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Crabtree Falls - Nelson County, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
4.4 mls N/A
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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: Amy E. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 09, 2014
I hiked this trail 35 years ago, so I thought it would be about the same. As with Ken's review, I also had trouble with 3 major patches of ice. I slipped off one and landed in the muddy area below. I didn't go too far, thankfully, but it was scary! I won't be hiking in March unless the weather has been above freezing for several days. All-in-all, the hike is a great trail. It has lots of stairs and rocks for footing whether climbing or descending the trail. It's not a "walk-in-the-park!" I'm glad it is well marked with warning signs to stay on the trail. We had a friend die there 35 years ago when she stepped onto some clear algae. Stay on the trail and you'll do fine. It is beautiful!

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 08, 2014
Okay, this is one of my favorite hikes but today it only gets a "3". There were portions of the trail, particularly near the 1 mile mark and by one of the viewpoint switchbacks, that were so ice covered that they were dangerous. We were one of the few cars in the parking lot  in the morning and the snow/ice was still hard and crusty enough to gain footing. I still slipped off the trail and landed hard just before we hit the top. We hiked to the other trailhead before returning and by the time we hit the severely icy spots again they had been polished by shoes and boots almost to a shine. Visitors were helping each other cross the sketchier areas and some just sat and slid. The snow covered portions in the morning turned to mud so what is up there is melting fast, but some of that thick ice will be there for a few more days. On the positive side...the water is really flowing, half the falls are still ice covered, and it was a gorgeous day. This is still one of my favorite hikes but I won't do it in snow again without some traction devices on hand "just in case".

By: Darren Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 15, 2014
Hike was one of my favorites! The falls were awesome to see & we got some good pictures. Was a tough hike but maybe that was because there was over a foot of snow!! There were only 2 more people at the falls & they only made it to the lower falls. I would recommend going in the winter if you like ice on the falls. Was beautiful. Plan on going back during the summer.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Crabtree Falls is a nice dayhike that is easily accessible and equally as populated. Even in freezing temps in February, there were multiple families on the trail, but probably passed only 4 or 5 groups total. The Falls were about 30% frozen, especially on the right side (facing the falls). Some of this would be suitable for ice climbing, though likely a little wet. 6 or 7 points had significant ice on the trail with 2 points which were dangerous to cross without crampons or trekking poles, though I was able to weasel my way around those spots with a dog on leash. The downside to Crabtree for me is its over-development. Half of the trail is wooden steps with metal rails along a good portion of it. Unfortunately it doesn't feel wild. It would be an absolutely incredible spot if it was isolated and you had to hike 10 miles from the road to get there.

By: Hoo15 Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Three of us did this hike this morning in about 2.5 hours. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot more difficult than expected.

The high for the day was in the 40s and there was no snow anywhere else on our drive, but nearly the whole trail was covered in snow or ice - same as Ally reported on 12/28. There were maybe 6 or 7 sections of the trail that were covered with ice for a few feet, and were quite difficult to pass both going down and going up. A few sections of snow were also becoming slick as more hikers traveled over them, and those will probably freeze over night. On the way down, especially, it would have been easy to fall and twist or break something.

The falls were gorgeous and definitely worth seeing in the winter, but I want to caution anyone who is looking for an easy hike that this one is definitely not a 2/5 in January. Be careful, wear warm gloves, and give yourself plenty of daylight.

That said, we had a great time and really enjoyed the views! Happy trails!


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