This area was dramatically changed in June 1995 when 11.5 inches of rain triggered multiple landslides. A great hike for swimming holes and when the water is flowing there are two waterfalls on the Big Branch spur trail. Don’t expect much solitude on this hike as it is popular due to the swimming holes. The Sugar Hollow Dam was used in a scene at the beginning of the movie “Evan Almighty”.
There are two parking areas, one just a little beyond the Sugar Hollow Reservoir on the left on a gravel road and one 0.5 miles up the gravel road (room for about 8 cars). This portion was pretty rutted and had some huge rocks in the road. A car/truck with good clearance should have no problem getting to the 2nd parking area. We began the hike at the first parking area, plenty of spaces. From the 1st parking area, continue walking 0.5 miles on the North Fork Moorman’s Road (gravel road) until you reach the second parking area, the yellow-blazed North Fork Moorman’s River trail is straight ahead.
0.4 miles from the 2nd parking area you will reach a huge swimming hole, impressive even with the lack of water flow in the river in August. For the next 1.4 miles until the Big Branch spur trail intersection you will cross the river about 3 more times.
HU Note: In the Spring with good water flow, some of these crossings might be a little tricky. Good shoes and hiking poles would be beneficial.
Keep your eyes open for other swimming holes and some of the damage from the 1995 flood. At the intersection bear left and you will reach the 1st falls in about 70 yards. The more impressive larger falls is about another 80 yards upstream. Of course “impressive” was relative on our trip due to the time of year and lack of water in August. We have seen photos of it in the Spring and it is impressive. The falls would also have decent size swimming holes.
To return to the parking area, turn right at the intersection and retrace your steps. We explored many of the other swimming holes on the return trip.
HU Note: If you need an additional workout you could continue on the N.F. Moorman’s River trail by taking a left at the intersection, reaching Skyline Drive at Black Rock Gap in 3.7 miles.
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Reviews For The Moorman's River Hike (5 Most Recent)
This is a fun, pretty, easy, water-feature hike near Charlottesville that offers big pay off for low effort. Excellent low-key hike for when you want some pretty Virginia scenery and fresh air, without all that pesky UP. Because we went in early March, it wasn't crowded at all...but I don't think I'd go back in peak season, given its popularity.
Important note: There were 7+ trees downed over the trail as we started out. It may take some time before they get cleared away. They are passable, but should be noted. See our blog for more about our experience (and photos):
Date of Hike: Monday, January 02, 2017
This is always a fun little hike for me as a local. Over the years I've done this trail more times than I can remember, but I recommend avoiding weekends and any nice day between April and October. This area has become so popular it is now abused. If you are looking for a peaceful hike on a nice day or a swimming hole without noise, those days have long since past for this one.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Please note that the second parking lot is permanently closed to cars, at the first parking lot there is a gate barring access. The water flows are variable, I've hiked it 4x since July, and have found the streams either easy to ford on dry boulders or completely submerged by water, requiring the removal of shoes if you want dry feet. Just keep the recent rainfall in mind. The people I meet on the trail are always friendly - and there are always people - but the density of humans drops off precipitously after the second watering hole. Going up to the Big Branch Falls I find the solitude increases exponentially.
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 26, 2016
Late March was a nice time to do this hike. We had sun and a cool breeze, sometimes chilly by the water. We started at 11, and got one of the last spaces in the first (and biggest) parking lot on the gravel road past the reservoir. As we hiked in from the lot, there was a much smaller area next to the trail that fit a couple cars, and farther on there was what I believe is described as the second parking lot, which fits 6 to 8 cars. River crossings were easy today. The cascades and waterfall were beautiful. Trail was getting more crowded on our way back -- looked like college kids starting out around 1 p.m. There were some dogs off leash, but everyone (including the dogs) was nice and respectful. It was obvious that this trail is popular with people of all ages including families with young kids and trail runners.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 08, 2015
Great hike! It was beautiful, fun, and great exercise for our entire group, which consisted of all ages (from 18 mos to 60+ yrs old) However, getting there is a little tricky using the GPS. When coming from Richmond, VA, when you are on Garth Road and you see Piedmont store, stay straight on route 614, DON'T turn onto route 810! You will ride along route 614 for several miles and eventually pass the Sugar Hollow Reservoir on your left the parking areas will be a little ahead.
Watch out for copperhead snakes - we saw two coiled underneath the rocks at one of the swimming holes, but they didn't bother us and we didn't bother them!