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Three Falls - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.3 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,205 ft
Dogs are not allowed on the Dark Hollow Trail or Nature Trail
Shenandoah National Park
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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Turn into Big Meadows, follow the signs 0.9 miles for the picnic area and amphitheater. Park next to the amphitheater and trailhead. 38.53070, -78.43966

The Three Falls hike is a circuit that passes Rose River Falls, Dark Hollow Falls, and Lewis Spring Falls. These are three of the most beautiful falls in the SNP. There is also an option of shortening the distance, and vertical gain, by opting out of the Lewis Spring Falls section for a total of 6.1 mls and 1530ft gain.

From the trailhead and parking area walk 75 yards down to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). Turn right and follow the AT as it initially winds around the campground. There will be several side trails that lead up to the campground, remain left on the white blazed AT.

The AT will start descending before arriving at the next trail post just before the Fishers Gap parking area in 1.3 miles. Stay straight on the AT passing below the Fishers Gap overlook, then the AT will cross a fire road. Turn off the AT uphill on the fire road and cross Skyline Drive.

Start down the gravel fire road, then after passing the chain gate immediately turn left onto the yellow blazed Rose River Horse Trail. Follow the yellow blazed trail as it descend and makes several switchbacks before arriving at the blue blazed Rose River Trail intersection in 0.6 miles.

Stay right on the Rose River Trail for 0.8 miles to Rose River Falls, which are a set if two 25ft and 30ft waterfalls. Continue down the blue blazed trail for another 0.3 miles to the hikes lowest point, and where the trail turns right and starts following Hogcamp Branch. Shortly pass the ruins of an old copper mine on the right before crossing Hogcamp Branch on a steel footbridge. Begin climbing up the blue blazed trail as it ascends the valley passing several small falls and pools before reaching the Rose River Fire Road and the bottom of Dark Hollow Falls in another 0.9 miles.

Cross Hogcamp Branch on the fire road, then immediately turn left uphill on the blue blazed Dark Hollow Trail. In 0.1 miles reach the mid-point of the falls where there is a fantastic view of the upper falls. Continue up the blue blazed trail and arrive at the Dark Hollow Falls parking area in 0.7 miles.

Immediately cross Skyline Drive and start up the paved Nature Trail. In 100 yards turn left at the sign for the Visitor Center crossing a small stone footbridge. In 0.4 miles arrive at the Visitor Center, and just past that a restaurant and gas station..

The next section can be slightly confusing. Across from the restaurant follow the paved path for the Lodge.

  1. For the continuation of the circuit and Lewis Falls section:
    In 0.1 miles there will be a unnamed road on the left, with a sign
    ' Authorized Vehicles Only'. Turn left down the road for 75 yards then turn left on the yellow blazed Bridle Path Trail. Note there isn't trail signage here.

  2. To shorten the hike and return back to the parking area:
    Continue on the paved Lodge path for 0.9 miles following the road to the amphitheater and parking area.

Continuation of the Lewis Falls section:

After turning left on the yellow blazed Bridle Path Trail, cross another yellow blazed trail in 100 yards. Continue to follow the yellow blazed trail to the intersection of the blue blazed gravel fire road in another 0.2 miles.

Turn right downhill on the blue blazed gravel fire road, and in 0.2 miles reach the intersection of the white blazed AT. Continue downward on the fire road for another 150 yards to Lewis Spring. Turn left on the blue blazed Lewis Spring Trail, as it makes several switchbacks then reaches the Overlook Trail intersection in 0.4 miles.

Turn left to go to the valley overlook, and on the other side of the stream is the overlook for Lewis Falls. Return to the Overlook Trail intersection then turn left on the Lewis Spring Falls Trail to continue the hike.

The blue blazed Lewis Spring Trail will descend for another 0.1 miles before turning uphill and arriving at the intersection of the AT in 1.2 miles. Turn left on the AT, and in 50 yards turn right for the remaining 75 yards back to the amphitheater and parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The Three Falls Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Three Falls hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 19, 2015
Took advantage of the Free National Park Entrance day.  We had a group of 12 and started at Bryd Visitor Center (bathroom was open), then hiked to Lewis Falls, Rose River Falls and saved the best for last - Dark Hollows Falls.    Some icy spots on the trail up to Dark Hollows Falls but nothing experienced winter hikers could not get around.  I brought microspikes but they stayed in the pack.  Hiking time was about 4 1/2 hours including stops for lunch and pictures along the trails.

By: Ken D Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, January 02, 2015

We hiked this as described except that we cut to the AT instead of going down to Lewis Falls. The trails were in great shape with a few icy spots that are easy enough to navigate around. The falls were flowing well and while they weren't frozen over, there were plenty of ice formations from the mist on logs and the surrounding rocks that made for some excellent scenery. We've done this hike a couple of times, but this was the first winter hike and we were rewarded with an almost unobstructed view from the bottom of Dark Hollow Falls to the top, which gave us a much better appreciation for how nice these falls actually are. There were nuisance bear warnings posted on the Rose River and Dark Hollow trailheads, but we didn't see any sign of bear. We did see a total of 12 deer throughout the hike. Overall a great hike that I think I actually like more in the winter.

By: Nikita Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 27, 2014
This is a very scenic hike, with streams and falls at several points. The final section with yellow blaze is a bit tricky to find, but actually HU mentioned it very clearly in the description, it's only 75 yards from the road entrance and if you look carefully on your left side, you will see a small opening to the woods and the first yellow marking is at one of the tree inside that opening. But remember, there is no sign on the street itself so you need to look for it. I finished the whole loop in 4 hours and 45 minutes with additional lunch time at Lewis Falls. I enjoyed this hike, saw two deer at the parking lot nearby the camping ground, looked like they were looking for food. It's still quiet when I arrived at 9:00am so they were strolling by in a very relaxed manner. At the Dark Hollow parking, I saw a (big) black bear cub crossing the skyline drive. That was pretty awesome.

By: Mike Gergely Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 10, 2014
A nice alternative to the ever popular White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run, although the section around Dark Hollow Falls is nearly as crowded during the summer. Lots of delicious wineberries in later summer around Lewis Falls, along with numerous species of wildflowers along the trails. The hike also passes by the Byrd Wayside if you want to stop in for a cool soda or ice cream.

Note - the short section of trail between the Visitor Center and the Lewis Trailhead was a bit confusing to navigate, as it uses a lot of driveways and horse trails as cross connections which are easy to get mixed up in.

By: J&J Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 04, 2014
We hiked this circuit on 4th of July.  We started with Lewis falls first.  Headed south bound on SL drive, just past the Wayside gas station there is a small parking lot on the right though on the map it looks like the lot is on the left.  When we got to the Lewis falls (all downhill walk), we were a bit underwhelmed.  We were standing on top of the fall, so there wasn't a view of the fall.  I don't know if we missed a turn to a viewing area?  Based on pictures found on the internet, there can be a view but we didn't see it.  We then headed out towards Big Meadows and it was a steep uphill for a mile.  While on this uphill trek, we looked back few times to see if we could see the fall.  We didn't encounter anyone until we were walking around the campground.  Rose river falls and Dark Hollow falls were gorgeous.  Falls were full and we had perfect weather.  The hike from Rose river falls and Dark Hollow was pretty steep and all uphill.  We took few breaks and hung out near the water.  The trail got pretty crowded in this section also.  We were near 3-4 groups the whole time.  When we reached Dark Hollow, there was a crowd and more people were coming down the path from Dark Hollow parking area.  We made it to the visitor center, and couldn't really follow the map.  We walked across the parking lot and thru the gas station and used the SL drive to get back to our car.  In total, it took us 4 hours and 45 min including lunch, breaks and picture stops.  The falls were definitely worth it to do this hike. 

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