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Hiker Reviews for the St Mary''s Wilderness Hike - 1 to 47 of 47   
Review the St Mary''s Wilderness hike here!   Average Review Rating:

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 25, 2018
Sweet hike! Walked up to the falls along the river trail, making several stream crossings along the way. The water was gin clear but high, fast and freezing. It made for exciting crossings. After walking to the falls, doubled back and ascended Mine Bank Creek and beyond before turning around after 3.5 miles (well beyond the abandoned mine). Campsites along the creek seemed pretty heavily impacted but up above the St. Mary's river there were ample opportunities for solitude. Loved the narrow trail and blow-downs. It's wilderness!

By: Kristen L Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 28, 2018
This hike wasn’t at all what we expected. We decided to hike it counterclockwise, and wanted to camp at the view mentioned in the description. Overall, the trail was well marked (minus one sign by the Tory Ridge Trail that was misplaced) so it was easy to do counterclockwise. However, we saw no view, so we disappointly continued on hoping to make camp at the next campground. From the Jeep road on, everything was EXTREMELY overgrown. We were frequently getting scratched or had trouble following the trailhead across camping areas and creeks. This made the hike difficult and unpleasant. Every camping area we came across was over grown and not appealing. We ended up hiking the whole loop in one day (partly through the night), completely unsatifed, and skipped the water fall. When we got back to the parking area, cars were still there, so those people likely camped by the water fall. We highly recommend doing the out and back hike to the water fall only, and completely avoiding the st Mary’s wilderness loop. Unless you want to get scratched up and feel lost, it isn’t worthwhile. I cant speak much about the waterfall since we didn’t see it, but I can assume it’s the better option if you are interested in this area

By: chungo Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Didn't get to hike. There are signs from the forestry dept. at FS162 and the parking area on the BRP that says the access to St. Marys from there is closed due to wildfire. $5000-$10000 fine for anyone caught there. Didn't risk it and went somewhere else. Had a buddy manage to get in at another location and from his pictures it looks like St. Marys wasn't affected by the fire.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 5, 2018
LOVED this hike! Gorgeous views of waterfalls throughout the hike and great scenery all around. We went on a Thursday and didn't see a single other person, but it might be more crowded on the weekends or as it warms up. While the trail was unblazed and unmarked, it was relatively easy to follow until the end. The last section on Bald Mountain Trail was very difficult to stay on and we got off the trail accidentally a few times. There were several stream crossings, most of them easy enough to do, but some of them got our feet wet.

The hikingupward notes were pretty clear and we followed the trail exactly as it had been described.

The view of Kennedy Creek was stunning and absolutely worth it, so make sure you are looking for this side trail because it is also unmarked! Enjoy!!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 20, 2017
Did a hike/camp/hike on the shorter leg of the loop, with the waterfall section, and had an excellent time! Though the trail didn't have many markings, it was very easy to stay on trail, given the season and higher visibility. Perhaps summer foliage would obscure the trail more than autumn.

The campsites to the east of the crossroads for the waterfall spur were wonderful. Very spacious, and tucked away around the old iron mine tailing piles. It was surprisingly crowded on that particular weekend, but the campsites are still pretty visually secluded from one another - though we heard people from time to time, we couldn't see over to anyone's sites. Due to being in the bottom of St Mary's River gorge with a handful of feeding tributaries, the air was cooler and more humid, so if you camp down in the gorge in colder weather, be prepared for that extra condensation.

The waterfall spur on the ridge above the river was stellar. Great sneak peaks of views looking over to the southern slopes of Cellar Mountain was a treat along the entire ridge. However, when you loop around to walk down Sugartree Branch to get to St Mary's River, the downhill was a little wet at times. Not enough to soak our feet, but we had to be careful with our footing. The trail along St Mary's River was more crowded than the rest of the hike. If you would rather do a quick hike to the falls and skip the loop all together, there is a parking lot further down St Mary's River that provides much easier access than hiking down from the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Overall, this was an excellent hike, but I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars because of the crowded path along the river going up to the falls. It's obviously not terrible that other people are using the path, but it was enough for me to knock it down that one peg. I would absolutely recommend taking a whole weekend to take it at a leisurely pace and enjoy the views and tranquil sections along the tributaries.

By: will m Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 22, 2017
I did this trip counterclockwise, along with the spur to St. Mary's falls, as an overnight backpack. Most of the way was shaded, which was a relief, as it was extremely hot. The Bald Mountain Trail and St. Mary's River Trail are both quite overgrown in spots -- not so much that you'll lose the trail, but you will be pushing through brush at many points. You'll get a few abrasions on exposed skin, but nothing bad. The trail to Saint Mary's falls is tricky to follow, with many side trails and no obvious direct route, but if you're there on a weekend, there are enough people coming from the lower trailhead that you can pretty much follow the crowd. The falls themselves aren't all that impressive, but the walk upstream is unwaryingly beautiful, and there are numerous pretty places to stop where you can find solitude even on a busy day.

The campsite along the river trail are almost all nice, and many of them will accommodate large parties.

The stellar portions of this trip are the Mine Bank Trail and walk to the falls. The rest of the loop is pleasant, but nothing special. I'd rate the loop by itself as 3 stars, the loop with walk to the falls as 4 stars, and the combination of loop, falls, and camping at 5 stars, since the campsites are really lovely.

By: Chris & Nathanael Wilson Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 22, 2017
Did this hike as a loop over two days. Day one we started at the parking lot and hiked clockwise and made camp at Green Pond. Then on day two, we continued on FS162 all the way to the BRP and hiked along that to the parking lot. We detoured bald Mountain Trail because my son was carrying way more than he should and was worried about more ascents on Bald Mountain. (He is 12 and it was his first backpacking trip.) Pros: Most of the trail is shaded which made the July temps a little more bearable. Scenery was nice and the trail was really secluded. Didn't see anyone until we hit the jeep trail. Plenty of spots for water along St Mary's and some really beautiful rock stairs along the waterway. Cons: The trail is really overgrown in some spots. So much so that rhododendrons from the right side of the trail are easily reaching in to the left side of the trail and vice versa. Mosquitoes and biting flies at Green Pond were really horrible.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 3, 2017
Did the 10 mile loop in the opposite direction as described. Great weather. FS 162 (also called Bald Mountain Jeep Trail) was a pleasant hike, and mostly flat along the ridgeline. 75% of it was shaded and I had to let a couple jeeps go by. At least five campsites are located right on this road. At the point where I should have turned left onto the St Marys' River Trail, I continued on FS 162. Note to everyone going counterclockwise, turn left at the kennedy ridge trail intersection. There will be a wooden kiosk thing on the left with no information, just posts. Shortly after that, I lost the trail again near green pond, although I probably shouldn't have. If you keep going straight, you'll find a kiosk on your right with actual information. It is after this that the trail becomes very overgrown, but not difficult to follow. Keep going straight until the trail descends more steeply towards the first of several stream crossings and flattens out. The campsites by the junction of the Mine Bank Creek Trail and the St Mary's River Trail are the best on the loop. They are about 0.15 miles from the junction. The 2 mile hike up the Mine Bank Creek Trail to finish is the most difficult of the loop, but not too bad. I actually enjoyed this part because the trail runs right next to the creek and crosses several times. There are several small waterfalls and 1 or 2 campsites as well.

On a previous trip I had hiked in from St Mary's Road to the waterfall, so I know how awesome it is. That hike is probably five stars, but expect to see waaayyy more people in that area. The loop hike I described above I rate a 3 instead of a 4 due to the overgrown and unmarked trails. If combined with the hike down to the waterfall I would give it a 4 or 5.

This wilderness area is great with tons of campsites and water access.

By: Mike Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 28, 2016
Great hike.  A little over an hour in and out.  Go to the end of St Mary's road and park there as others have mentioned if you want a shorter hike.  I think we took 1 to 1/2 hours in and then again coming out. Some parts of the trail are washed out so you will need to do a little climbing, but nothing a normal person couldn't do.  Falls is great and the water is clear and cold. 

There are trails on both sides of the creek you follow, but neither side goes all the way to the falls so you will have to cross the creek.  We crossed 3 times on the way out, but waiting too long to cross on the way in.  If you keep walking on the right hand side of the creek (after you cross once and as you walk to the falls) for a long time, you will eventually just run out of trail. You can cross at that point, but it's not as easy as crossing before the end.  We noticed there was a small pink ribbon marking the second crossing (from the right side back to the left as you walk to the falls).  Look for the ribbon and cross there.

By: Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 20, 2016
A few thoughts. We hiked the 10+ mile loop, without the waterfall hike, starting with the Mine Creek leg.

1. When you reach the "large group camping area" after crossing the streams on the St. Mary's trail, the steep climb is immediately to your right before coming to a set of campfire rocks. At first, we followed what seemed like a steep climb on a trail after passing through the other side of the campsite.

2. I'm not sure the post that "marks" the Bald Mountain Trail is still there. We looked for it, passed on a trail that didn't have a post, and ended up on the Parkway.

3. At the split in the road before that, there's a Forest Service kiosk with a misleading map. The "You Are Here" point on the map appears to be where FS162 meets the parkway, which is a mile away.

By: Jeff Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 4, 2016
Wife, dog, and I went out this morning to take advantage of unseasonably cool weather intending to hike the ten mile loop, and had the entire trail to ourselves. The descent along Mine Bank Creek was rocky with a few off camber sections, and the junction with St Mary's Trail was well marked. While the tread of the trail was never poorly defined, dense mountain laurel along portions of this trail made us second guess the route a few times. Climbing up out of the valley presented a few stretches of lichen/moss and stunted pine trees, which I did not expect to see on this hike, and the pond/wetland near FS 162 was a nice surprise as well. While we had a good trip, the lack of blazes and signs made me thankful we brought a map.

By: Va hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 7, 2016
overall great hike with beautiful streams. I posted a review with photos here: https://waynorthblog.com/2016/04/19/st-marys-wilderness-george-washington-national-forest-va/

By: City dweller who hikes Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, September 4, 2015
I have to thank "learn from us" for the tip. Parking at the end of St Mary's road provides a great half day hike or longer depending how long you want to stay at the falls. Park, literally walk 1 hour or so along the river, you criss cross the river a couple times (was low water so very easy) and then you come upon the falls. Do a little cliff diving into a deep pool, relax, hour hike back to lot. It's wilderness so pay attention and follow red and white tagged rocks and trees. Went during the week so I only came across 3 other groups so it felt very isolated. Great 4 hour journey.

By: learn from us Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 8, 2015
If you have never been here before and are not familiar with the area, please read this. Two big points you should know if you don't already: One, there is a parking lot not listed on here at the end of St. Mary's Road off of 608 from which it takes less than an hour to get to the falls. From the BRP parking area it takes around 2 hours (if you don't get lost). Two, there are small unsigned trail junctions on the trail not listed in the directions and it can get confusing and you can easily get lost. [Note: you can park in the lot off of St. Mary's Road and get to the falls in under an hour if you're looking for a quick trip to the falls.] My friends and I started from the parking lot off of the BRP as described on here and were only hiking to the falls and back. The hike on Mine Bank Creek Trail is pretty straight forward, some parts were a tad overgrown but nothing yielding. We then turned left onto St. Mary's River Trail, marked by a sign so you can't miss it, but then it starts getting confusing with unsigned trail intersections. At the campsite, keep right. Further down the tail forks again, the one of the right will be a mound/ steep dirt hill or you can keep going straight/ bear left. Go over the mound and pass the old mines and a campground. Keep going straight/ keep to the right at trail junctions. At one point, not far past the mines there will be a trail intersection with a steep hill on the left. This is the trail from the last junction at the steep mound meeting the trail again. We got lucky that down the trail we started running into people hiking away from the falls who pointed us into the right direction and it showed us where to cross the river. We crossed the river and followed the river upstream on the left side before we had to cross the river again at the trail blowout and up the steep bank as mentioned on here. The falls were gorgeous and worth the confusion we had. The water was a little bit cold but we got to jump off the rocks into the water. When we ended up at the parking lot off of St. Mary's Road, which we didn't know existed at the time. So, for warning, allow time to getting lost if you are doing this as a day hike and pay close attention to where you made turns when going out and back. This trail gets pretty confusing, but it isn't blazed anymore and someone on here said it gets re-routed and there are both old and unmapped trails, so be aware on this before you go.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 26, 2015
Tried to hike up to the mines but trail not in very good shape. Hopefully a local trail crew can clear the trails around the areas of the falls and the mines. But it was enjoyable and peaceful. One major complaint is the folks camping on the trail but the falls and those that came up for the day. lots of trash left. That is clearly unacceptable for people to leave beer cans and water bottles. Pack out your trash!!!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 25, 2015
Well... I give this 4 stars because of the falls only. The rest of the hike isn't one I would recommend to the casual hiker out for a day hike. I backpack a good bit and was hoping for a more relaxing walk in the woods however, it was definitely on the semi-challenging side of things. Its not the worst by any means, but if you go in there expecting a casual walk in the woods, you'll be disappointed. Lots of water crossings, so I imagine if you go earlier in the year you'll spend some time getting wet.

My biggest complaint- The overgrowth, its obnoxious spending 90% of your day walking through a thin overgrown trail with bushes scraping at your legs and arms. The fact no one came away with a tick is surprising to say the least.

Wildlife- Saw fur and animal excrement in various locations. My guess would be bear, but I'm not an expert. Beware of Snakes, saw a pretty decent sized rattler in the middle of the fire road and another big snake on the trail (off to the side and it got out of dodge quickly).

The falls- beautiful, a bit challenging getting down there since everything is so poorly marked and we got a little lost coming back up. But, the falls are amazing. There was a large group of people there for the day coming in off the couple mile trail from the access road. Also, a number of people camp down here even though everything says they don't allow it.

Lastly- if you're going to the falls to have some beers and good time with your friends for the day. PLEASE clean up behind yourself and don't leave beers laying around.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 12, 2015
I wasn't anticipating how overgrown much of this trail was. Lots of brushy overgrowth, especially when hiking out to the Falls (which are very difficult to find, as this trail is unblazed and unmarked.) I was concerned about snakes and poison ivy—you can't even see the trail underfoot at times. This was a challenging 1-day loop WITHOUT an overnight pack the down and uphill slugs framing the hike are not to be trifled with.

The streams and falls are peaceful, but overall, there are so many more beautiful hikes in this area and within SNP for the time and distance.

By: Steve Sherpa Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 30, 2015
This was a wonderful hike...Rugged terrain and challenging. Other reviews make mention that they didn't like it because of this - it is a wilderness afterall. I will highly suggest a reliable gps and maps because the trails are unmarked and because of weather, some things are rerouted and some trails are unmapped or old "work" trails.

From the T section of st. marys trail and mine bank trail, one reviewer said it was 1.5 down to the falls. This is not true. It is much longer - around 3 miles or so. They may have been talking about the old trail from the big group camping site that has been mostly washed away. That would make sense to be 1.5 miles to the falls from those camp sites. That "trail" from what we understand, is climbing and hugging the bluffs and walking the river.

At any rate, be prepared for this hike as it is very rugged but wonderful.

By: Keith Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 8, 2015
Great info in this trail guide. I had a beginner with me on a weekend trip so we stayed in the river valley and didn't do the ridge loop. Holy Rattlesnakes! Close encounters with 2 timber rattlers that required bushwacks to avoid as they certainly stand their ground.

By: Roger Wright Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 11, 2015
We just did the short hike to the falls and back. It was beautiful weather and a great little hike. I brought my small dog along and he got his first swimming lesson. I will definitely be back to do this hike again. Nexty time I'll do the longer hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 10, 2014
Western part is DANGEROUS!!!

I started from the far west parking area (the dotted section of the map following st mary's river).  The trail is quite narrow and about a mile into it, you are leaning on a steep embankment, holding on to roots to avoid falling 20'.  There were two other parties who traversed this section more easier than we did, but they were going out for two hours and had almost no gear.  This was near impossible with a 30 lbs pack.  After a little bit more you have to ford the river, or more accurately ford the rapids.  The rapids were up to my knees and my son his hips.  He would have gotten swept away if he was not tied to me.  I was scared.  You have to ford the rapids two more times after that.  Even further, part of the trail was washed out and we had to do more root holding, this time to avoid falling 40-60'.  After passing the split to the falls, the trail was safe but overgrown.  Crawling under fallen tree while exhausted with a pack was no treat.   It was getting dark and we had not yet reached mine bank trail so we camped for the night in the first spot possible.  In the morning we broke camp and decided to continue on but after about an hour, but the trail was so overgrown we decided to abort and turned around. 

Unfortunately, this was my oldest son's first non-car camping experience and it wasn't fun one.

By: Branden Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 16, 2013
I have hiked St. Mary's about 5 times now and have tried a few different routes. For this hike we were looking for a nice backcountry camping site so we headed down from the parking lot to St. Mary's Trail. We hung a right on St. Mary's and went about a half mile to the big group camping site. The next morning we hiked back towards the junction of mine bank run and St. Mary's we stashed our packs and then hiked to the falls. About 2/3 of the way from this junction until St. Mary's Gorge trail there is a side trail that some people have used to cut the distance to the falls. We took it, I do not recommend it for anybody who is not in GREAT shape. If you have children with you this trail could be treacherous for them. It is really only a trail for about 100 ft and then you are scaling down cliffs with very thick brush. Once we reached the river it was a relatively short hike to the falls. They were b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l with a lot of water running over. As a side not if you are a rock climber this would be a great place to come as there are some great rock cliffs to climb right next to the falls. There are also a ton of camping spots between St Mary's Trail and St. Marys Gorge trail.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 5, 2013
This hike was a lot of fun, however it is not an intermediate hike! The trail has not be maintained and is over grown in many places. The elevation change alone is difficult for an inexperienced hiker, I consider myself to be an intermediate hiker and have had experience camping and hiking on variety of trails. Myself and three friends began the hike on 10/05/2013 at about 8 am we reached the summit at about 5pm and made camp off one of the jeep trails. The original plan was to continue the loop the next day, however we were unable to find the trail that brought us into the second half of the loop so we opted to hike back the way we came. Again the hike was a blast, it was beautiful and we couldn’t have picked a better time to do it. Our packs weighed between 28-52lbs, in the end we hiked 14.87 miles, 1922 ft. of ascent, 1719 ft. of descent. There were several water crossings within the first few miles because the trail has been washed away, so if you are not a fan of getting wet this is not the trail for you. The trail is also very narrow in many parts, being able to hold your footing and navigate on small ledges is very important. Unless your children and pets are experienced climbers I would not call this a family hike. One other portion of the trail that is worth mentioning is that in several parts you will find yourself on your hands and knees climbing up hills because of how steep they are. Again, we had a blast- two of the people we went with had hiked this part of St. Mary’s Wilderness several times and were very familiar with the area. Going with people who had been before was a huge advantage and I feel it would have been difficult to have done it without that experience. The tail is beautiful and the views are breath taking, I highly recommend this trail to those that are will to work a little!

By: Andrew Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 23, 2013
I spent the weekend here with the Mid-Atlantic Backpackers meetup group.  We camped at the group camping site described in the hike notes above and did the out and back to the falls.  The Mine Creek trail from the BRP is clear of blowdowns and all overgrowth looks like it was very recently cut back.  Other trails have moderate bushyness but are still passable.

The best swimming holes are just upstream from the lower falls, but you have to be willing to do a little rock scrambling because the trail becomes a little more vague.

By: Ducky Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 22, 2013
UNPASSABLE hiking path starting from the Blue Ridge Parkway miler marker 23. There are to many trees down and overgrown bushes in path. My friend from college and I were going to backpack from here to the falls and back. We made it about 1/4 mile in and turned around because of all the trees and brush blocking the path. Ended up taking COAL ROAD (gravel access road) by SHERANDO LAKE to get to the public parking access to the trail. WELL WORTH THE TRIP THE FALLS ARE ROLLING.

By: Leslie D. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 15, 2013
I'm giving this hike a 3 instead of a 4 because of the false "trails" that make it very easy to get lost.  However, the scenery and waterfall are beautiful!  My husband and I did this as an out and back hike to the falls only, about 11 miles over the course of two days, we didn't do the entire loop.  The first day was nearly all downhill and very enjoyable, except for the first mile which was very rocky.  There were plenty of places to stop and get water along the way.  There were two or three river crossings to get to the waterfall, all of which were about a foot deep so we had to remove our shoes.  We got lost once the first day as the trail is not clearly marked.  A GPS is highly recommended.  There are pink flags on some of the trees, but not all of them mark the correct trail, so be careful.  We ended up camping right next to the falls as all the other campsites were taken just below the falls.  There aren't many campsites until you get within a mile of the falls as the description states, so allow plenty of time to get to your campsite before dark...we barely made it as we didn't start the hike until 2pm.  The falls were beautiful, but there isn't much firewood to collect in the area right next to the falls if you want to make a campfire.  The second day made for a long hike back to the car, it was nearly all uphill.  We were exhausted by the time we got to the car, but it was a great workout.  We also got turned around the second day and got off the trail, it was very easy to choose the wrong fork and we ended up adding an extra mile to our trip trying to find the correct trail.   This is definitely a good hike to do once, but be prepared for the uphill climb back to the car if you are just doing the down and back to St. Mary's Falls.

By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 17, 2012
My wife and another couple hiked St. Mary's this past weekend (11/17/12 - 11/18/12) with much enjoyment. We hiked about 5 miles in and camped over night, and then hiked five miles out the next day. It was about 48 degrees as a high and 30 as a low. This would be an awesome hike in the Spring/Summer with longer day light hours to be able to enjoy more of the out doors. The second day of hiking was pretty difficult, hiking along the beautiful waterfalls was great, but a good workout trying to get up the mountain and back to the car before dark.

Given that it was dark by 4:45pm we couldn't hang out and eat lunch at one of the nicer views, so we suggest getting an early start to provide plenty of time. The night was pretty cold, so be prepared to start a nice sized fire and enjoy hanging out around it, because you will freeze this time of year with out it.

Overall great hike, we can't wait to go back and see the larger falls.

By: David Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 2, 2012
We hiked up to Saint Marys Falls yesterday June 2, 2012, and it was spectacular. However, the trail is mostly washed out from hurricane Isabel. You have to cross back and forth accross the river which was high due to Friday nights torrential rain of 3". It was almost impossible to keep your feet dry by stepping of slippery stones above the water line.  The trail is not blazed and you mainly have to try to follow the river. Some of the hikers wore hiking sandals and just forded the river, but we were thankful to have heavy soles walking on sharp rocks and high tops for ankle support. There are shear cliffs and rock slide areas where the trail is washed out and very difficult to traverse.  We lost the trail many times and came accross bits and pieces of it on both sides.  I read about the trash and brought trash bags and picked up trash left by inconsiderate hikers. In spite of the no camping signs everywhere, at least 5 groups of 6 or more were camping.  The old iron mine was very interesting, we saw an old wter wheel bearing pillar as well as old steel cables and iron bars pounded into the rock for some purpose. There must have been a dam and water powered rock crushing mill. The coal road goes all the way up to rt. 664 by Sherando, about 17 miles. There must have been a coal mine there somewhere. There is an old furnace on the side of the mountain neatr Sherando. I read in Virginia Wildlife that these type of chimney furnaces sent a huge plume of fire out of the top which reminded the Italian imigrant minersw of Mount Vesuvius eruption, thus the name of the nearby town of Vesuvius.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, May 17, 2012
Saint Mary's has a little of everything- rushing water and streams, old history relics, varied terrain, and a nice view off the main trail. Hiking this special wilderness area in the middle of May was spectacular as the Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and many wildflowers were in bloom. The waters were high, but easily crossable. I stuck to the 11 mile loop and didn't detour to the main waterfall- last time I tried that, it was somewhat treacherous and I got lost a few times- save that for a another day and don't start on the BRP. Definitely bring a good map or GPS. The other great thing about this area is Green Pond. It's pretty rare to find a peat bog like this in Virginia and the surrounding flora and fauna is worth seeing. There were orchids, frogs, cranberry- lots of interesting things to discover. The length is just right for a full days worth of exploring and getting some great exercise. Highly recommended.

By: Jon E Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, December 30, 2011
I've done (part of) the hike described here 4 times the last year as day-hikes, and have developed a love-hate relationship with this trail (hence the 3 stars). I start at the parking lot off of St. Mary's Rd, the point furthest downstream from the falls, hike up to the falls, then backtrack to St Mary's Falls Trail up to Green Pond, then reverse back out to the parking lot.

The Love parts: Beautiful scenery, especially in late spring with mtn laurel and rhododendron in bloom. After a good rain fall the river is up, the rush and roar of it is beautiful against the backdrop of the vertical mountain faces. Lots of interesting geological features. In summer time, some good swimming holes. Good wildlife sightings (saw a black bear last year 30 yards away, some snakes, deer). Usually pretty quiet and folks are friendly.

The Hate: Quite a bit of trash back here (empty bottles...water and beer), makes me mourn for humanity treating the environment this way. Moreover, I've encountered far too many hunters back here--mainly in the fall and winter time (hunting season). I've got no problem with hunters or the concept of hunting. It's just that I find it somewhere between disconcerting and not at all enjoyable to be in the vicinity of a pack of rabidly barking hunting dogs. And being withing earshot of gunshots makes me nervous ...hunting accidents happen. The hunters I've encountered have been friendly enough, and I'd like to assume they take proper safety precautions. But if I'm not going to be at ease, then I'd rather pick another place to hike.

In summary, can be beautiful and enjoyable--especially in summer. But you might wanna think twice before venturing out here during hunting season...if you just want to go on a quiet hike

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 5, 2011
Did this as an overnight and hiked it in reverse as what is shown.  Camped on the St. Mary's River trail towards the falls.  This hike has alot of neat scenery and alot to look at if you care to get off the trail and look for it.  One thing that made this trail not 5 stars is the fact that is no longer blazed and has seen alot of use which has created many false trails that look like where you should be going.  You WILL take the wrong trail at least once.  If you watch your map you will notice fairly quick that you took the wrong one.  The river crossing to the falls is also fairly deep with no way to rock hop.  You will need to shed your boots and cross barefoot or sandals.  You will also need to cross alot of downed trees on the trail from the hurricane.  There is no steady maintance of the trail.  Overall a great place to backpack because of the enormous amount of camping spots and plenty of water.

By: 2dawghikers Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, September 17, 2010
While I do not consider myself an expert, I have done several hikes in and around the GW National Forest and Shenandoah mountains. The loop, as described on this website, was very challenging as an overnight backpacking trip. We hiked in as described from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and set up camp at the junction of the Mine Bank Creek Trail and the St. Mary's River Trail. We then attempted to hike down to the falls (without packs), but it was getting late in the day and the trail was taking longer than anticipated, so we did not actually make it all the way to the falls...I expect there was not much to see as the creeks and streams were all running fairly dry. The campsites we passed and the one we stayed at were all littered with trash, toilet paper, and even human waste. It is obvious that most visitors do not adhere to proper LNT practices.

On Day 2 we continued the loop hike east on the St. Mary's River Trail. The description on this website does not do justice to the steep uphill grade to reach the Green Pond area and the junction with FR 162 (900 ft elevation gain over 1 mile). It was extremely difficult with a pack on and would be challenging at the least w/o a pack. FR 162 also has some hefty uphills that are at least laid out as switchbacks. We took the Bald Mountain Trail down to Bear Branch as described. This trail was very narrow with a steep downhill grade. It was also very rocky and overgrown with rhododendron and mountain laurel, and there were many fallen trees blocking the pathway.

We had orginally planned to camp one more night and then make the remaining mile hike out the next day, but we decided it would be best to just get out of there and head home to a nice shower and comfortable bed. The hike back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway was not too terrible, although it felt almost impossible to me as my legs were mush by this point. My husband and our 2 dogs faired a bit better than I did.

The best part of the trip was the few encounters with other hikers and folks visiting the area by vehicle on the FR. Everyone was very friendly and out to enjoy a beautiful day in the mountains.

This would be a challenging, rewarding trip as a day hike, but with a back pack, it was unenjoybale.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 4, 2010

My son and I hiked in from the parkway entrance in the afternoon and camped at the group site shortly after heading east from the St. Mary's River and Mine Bank Trail intersection. We met few other hikers on our way in and the campsites we passed and stayed at were well kept and had no trash. Thanks fellow hikers! I immediately realized that this was going to be a challenge for a mid 40's, out of shape guy carrying 40 pounds on his back. Yes, I over packed. I also learned that this hike required lots of over and under downfalls and had to repack my bag so my tall load would be below shoulder level. There were also lots of rocky climbs and descents. Walking poles were a lifesaver! We saw no other hikers after we reached the campsite. 

The next day we left our tents pitched and hiked to the Falls with a stuffsack packed with lunch. A few of the sights we passed had lots of trash, mostly cans and bottles. As we got closer to the falls foot traffic and the number of unleashed dogs increased greatly. I was surprised to see many campsites being used along this section even right at the falls - I thought no camping was allowed here but I guess I'm wrong. I scored a small emergency roll of duct tape that someone had discarded at the fire ring by the falls. A young couple was pitching their tent at another fire ring on the river about 50 yards from the falls. The falls were nice but a bit of a let down after all the hype and work to get there. I know the water was low this time of year but I was still expecting something more spectacular than what I saw. It was still pleasant nonetheless. We had lunch and made our way back to our campsite where we were joined by 2 other camping parties at neighboring sites.

Monday Morning we hiked back to the parkway on the Mine Bank Trail which was mostly climbing. I was pooped by the time I reached the parking area as this hike was a bit of a challenge for me. We hoped to see some wildlife but saw none - not even a bird. Just some hunting dogs and bear scat here and there. I can hike my local park in Williamsburg and see hawks, owls, many other birds, snakes, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, deer and foxes all in one short hike. Isn't that intersting? Anyway, I enjoyed it overall and we plan to go back for more exploring and hopefully some wildlife.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 31, 2010

My wife and I picked this hike to do on a summer Saturday because we thought it would not be crowded, and we were not disappointed.  We did the 10 mile loop hike that excludes the spur out to St. Mary's falls.  I suspect that's why we missed seeing so many people.  We were just looking for a good workout in the mountains and a brisk walk for our two dogs.  For that it was great.  My wife was unnerved by the fact that there were so many intersections and forks to take with no blazing, and few trail signs, but we just followed the directions that accompanied this website, and it was no problem.  I don't recommend taking the hike without the trail directions/maps or someone familiar.  The overgrowth on portions of the trail really make you wonder if your heading the right way at times.  But the ripe blueberries were a welcome treat!  There are sections just lined with blueberry bushes.  Lots of bear evidence, and a close call with a timber rattler made for an overall interesting hike.  I recommend it.

 


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 26, 2010
I parked at the end of FR 41 and made the 2-mile hike to the falls. Despite several warnings at various websites that the trail was in poor condition due to flooding caused by Hurricane Isabel, I found it to be very manageable with only a handful of stream crossings necessary. There are plenty of beautiful swimming holes, but I think the best one is just upstream from the main falls. Climb up to the left of the main falls and follow a well-worn path for about five minutes.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 9, 2010
Snow, thick snow everywhere!  Ice everywhere!  Treacherous!

We hiked a short version of this from a trailhead at the end of FR 41 (St. Mary Fall Rd?) to the Falls.  It's about 2.5 miles each way.  High 25, Low 8 degree's.... 

We camped overnight...

The hike from 41 is likely challenging in good conditions, but was quite technically challenging in these conditions with lots of slick ice inviting disaster.  The trail is often times very close to nearly on top of the river.  Washouts from hurricane Isabel in 2003 necessitate numerous river crossings which were bad ideas in these temps.  It is possible to navigate without crossing, but very difficult and dangerous.  We didn't cross on the way up and decided to forgo the risk of life for some temporary wet feet on the way back.

However, the hike was gorgeous.  The views with the snow and ice simply could not be had at another time.  I wish I had taken more pics on the way to the falls because there were innumerable ops for incredible photography.  But I needed both hands at all times and with a group of 7 I needed to press on.

Early January is not the best time for this hike unless you are well prepared, with good gear and boots and with several experienced hikers in case of emergency.

Check out www.everytrail.com and do a user search for javaslinger for some pics

By: GFL Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 9, 2009
All in all, a pleasant hike.  The area was beautiful, and there were enough trails to keep us busy for the three days that we were out in the mountains.  We hiked in from the top side on the parkway, which is the entrance suggested by this site.  It should be noted that there is another trail that leads down the river to another parking area.  We set up camp at the last spot that you are supposed to camp, basically at the T of the trail where it meets the river.  I suggest camping further back up the trail away from the river, as we had virtually no privacy during the day.  The site itself was beautiful, but anything more than a few days would get boring.  My two biggest complaints were related to seclusion and trash.  Over the three days, we encountered roughly 50 people on the river trail, most being day hikers from the lower parking area going up to see the falls.  At night, we were alone however, which was nice.  Trash/clothing was found at various points on the trails and the river.  Also, while the info says the trails are no longer blazed, have no fear of getting lost.  The trails are well packed and hiked often enough that they are easily seen and followed.  Have fun, safe hiking.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 16, 2009

Great hike and not as many people as we expected over the busy weekend. Cloud cover and light sprinkling kept the heat down. we had out 7 yr old with us so we broke the hike in half and stayed the night near the St. Mary&rsquos trail junction. Very nice camp site about 250 yards of the trail. Only down points were the lack of respect by other backpackers and hikers, a few camp sites had trash in them,  some trash was found up by green pond, and we even found a smoldering camp fire at one site we that we put out.

That said the rhododendron were blooming and it was just beautiful with some fun stream crossings and a great view at the top of FS 162. We are glad we found this site with the hiking directions and printable maps.


By: Derek Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 8, 2009

The beginning of this hike is great the stream is lively and steep, and the plantlife is abundant.  However, after the initial descent into the valley, the hike gets boring pretty quickly.  I would recommend that most, actually, all, hikers go to the waterfall and go back the way they came.  I'm about to get really negative, so let me emphasize that hiking to the falls and back would be a completely enjoyable experience that I would highly recommend to anybody who hikes in the area.

I see no reason for anyone to do the circuit hike.  After the rhododendrons, the trail becomes very boring, Green Pond is not very compelling, and an awful lot of time is spent on a very be-littered Forest Service road.  (You do get to pass a deserted bus, for those of you looking for assurance that you're going the right way.)  The trail is fun again once you get onto the Bald Mountain bit, but this final two miles hardly justifies the 3 or 4 miles of unadulterated lameness on the FS road.  Even hikers simply looking for high mileage hikes would do well to avoid this circuit due to the litter.

I can't really comment on the difficulty.  My miles were kind of slow, but then I haven't hiked or biked all winter, and I don't run, so my legs are non-existent right now.


By: Nate Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some friends and I did a two night trip over New Years Eve.  It was windy the first morning and well below freezing the next.  Not a hard hike, but the river crossing were difficult with ice on the rocks...I got pretty wet.  We all jumped in the river by the falls for a few seconds just to see how it feels, very cold!  This is my third time camping here and I need to come back in the spring.


By: Jeff K Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 22, 2008
Had a great time hiking this with a friend over two days. Just be sure to bring enough water with you. After we left the last campsite before you start your climb out of the valley (about 2.75 miles into the hike w/o the waterfall) we did not have much luck with finding water until after we came off FS 162 and got off the ridge. Also when we went to the Green Pond it was dried up so we were not able to get any water from that (not sure if I would liked to have got water from a pond named "Green Pond"!) Still had a blast and we did not see many other people. The first day we didn''t see anyone and the second day we saw one hiker on the trail, 1 truck and 3 mountain bikers on the FS road. The bugs got bad every now and then and the only tick I found was when I was cleaning my gear off at the end of the hike.

By: IntheVA Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 20, 2008
Good challenging hike, not to many people on the trail which is always a good thing.  Mine Bank trail is nice steep trail which drops into a bigger stream with a few crossings. Streams were fairly low, but still nice to cool off in.  I would say this hike is very similar to a Ramsay's Draft or Locust Springs. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 15, 2008
We did the full 15 mile hike and thought it definitely deserved a 5 - the climb up to Green Pond was a beast!  Rhodedendrun were in full bloom and the falls were wonderful.  Mosquitos were pretty abundant, and spending any time at Green Pond was asking to be eaten alive.  The loop of the hike from after the campsites on St. Mary's Trail leading up to Green Pond was pretty overgrown, but you weren't really in danger of losing your way.  Our group totally blew by the Bald Mountain Trail junction though - glanced at it, didn't see the trail, and kept moving.  Keep your eyes peeled if you don't want to exit the FS road on Blue Ridge Parkway and walk the last half mile along the Parkway.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 1, 2007

Whoa!   I've lived in SouthSide VA since 1999 and had often heard people talk about going to "the mountains" for the weekend.   If this is what they were talkin' about then rock on!!!  Camped for the weekend and enjoyed every moment!  Swam in the falls and the streams above.  Deadfall timber was scarce.  Relied heavily on "drift" wood.

Suffered one spider bite in a group of 6 in three days.   Zero mosquitoes AND ticks.   There were none. 

Top notch site.   Cannot wait to return.


By: B. Gordon Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 23, 2007
I had a great time hiking this trail with Tony and hooking up with Mike on the Fire Road who had just taken some photos of a Timber Rattler.  We couldn't have asked for a better day with temps in the upper 70's. Pay attention to the directions and look out for the Forestry Service side grade used to clear debris on FS162. We almost missed the unmarked trail that took us to the best views of the day, great place to eat lunch.  This is a very diverse hike with wide open areas, the pond at the top, creeks, thick Rhododendron Trails, fern trails, etc.  Certainly a worthwhile hike and it was interesting to see Tony map it out using his GPS.  It made me appreciate the time and effort Tony puts in to setting up these trails on the web for the rest of us to enjoy, thanks Tony.

By: Paul B. Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 22, 1993
Actually hiked and camped at St. Mary's many, many times over the years and planning a trip soon.
I've taken small and large groups there as well as a date... If you enjoy backcountry camping in the Blue Ridge,
you'll enjoy this trip. If it's July or August, expect it to be hot and buggy. In the early spring, the streams flow high and fast- by late summer most of the smaller streams go dry stay near the main stream and you'll have plenty of water.
Green Pond (if you can't tell by the photos) is just a bog that sometimes dries up- not terribly scenic. The main falls are nice and the wading is nice too (cold!). Hike up from the falls to the first old mine site and camp in the glen adjacent to the old drainage field. Go into the drainage field on a clear night and you can easily see the Milky Way.
I remember being there on a summer's night long ago and the sounds of the bugs at night- like crickets etc.- were amazing. Same site used to have a massive blackberry bush too.
Derek's comment about seeing no point to hiking the entire circuit is evidence of a person who has great expectations and is probably let down often. If you enjoy hiking, the loop is a nice one. And, if you know the right valley to hike down into (no trails), there could be some wonderful surprises in store for you. This is a great place to explore. Highly recommended.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 5, 1910

St. Mary's Falls

If you have not seen the falls do the hike.  It's about a two mile hike from the parking lot and a little hard in spots. There are good trails on both sides of  the water which you will have to cross to find the falls.  There are a few well used camping spots along the trail that which would be great for overnighters.  Once you see a few deep pools around 6 to 12 feet deep you are almost at the falls.  My kids had a great time swiming in these pools.  One had a very nice natural  slide.  You will get a little wet reaching the falls so be prepared.

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