerous small waterfalls and a slot gorge. The Upper Trail people miss everything. Even with drought-like conditions The Cascades were spectacular. I've seen pictures with a lot more water, it looks better with less water because the slanted lower section is more distinguishable. Upper Cascades is easy to find, and there is a scramble path to the base that is easy. Only 2 other people were there. The climb to Barney's Wall was much steeper than expected, but the vertical cliff is quite stunning. I only passed 2 groups of people here. I continued on the Conservancy Trail and picked up the forest road to Butt Mountain. At the summit is an old fire tower, you cannot safely get to the top because most stairs have been removed. There are cliffs on the southwest side with views of Pearisburg and the New River, this might be called Lookoff Rock. I went searching for the actual topo summit Lookoff Rock, I highly advise even thinking about this unless you have a GPS and full bushwhacking gear. Otherwise it was a great hike!

By: Gabe Anaya Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 21, 2015
I arrived at 7:00 AM and the park was almost completely empty all the way to the falls (barring the fisherman at the end and 1 or two people all the way up). The lower trail in the morning light of summer has almost a mythical feel, especially when there is no one around.

The hike to Barney's Wall is pretty much a straight uphill climb, though you get to enter a considerably different ecozone on the way up. The view from the cliff is spectacular and well worth the climb though. I took the trip to the upper falls after Barney's Wall and it was well worth it - it was nearly deserted and was the perfect spot to jump in the water after such a grueling hike.

Once I returned to the lower falls around noon, the scene was completely different. There were probably 30-40 people swimming around the falls, and dozens more were coming up the trail. Thanks everyone for the suggestions to get there early...it is definitely worth it. The parking lot was a similar story - it was full at about 2:00 when I left and there was a line of about 20 cars waiting to get in.

All-in-all this was one of the most beautiful and peaceful hikes I've taken on the East Coast, though getting there very early is the key to making this such a wonderful experience.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 18, 2015
Led a group of 7 hikers and English Lab to Cascades and then Barneys Wall.   Note: Parking lot was full when we arrived at 1130 and was 30 minute wait to get both vehicles parked, but well organized by the Cascade parking attendants.  Took a dip to cool off in a pool just below the 2nd bridge and water was very refreshing.

By: G.Zanatakos Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 10, 2015
Great hike for winter! Definitely recommend. The frozen water is beautiful. This trail is very easy for hikers of all ages. Quite a contrast between summer and winter. This was the second time I've done this hike and plan to go back again in the spring.

By: Pat Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, January 09, 2015
After this cold snap....thought they be more frozen than they were. Great Hike. Probably my 20th time but only my second in the winter.

    View all 15 reviews for the The Cascades/Barney's Wall hike
Late May
Three Seasons (Courtesy of Laura U)
   
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