Grab your backpack, sneakers or hiking boots, water bottle and camera because we are going hiking. One of the most beautiful adventures in the New River Valley, I now know, is to hike to Cascade Falls. It is a great activity for nature lovers, fitness lovers, social lovers and family lovers. After all, Virginia is for Lovers, right?
According to the Giles County website (2014), Cascade Falls gets about 150,000 visitors a year. With stunning scenery, shaded trails and a picture perfect ending, there is little doubt that every one of those 150,000 people enjoyed themselves.
I set out on my adventure without a clue as to what I was going to experience. I didn’t Google image the falls or read on the website what it entailed. I wanted to view everything from a fresh eye and my own perspective. I began the hike by taking the lower trail from the entry toward the falls. This two-mile hike is where your camera is going to be very useful.
Whether you have a hand-held camera, DSLR or use a camera phone, the pictures will turn out immaculate regardless of which you use because of the scenery. The first mile is the easiest, with mostly a flat hike and some gentle up hills and down hills. Following Little Stony Creek upstream on a stone path set into the ground leads the way, and the views get better and better with every step. The creek has a gentle flow between moss covered rocks and enough power to give you the sound of running water. Four bridges along the way are made to look as if created by Mother Nature herself. I recommend stopping on the first bridge, looking over and pausing. The parking lot is out of sight, and you can’t yet hear the falls. All you can see is the creek, the trail and nature. And it is lovely.
After crossing another bridge, you come to a fork. Going left takes you back to the trailhead and bearing right continues to the Cascades. Get ready, this is your workout. The second mile of the lower trail goes uphill the majority of the way, and the scenery becomes increasingly more appealing to the eye the farther you go. You won’t want to stop. I found this part of the hike the most worth it. Not only do you continue to parallel the creek as you hike on, but take time to enjoy the man-made stairways that take you upward. These steep, skinny stairs are made of stone that now have grass peeping through cracks and moss growing up the risers and on some steps. It almost reminded me of being in the rainforest of Oahu, Hawaii. Forest noises, cool air and a slight mist you feel as you get closer is calming as it carries you far from the hustle and bustle of daily life that you left behind at the parking lot.
As you head up the last hill, the grand prize right comes into view. You have arrived at the breathtaking, 69-foot Cascade Falls. Get out your camera again because it is time to take 100 pictures and post to social media or send to family and friends to show that you conquered the woodland trail along Little Stony Creek. You will have to wait until you get back to the parking lot because there is no service here. Isn’t that kind of nice? You are here to spend some time connecting with nature instead of Facebook.
I say take at least 30 minutes and just sit down and enjoy what is going on. Let the kids go swimming in the pool below the waterfall, or take your shoes and socks off and wade in yourself. You have to cool down some way after hiking two miles, mostly up hill.
Take the upper trail for the trip back down. It is the old logging road that will allow you to view the creek and lower trail from a different perspective. About half way down the upper trail there is a rock sticking out of the ground. Go take a picture under it! I think it is one of the cooler pieces of nature that you will see on the way back. Other than that, the upper trail is just an easy-going downhill hike, and you will be back at the parking lot in half the time it took to get up there.
From what I hear, this is nearly as popular in fall and spring as summer and a neat winter wonderland walk. I guess I’ll have to discover that for myself, too. Make that visitor count now 150,000 + 1.
Justin Ashwell is a transfer student to Virginia Tech starting in the fall semester. He is writing for New River Valley Magazine and Social Scene Magazine, where he also serves as social media marketing manager.