Water in the fall

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October 17th 2008
Published: December 22nd 2011
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Lower Crabtree FallsLower Crabtree FallsLower Crabtree Falls

Lowest and most accessible of the Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls

This day it was raining in earnest.

When its pouring and I have a hike planned, there is only one thing to do: visit waterfalls.

The first of them was the Crabtree Falls.

Note the plural, because this is actually a series of waterfalls located one after the other in a steep ravine in the Tye River valley.

There are six big waterfalls and nearly a hundred smaller ones.

The top waterfall, Upper Crabtree Falls, is over 250 ft high, which makes it the tallest waterfall in Virginia.

If all the waterfalls are collectively counted as one giant cascading waterfall (which many people do because of their close proximity) you get a 1100+ ft waterfall, the tallest east of the Mississippi.

One of the truisms of waterfall hiking is that any trail next to a tall waterfall has to climb the same distance the waterfall falls.

I certainly felt it on this hike!

The first waterfall is easy; it’s located near the parking lot and a paved trail goes to the waterfall.

After that, though, it takes work to see the rest.

The trail is a series of
Beautiful fog on the Blue Ridge ParkwayBeautiful fog on the Blue Ridge ParkwayBeautiful fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I saw this view driving to Crabtree Falls
rocky switchbacks, with overlooks over the waterfall at each bend.

All of them show sheets of water falling over steep rock faces.

Particularly steep sections are done on wooden ladders.

The boulder cave appears two thirds of the way up.

This is a large boulder that fell from the mountain and split in two when it landed.

If one can handle the risk of rocks falling on their head, it’s possible to scramble all the way through the crack and rejoin the main trail.

The upper sections of the ravine contain patches of old growth forest.

They are here because the difficult terrain made the trees almost impossible to log.

I personally consider the sight of these trees nearly as majestic as the waterfall.

After much work, the trail reaches the top of the waterfall.

There is not much of a view of the waterfall here, because the stream slides over a tilted ledge before falling over the lip.

What IS here is an overlook with a view of the valley and the ravine the trail just climbed.

From here, it’s easy to appreciate that
Third Crabtree FallsThird Crabtree FallsThird Crabtree Falls

A rocky hike gives a view of this drop, one of many. Note the glorious foliage in the background
the height of the full cascades is nearly the same as the height of the mountain the stream falls from!

It’s possible to follow the stream even further, to the crab tree orchard that gave the waterfall its name, but I turned around at this point.

The waterfall trail is very popular.

Keeping it maintained properly is difficult.

The Forest Service responded to this by instating a parking fee, with the funds used for trail maintenance.

It’s mostly voluntary, because there is no ranger on duty, but everyone I saw had paid.

Crabtree Falls also has a history of tragedy.

Many people tried climbing on the rocks near sections of the waterfall to get a better view.

They discover too late that the rocks are covered with slippery algae, and then fall, sometimes to their death.

There are now signs warning of the hazard in many places along the trail.

On the way in, there is a footbridge crossing the Tye River next to the highway.

How it got there is one of Crabtree Fall's unusual stories.

Originally, people visiting the waterfall parked
The Crabtree Boulder CaveThe Crabtree Boulder CaveThe Crabtree Boulder Cave

One can scramble all the way through this split boulder
along the highway.

Reaching the trail required fording the Tye River.

The Forest Service installed the bridge to make things safer.

This particular bridge was fabricated in a factory, driven to the site on a flatbed truck, and the lifted into place with a crane.

It’s a beautiful bridge, especially in fall with the foliage behind it.

Ultimately, the opening of the new parking area made the bridge unnecessary, and it just sits there in the woods.

Falling Springs Falls

After the visit to Crabtree Falls was the drive to the New River Gorge.

It was a long haul along Interstate 64 West, with the main objective putting on the miles.

I still noticed how pretty the roadside was, as it passes through mountains covered in foliage.

Just before I left Virginia, I pulled off to visit Falling Springs Falls.

It’s located along the side of US 220, about 20 minutes north of the interstate.

Getting there requires passing a huge paper-mill, which near dark looked like a vision of hell.

The waterfall is called "Falling Spring" because the source is a spring located upstream
Upper Crabtree FallsUpper Crabtree FallsUpper Crabtree Falls

The highest, and tallest of the Crabtree Falls
from the waterfall.

The water contains dissolved limestone, which precipitates from the water at the base of the falls, creating eerie formations.

The waterfall falls away from the cliff face instead of along it.

It falls over an overhang, creating a mist of spay.

Many of the pictures of this waterfall that you see in books are taken from the base.

Getting there requires a steep rock scramble along a drainage ditch from the parking area.

This is a very unofficial trail, to say the least.

It was getting dark, so I did not attempt it.

Midlands Trail Highway

After Falling Springs Falls, I entered West Virginia.

If you are not used to mountain driving, West Virginia roads will drive you nuts.

As a rule, they are narrow, steep, and filled with curves.

These curves are not marked on most maps, so what appears to be a short distance is often twice that!

Many of the side roads are only one lane wide.

When people need to pass, both pull into the drainage ditches next to the road and crawl past each other.

The route to the Gorge went along US 60, the Midlands Trail.

This is one of West Virginia's oldest and most scenic routes.

Pity it was dark by that point, so I couldn't see any of the scenery.

One stretch that I had to take goes over a mountain ridge.

It does so by a series of switchbacks.

Many of the curves are so tight, locals swear they can see their own taillights!

I never did that, but my brakes got quite a workout.

I was very glad I had a shiftable transmission during this stretch.

Soon enough, I arrived in Fayetteville and crashed for the night.

The next day was going to start really early at 6 AM!

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Crabtree Falls trailheadCrabtree Falls trailhead
Crabtree Falls trailhead

Glorious foliage at the start of the trail along Crabtree Falls
Lower and Second Crabtree FallsLower and Second Crabtree Falls
Lower and Second Crabtree Falls

Lower Crabtree falls, with the second falls visible in the distance
Second Crabtree Falls topSecond Crabtree Falls top
Second Crabtree Falls top

Top of Second Crabtree Falls, surrounded by glorious foliage
Falls stairsFalls stairs
Falls stairs

Climbing stairs along the Crabtree Falls Trail
Cascades and FoliageCascades and Foliage
Cascades and Foliage

A small sample of the smaller cascades along Crabtree Falls, surrounded by foliage
Third Crabtree FallsThird Crabtree Falls
Third Crabtree Falls

Third Crabtree Falls in profile
Fourth Crabtree FallsFourth Crabtree Falls
Fourth Crabtree Falls

Falls and more glorious foliage
Fourth Crabtree FallsFourth Crabtree Falls
Fourth Crabtree Falls

Another view of this long sliding drop surrounded by foliage
Crabtree LookoutCrabtree Lookout
Crabtree Lookout

Viewpoint of the Tye River Valley in full foliage, at the top of the upper drop of Crabtree Falls
Tye RiverTye River
Tye River

Picnic area along the river surrounded by glorious foliage
Crabtree Falls bridgeCrabtree Falls bridge
Crabtree Falls bridge

The bridge used before the current parking area was built, an engineering marvel

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