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Crabtree Falls - Nelson County, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
4.4 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,380 ft
George Washington National Forest
Montebello Camping and Fishing Resort
The Cabins at Crabtree Falls
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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Parking at crabtree falls: 37.85144, -79.07922

Crabtree Falls is arguably the most beautiful set of waterfalls in Virginia. Billed as the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, Crabtree Falls is a must see for anyone who lives in the mid-Atlantic region.

The falls are believed to be named after William Crabtree, who settled in the area in 1777. The Tye River, at the bottom of the falls, is named for Allen Tye, who did extensive exploration in the local Blue Ridge Mountains.

Take note of the footbridge that crosses Tye River, a laminated arch that was shipped from New York state in one piece and installed in 1978. Until the mid 1980's the footbridge was the starting point for the hike up Crabtree Falls. Today the parking area is on the other side of the river, and the bridge now serves primarily as a decorative addition to the hike.

From the end of the parking area, follow the paved trail to the bottom of the lower most falls. At this point the trail becomes dirt, and does the first of nine switchbacks on its way to the top of the highest set of falls. The trail is well maintained, and has wooden guardrails along its steeper portions, as well as railed overlooks at the most scenic points.

At 0.5 miles look for a rock formation that appears to be a small cave. You can pass through the cave and exit on the other side rejoining the trail.

Arrive at the top of the falls in 1.1 miles from the parking area and cross over a wooden bridge to an overlook. From here you can't see Crabtree Falls below as it falls away, but still get a nice view of the valley floor and Blueridge Mountains. Don't be tempted to climb over the stone wall onto the uppermost portion of the falls. The rocks are covered with a very slippery algae, and according to the Forestry Service sign, 23 people have fallen to their deaths climbing out onto the rocks.

From this point re-cross the footbridge and either head back down, or continue left up the trail where the hike becomes much flatter and follows Crabtree stream.

If you continue up the trail will split in 70 yards. Take the right fork uphill as it first traverses the ridge, then follows the stream to the upper parking area in 1.1 miles. To return, retrace your steps back down.

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

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
This hike was a significant challenge for my small family because we took our 3 year-old daughter along our black lab was no hindrance at all. Out of 1.7 miles, our daughter hiked 1.3 up which really slowed us down. Also, there were about 4 places where the trail was covered in ice. We stuck it out and carefully navigated around the icy patches, and made it to the top. We were really glad we did, and the hike back down was much faster because my husband carried our daughter in a carrier. The falls were gorgeous and the cave was neat. Lots of things to explore like downed logs and even a part where we would have played in the water had it not been so cold. I would love to do this hike again on a warmer day, but would do it again in the cold in a heartbeat. If you're planning to go during the winter, be sure to take some rope and wear shoes with good tread. Tennis shoes made the slick parts treacherous. If you have a dog, don't carry water for them, they can drink from the creek in several places without danger.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 21, 2014
Started this hike from the lower parking lot on VA-56 on a chilly Sunday (25F). The waterfall was never iced over but there was plenty of ice to see from spray/mist. Some parts of the trail towards the upper falls had ice but it was never an issue, no traction needed. This collection of waterfalls (it is not one waterfall, probably 3 or 4 separate waterfalls) is one of my favorites and never disappoints. An under appreciated part of this hike is the calm section of Crabtree Creek above the waterfalls. The creek originates in a hanging valley and is a rarity in the Southeast. This was part of a long hike all the way to Spy Rock.

By: Dman Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 25, 2014
A fantastic hike over all . Highly recommend you arrive early on weekends though .We arrived at 10 am and got 1 of 2 spots open. This is a tough hike the further you go up in altitude , but the falls are amazing . Probably best to take a day off work and go as lots of people and their dogs to avoid on the way down cars dbl parked on both sides way out. Made for some great pictures with the fall leaves in there peak this time of year. I also would have given it 5 stars but just too many people , kids and dogs on weekends .

By: Hans und Heidi Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 19, 2014
We was scheduled to fly a balloon but it was cancelled, so we were in proximity for an early start ( 8 ) at the Falls. The morning was perfect with great colors, with many of the trees still having some time to change. The trail had maybe 10 people going in the same direction, with folks alternating the many over looks along the way. The way back it was getting much busier with people on the way up. I was here once before, like 40 years back. Now the trail is very people friendly and improved to handle the traffic. I reluctantly give it 4 stars, as it is truly a magnificent place. Just not our favorite place.

As for the season this weekend, there is still time to see the fall colors in the Blue Ridge. We drove the Parkway north all the way to RT 29 ( 85 miles? ). The colors on the west side of the range are about at Peak, but there is still time on the eastern and southern slopes. It was really spectacular.

By: Perfect Day for a Hike Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 18, 2014
From Newport News, VA. Me and 5 friends drove to Crabtree Falls. Took us about 3.5 hours to get there. The weather was beautiful and perfect: mid 60's, slightly overcast with clouds, no rain. Since it was a Saturday in the prime hiking month of October, we probably passed 100-200 people on the hike the whole time we were there. It was very busy, but that didn't negatively affect the hike in any way. The waterfall is beautiful. Since it is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi, it really did feel like it went on for forever. But it's not one of those waterfalls that has a ton of rushing water off of it. But still beautiful. The path and trail was narrow at some places so when there were lots of people that had to pass each other, some had to wait until others passed. The leaves were changing colors - lots of yellows, oranges, greens, and a few reds. The ground was a little muddy and wet, which made some of the leaves on the pathway wet and slippery, but it wasn't too bad. There are a ton of spots you can stop and take pictures which was great, because the hike is a little steep with lots of steps. You can't see the waterfall from the very top, but it's still a beautiful view as you sit on this huge rock looking out at the mountainside. It took us about 2 hours to climb to the top and about an hour to climb down. I would definitely recommend this hike to others.

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Late February
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