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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:
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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)
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By: P Floyd Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 05, 2014
My brother-in-law and I did this in early April and it was about 50 degrees. It was a great hike up until Dark Hollow Falls where we ran into a No Pets sign (i had my dog with me) and a ton of people. Be aware that this hike is No Pets that last section. The Falls and streams are refreshing.

By: Herb Wilburn Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 22, 2014
Finally knocked out all three in one day. The trick, for me, was to park in the Dark Hollow parking area and go from there to Lewis Falls. I find that if I save Lewis for last, by the time I get out of Dark Hollow I always hear the siren call of my reclining seats in the Prius. This hike was after the big snowstorm, so I had to break trail on most of the AT portion. It added to the work, but made it really beautiful in the woods. The falls are all full, Lewis looked the best I've ever seen it. Here's hoping the water holds out until we get some green around the falls for photos.

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 02, 2013
Hiked the circuit as described and it was tremendous. I was concerned about bad weather rolling in so I was on the trail by 8AM. Walkng past the Big Meadows campground on the AT at the very beginning was annoying...barking dogs were the worst part. Once past that the trail was quiet past the Rose River falls up to the base of Dark Hollow Falls where I ran into lots of folks on the down and back from Skyline Drive. The trail to Lewis Falls had very few people on it on the way down, but more on the way back since it was closer to the campground. Despite the crowds I give this a 5 because there were deer on the trail or just off the trail throughout the hike, very few people except around Big Meadows, all three falls were spectacular (probably because of all the rain we've had). And because there was a mama bear and her cub just across the Hogcamp Branch on the Dark Hollow Falls trail above the falls. I'm pretty new to hikes above 6 miles so I found this hike challenging, especially hiking out of Dark Hollow and Lewis Falls, but definitely worth the effort.

By: Michelle R. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 23, 2013
We parked near the amphitheater in Big Meadows and got on the trail there. Hiked the circuit clockwise, heading towards Rose Creek falls first. I think next time we will reverse it and go the opposite direction so that the nice cool swimming pools at Rose Creek falls are near the end of the hike. Got a bit crowded around Dark Hollow, but a great hike overall. Two pretty tough climbs up from Dark Hollow and Lewis Falls.

By: Bryan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 15, 2013
If you park at the Wayside, walk up toward the visitor center and look for the Nature Trail to catch the beginning of this loop. The staff doesn't know where anything is here and neither do any of the through hikers apparently.

Otherwise, walk past the gas station to Skyline Drive and turn right (South). There's a gravel road across from the big meadow (just past the trailhead for the horse trail). Take the gravel road to the end and that will put you on the path to Lewis Falls.

If you end up at a family cemetery, you've taken the wrong gravel road. It's easy to do because like the directions at the beginning say, there's a gravel road with a yellow blazed trail on the left immediately past the gate near that leads to this cemetery. Take the AT next to the cemetery back to another gravel road and turn left. This will put you on the path toward Lewis Falls.


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Late April
 
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