Crabtree Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia, and certainly the tallest. It is commonly referred to as the tallest waterfall in the East. This is a mistake because Crabtree Falls is actually a series of waterfalls, all beautiful and tall but not one distinct drop. Crabtree Creek flows from Crabtree Meadows through a rare hanging valley for this region before plunging 1,080 feet towards the Tye River.
There are 3 distinct sections. The lowest section is the tallest and consists of many drops, the lowest right near the parking lot. The middle section is a single drop through a crevice surrounded by trees and moss, it is wildly different than the lowest section. The upper waterfall is the largest single drop over a massive cliff. You could spend an entire day here taking pictures, soaking up the scenery, but there is so much more to explore.
Beyond the upper waterfall the trail climbs through a hanging valley on its way to Crabtree Meadows. From the meadows it is a short hike to the Appalachian Trail where you can choose to hike to The Priest or Spy Rock. This hike takes you south on the Appalachian Trail to Spy Rock. Spy Rock is an incredible rock dome on the east side of Maintop Mountain with 360° views of the Religious Range, Mt. Pleasant, The Priest, Three Ridges and St. Mary’s Wilderness areas, and the eastern foothills. You can do Crabtree Falls and Spy Rock as separate short hikes or you can try this hike for a wonderful day combining waterfalls with incredible vistas.
Mile 0.0 – Hike begins in the Crabtree Falls parking lot. Take the paved trail at the far left of the lot beside the information board.
Mile 0.2 – Reach a viewing platform at the base of the lower section of Crabtree Falls. For the next 0.7-mi the trail switchbacks up the lower falls. The lower section consists of multiple drops totaling over 350 feet. Mile 0.4 – The trail follows a large staircase below a boulder to the base of a beautiful drop. The water is funneled to the far left side of a cliff while the rest of the cliff is covered in moss and ice (in winter).
Mile 0.7 – Reach the largest drop of the lower section, well over 200 feet.
Mile 0.9 – After 0.7-mi of climbing the trail passes by an observation platform at the top of the lower falls. Crabtree Creek flattens out beyond this viewpoint on its way to the middle falls. There is a large cave on the right formed by fallen boulders.
Mile 1.0 – The trail reaches the base of middle falls section. The middle falls is a single drop ~90 feet where the water flows through a moss-covered crevice near the bottom.
Mile 1.6 – Arrive at the base of the upper falls. Crabtree Creek plunges over a towering cliff on a double drop over 200 feet high.
Mile 6.1 – The trail passes over a series of large rock faces that have open views to the southeast of Spy Rock and the peaks of the Religious Range. The rock face looks to be the result of a landslide.
Mile 7.3 – Turn right heading north on the Appalachian Trail.
Mile 9.5 – Cross the intersection with the forest road to Cash Hollow and avoid the slight right on another forest road than wasn’t noticeable from the other direction.
Mile 13.9 – Hike ends at the Crabtree Falls parking lot.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left Mouse-over the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Crabtree Falls hike:
Reviews For The Crabtree Falls Hike (5 Most Recent)
Beautiful sunny day for this hike despite the cold temperature. Ran into 3-4 patches of ice along the trail but they weren't too bad. Waterfall views are gorgeous and easily the best I've seen in Virginia. Take your time on the hike and enjoy the beautiful views along the entire trail. It winds back and forth right next to the waterfalls. We brought our dog and she didn't have any problems at all scaling the mountain. Not the hardest hike but certainly one you need to check off the list.
Date of Hike: Thursday, January 14, 2016
This hike has a great balance of steep climbs, tree cover, and crossover between wooded and rocky paths.
If your group is perfectly organized it's a 5.5hr hike with 1hr for breaks, but otherwise plan for 6.5-8hrs.
The most dangerous part of this hike was the Crab Tree Falls climb and the pools of ice sheets covering the path. The most strenuous part is the climb from the creek head/private road area to the Appalachian Trail.
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 05, 2015
We did this hike for my Birthday weekend. Weather was perfect. We parked our jeep at the Hatchery and made our way up to Spy Rock. The elevation gain could be strenuous for beginner hikers. The trail and views to Spy Rock are amazing. The 360 degree views are spectacular. We were the only ones up there, so nice. The hike back down and to Crabtree Falls was beautiful, just pay attention to the trail markers. The Falls were gorgeous. Just be mindful to stay on the trail! It was very icy, there has been 2 deaths this year. We walked the mile or so back to Crabtree Falls Campground and they took us back to our jeep.
Date of Hike: Friday, November 27, 2015
This is a must do hike. I took my daughter here the day after Thanksgiving. Even with the crowds and the guy tempting fate by climbing over the wall at the top it was amazing. It's a series of switchbacks with rewards at each turn. You feel like you are in Jurassic Park with the larger than life scenery. Quit putting it off and do this hike!!
Date of Hike: Sunday, November 22, 2015
This turned out to be one of my favorite hikes. The Crabtree Falls are gorgeous and the 360 degree views from Spy Rock are some of the most spectacular in the region. Aesthetically speaking, I find the undulating jumble of peaks that characterize the Blue Ridge so much more pleasing than the parallel ridges of the ridge and Valley Appalachians further west. And while it's true that the section of the trail that runs along the falls is a bit busy (and I can imagine it's absolutely packed when the weather is warm), once you reach the top of the falls, there's almost no one on the trail all the way to Spy Rock (at least not in late November). One note of caution: there's already some ice on Spy Rock so be careful scrambling up it.