I’ve been itching to get out and hike ever since I moved to “The ‘Burg” a couple weeks ago, so I decided early yesterday morning that I’d join my girlfriend and a few of her friends on a day trip to Shenandoah. The weather report said it might rain, but luckily it held off!
We started by entering the park at Swift Run Gap, parking slightly north of the entrance at the South River Overlook, and descending into the forest via an old fire road. (Afterward, we found out that most people start at the campground, so we were really doing the hike somewhat in reverse, but I suppose it didn’t matter all that much.)
We quickly crossed over the AT, and after another mile and a half or so of steady downhill walking, we came upon the walled overlook for the falls. After taking in the views for a few moments and chatting with some other hikers, we decided to continue to the base off the falls, which is half a mile down from the overlook.
The trail to the base of the falls is somewhat misleading though, since it actually just ends when it meets the stream. There’s another (very rocky) trail you’ll need to follow for about a tenth of a mile to reach the actual falls. Be careful here too, as the rocks are slippery.
Reaching the base of the falls is definitely the payoff on this hike. Even though the amount of water flowing over the falls was relatively low on our trip, it was an awesome view. :)
After some careful rock-hopping, you can even stand in the middle of the stream!
With all the points of interest behind us, the trek back uphill to Skyline Drive was the most tedious section of the hike. What’s more, we didn’t realize at the time that the trail actually looped past the overlook and returned to the South River Campground, so we ended up taking the same old fire road all the way back uphill as well.
Fortunately everyone was in good shape, so we made it back to the top pretty quickly.
All in all, South River Falls was a perfect destination for our first hike in the area: not too hard, not too easy, and full of beautiful nature. I’ll definitely go back again at some point, but I have two quick recommendations for future hikers:
- Do the hike on a weekday for a bit more solitude. Since it’s so close to the Swift Run Gap entrance, there can be quite a few other hikers on the trail on the weekends.
- Wait until after a decent rain so the falls and stream are a little bit more dramatic.
I’m looking forward to more hikes in the near future, so stay tuned for posts on those!