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Falls Ridge - Columbia Furnace, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,745 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Park on FR252 at the trailhead for the Stack Rock Trail. 38.89538, -78.74089
IMPORTANT: FR252 is only open from April 1 - May 15 and Aug 1 - Jan 10. To do this hike at any other time park at the end of VA701/Dellinger Gap Rd. 38.87295, -78.75547 on the lower terminus of the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail. This will add 1 mile to the total hike length.

How would you like to have a beautiful 30ft waterfall all to yourself? Hidden off the Falls Ridge trail on an unofficial side trail, this beautiful waterfall is also unusual as it crashes into rocks next to a 60ft cliff instead of into a pool. In the summer standing under the falls is a great way to cool down on this hike. This circuit also has several great views along the Stack Rock Trail and North Mountain Ridge of Big Schloss and the valley below, as well as excellent car camping on FR252 along Lauren Run.

So why is the solitude so high on such a beautiful waterfall hike? There are a couple of reasons. 1. This hike is on the southern end of the Great North Mountain hiking area and away from the more popular Wolf Gap hikes. 2. FR252 is only open from April 1 - May 21 and Aug 1 - Dec 31. Although the hike and circuit can still be done when FR252 is closed by parking at the end of VA701/Dellinger Gap Rd. on the lower terminus of the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail. This will add 1 mile to the total hike length for 7.9 miles.

  • Mile 0.0 - From the parking area at the Stack Rock trailhead continue walking along FR252. FR252 is also blue blazed at this point as the Laurel Run Connector Trail. In 0.4 miles pass the first of 2 roadside camping spots, then in another 0.4 miles pass the second camp area. However if you are car camping the sites 1.5 miles earlier on FR252 next to Laurel Run are far superior. Continue walking along FR252 passing several nice views of the valley, then arrive at a parking area and closed gate blocking FR252 to motor vehicles.
  • Mile 1.8 - Pass around the closed gate and continue along FR252 on the blue blazed trail for 0.1 miles to the intersection where the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail crosses the road.
  • Mile 1.9 - Turn right uphill on the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail. The trail becomes increasingly more steep for the first 0.6 miles to the intersection of the unofficial side trail to the Falls Run waterfall.
  • Mile 2.5 - Look for a small rock cairn marking the side trail, however it is well worn and hard to miss. Turn left on the side trail that passes through Mountain Laurel. At this point the trail is intermittently marked with faint colored blazes. In 0.16 miles the trail will split.
  • Mile 2.8 - Turn left downhill (continuing straight will take you to the upper section of Falls Run). This section of the side trail is intermittently red blazed, but is harder to follow than the previous section. As you get closer to the run, the trail falls pass through a section of rhododendron then arrives at the waterfall and 60ft cliff. Pass carefully over the boulders down to the foot of the waterfall.
  • Mile 3.1 - Return back to the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail. Be cautious on the return after passing back through the rhoterdendrum. The trail is very faint and hard to follow.
  • Mile 3.9 - Turn left uphill on the yellow blazed Falls Ridge Trail. The Falls Ridge Trail will pass through another stand of Mountain Laurel before ending at the ridge and intersection of the North Mountain Trail.
  • Mile 5.15 - Turn right on the orange blazed North Mountain Trail for 100 yards and arrive at the Stack Rock Trail. Note: this intersection is easy to miss. If you start descending the ridge on the orange blazed trail you have gone too far.
  • Mile 5.18 - Turn right downhill on the purple blazed Stack Rock Trail. The Stack Rock Trail steeply descends North Mountain making multiple switchbacks. In 1.0 miles on the descent there is a good view to the north of Big Schloss as well as the valley. Continue downward where the trail will become less steep.
  • Mile 6.9 - Arrive back at the parking area on FR252.
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Hiker Reviews For The Falls Ridge Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 31, 2017
Parked at the end of 252, mid morning. There was a couple inches of snow already and more falling. Walked up and took the waterfall trail, I bushwacked over to the top of the waterfall, but you cant really see anything. Just a small creek feeds the falls. Walked down the short but steep falls trail. I had Yaktrax on my boots or I would have fallen many times, it was very slick in the snow. It had been cold for a while and the falls were frozen, and it was spectacular! This gigantic mound of blue ice at the bottom, made of ice globes that were clear when you picked one up. There was this huge mass of icicles stretching down from the top and covering all the edges of the rocks, it looked like a frozen sculpture. I took a bunch of pictures. The whole gully with the high sides makes a scenic view. I walked back to the trail and up to the top of the ridge, not much to see and it was very cold. I broke out the Esbit stove and made a cup of tea to warm up, and since it was nearing sundown, I went back the same way. I have good flashlights and was fine. The hunting season was still open, I wear one of those orange safety vests.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 23, 2017
A decent hike with a very long and steep slog up the mountain. We walked in from the locked Laurel Run gate on FR 252, so our hike was 2 miles in, the 6.9-mile hike itself, and 2 miles out.

The directions on here led us to believe that it might be hard to spot the side trail to the waterfall. Not so. There is a very large cairn marked with a white blaze opposite the trail. And the waterfall trail is newly marked with bright white blazes. We were alone at the falls and we saw one other couple all day, who came in from the dirt road in WV and were doing the Laurel Run circuit.

All in all, 6 of our miles were road walk and 4 were beastly up hill. Although a welcome respite from the heat, the small waterfall was probably not sufficient payoff for all the work, especially now that in the summer, there are no views from the top of the Stack Rock Trail as there are in the winter.

Trip report and photos:

By: Colin Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 03, 2016
We parked at the 701 alternate spot, which allowed us to camp at the end along the fire road.

First off, I am not sure how this is not a 5 star for difficulty. I have done numerous other "5 star" hikes from this website, and this was brutal. Me and my hiking partner are in decent shape and were carrying 35-40 lb packs. The initial climb is long, steep, and difficult. It was a very tough climb, with the water fall in between not exactly a respite. The climb to the waterfall is quite a descent, which requires you to then climb back up (not a scramble, on the trail). The waterfall is very cool, and the cliffs surrounding it have to be some of the tallest in the area.

We made it to the peak and began the descent down the switch backs. The views were great here, but the going was tough due to the steepness of the grade and the slippery leaves. Once at the bottom we turned left to add mileage to our hike. We eventually ended up at the second camp site they mention and spent the night. There is a no fire law in order until 2/1/17 which was a bummer (and cold).

We did not see a single other hiker on the mountain, but there were many hunters below on the fire road. Overall this was a challenging hike (especially the beginning) with a very well maintained trail. There is very little flat ground on this hike aside from the fire road. The majority is either climbing or descending.

By: KT Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 27, 2016
Despite a little road walking, this is a very nice hike with some good views, even in the summer. I parked at the Stack Rock Trail head and hiked clockwise. Either way you hike this, there is a good deal of climbing about 1,750 in a mile and a half. I found the side trail to the waterfall easy to follow and the stream was running (Aug. 2016). As described, the side trail to the falls is faintly blazed, but the blazes were easy to follow and the tread was well-worn. Note that the trail is blazed red and yellow until the split with the red trail heading to the waterfall and the yellow trail heading above the falls to a campsite (per the PATC Guide). The real treat to this hike, IMHO, is after viewing the waterfall, hike back up to the split and take a left head back uphill toward the stream. You will shortly reach a crest and the yellow side trail will start to head downhill. Here veer off the trail to the left and bushwhack down to the top of the cliff ABOVE the falls. The view is great with a narrow gorge, reminiscent of Big Devils Stairs, and view out into the valley and of Bryce Ski Resort. So even if the waterfall is not running, you will have something for your efforts.

By: Suzy & Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 03, 2016
FR252 was not open so we drove to the VA701/Dellinger Gap parking area which is at the end of the 701. The trail starts near the white house's driveway and immediately goes over a creek. The waterfall is definitely worth seeing, trail a little tricky on the return.  From the parking area to Stack Rocks trail is uphill the whole way. Enjoyed the views on the Stack Rocks trail as we descended.  View would not be as good after leaf out.  The fire road was a long but easy walk.  Didn't see anyone else all day.

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Early May
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