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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: Upward and Onward Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 05, 2015
My wife and I started this hike at about noon. The directions were very detailed and thorough, I thought. We clocked the entire hike at 8.75 miles though...not a big deal. Very few people out doing the hike we were doing. 90% of the people smelled of freshly cleaned laundry and cologne. Large congregations of people at each of the falls, not many people on the trail. Saw a small bear while making our final descent to Lewis Falls. Had a great conversation with a couple at Lewis Falls that were in their 80's. Meeting people like this is one of the reasons we love hiking. I hope to be doing this same thing well into my 80's.

Finished the hike in exactly three hours, then stopped and ate at the Skyland restaurant. Great food!!


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 01, 2015
I really liked the hike - good length with some notable inclines. However, as reviewer Amy noted, during the summer months, the level of solitude is a near zero. Far, far too many people to enjoy. Additionally, if you just want to see waterfalls, go to white oak canyon. Way better in terms of size and overall awesomeness.

By: Amy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 18, 2015
This is probably very nice in the early spring - *way* too busy on a July weekend. We couldn't even enjoy (or really see) the bigger falls because of the crowds. We're talking Old Rag level of crowds of people, including small children and teenagers traveling in packs. Solitude should be a 0.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 20, 2015
we headed out to three falls early in the morning. we got to the trail head around 9:30 and was surprised to see we were the only car in the parking lot. the first set of falls was incredible. it was hard not to keep stopping to take photos every few feet. lots of amazing swimming holes too. we stopped for a quick lunch about in the middle of the water about halfway up the first hill. we were happy that we fueled up before continuing the climb to the second falls. dark hollow was pretty but way too crowded for my taste. lots of families and children and very little opportunity to enjoy a quiet moment. once we got back to big meadows, we made the decision to continue on and do the entire circuit. i had high expectations for lewis falls and was very disappointed when we made it to the overlook. there was very little to see...this could be mostly due to heavy tree cover. i was cursing the decision to do this loop the remaining 1.5 mile uphill trek back to the car!

stop by the restaurant after your hike. the blackberry sundae is the perfect way to replenish all of those lost calories!


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 30, 2015
Took a one night camping trip at Big Meadows and planned to do this hike. Ended up cutting the loop short and turned back up to Big Meadows at the Dark Hollow parking area. This hike certainly lives up to the low solitude rating, but that's really the only negative.

The Rose River Falls and Dark Hollow Falls are both very pleasant. There is a very inviting swimming hole at Rose River Falls that I would get in if I went back. Dark Hollow Falls was full of day visitors. Lots of individuals not paying attention to the signs warning to stay off the rocks of the falls, which bothers me.

I'd recommend bug spray but they were not too bad. I would also recommend that you be aware of snakes in the area. While standing on the trail and checking the map, I didn't notice the timber rattlesnake that was roughly 3-4 in. from my foot. Needless to say he/she wasn't very happy and the delayed rattling certainly let me know. Ran into another pair of hikers farther down the trail that warned of another rattlesnake but didn't come across this one.

I'll definitely be heading out to do the full loop of this trail again in the future. Would be lovely in the fall or winter!


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Late April
 
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