Cascades Falls in Virginia is one of the best waterfall hikes in the entire state. You may have seen pictures or even visited this amazing 66 foot waterfall, but we’re sharing the insider scoop including the best trail to take, how to beat the crowds, and how to find a secret second waterfall.
We’ve been to the Cascades Falls in Pembroke, Virginia many, many times. Recently we decided to go back and visit the upper falls and we were blown away!
Before we get to that tip and a few others here are a few frequently asked questions that you may also have.
How long is the hike to Cascades Falls?
The round trip hike is 3.8 miles to Cascades Falls or 4.8 miles if you do both Cascades Falls and the upper falls.
Can you swim at Cascades Falls?
There are signs that caution against swimming at the Cascades Falls because of the undertow, however, you can wade into the water safely.
Is the trail to the Cascades Falls kid friendly?
Children should be able to complete the hike to the Cascades Falls with frequent breaks. If you are bringing very young children, consider bringing a child-carrying backpack.
Can you take a stroller on the Cascades Falls trail?
I would not. Using a stroller on the upper Conservancy Trail is difficult because it is steep and rocky. Using a stroller on the lower hiking trail is impossible because of the many steps and narrow areas.
Is there a restroom at the Cascades Falls trail?
Yes, there is a large restroom with flushing toilets at the trailhead.
Is there a fee for Cascades Falls?
Yes, there is a $3 per vehicle fee that must be paid with cash.
Length: 3.8 miles or 4.8 miles Elevation: 700 – 800 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Great For: Photography, family hikes, getting in the water *
Location: Pembroke, Virginia
When to Visit: All seasons are great
How We Rate It: 5/5, really a 6/5, it’s soooo good if you take the right route
* Swimming is not recommended near the waterfall but wading in the shallows is safe.
These are our tips for having the best possible experience hiking at the Cascades Falls.
1. Take the lower trail to the Cascades Falls
There are two options to reach the Cascades Falls. One is the Conservancy Trail and the other is a more traditional hiking path along the creek.
The Conservancy Trail is a wide rocky trail that heads straight toward the waterfall.
The problem with taking the Conservancy Trail to the Cascades Falls is that you miss a lot of the most beautiful parts of the hike including all the amazing small waterfalls along the creek.
The creekside trail has several bridges that cross over the creek, a few shores for kids to play in the water, and beautiful scenery at every turn.
And when you reach the Cascades Falls, it feels like you have stumbled across a secret waterfall in the woods.
The Conservancy Trail is great to take on the way back after seeing the waterfall, because you have a mostly gentle slope down but it’s not fun on the way up.
Both trails go to the Cascades Falls and if you start on one of them and decide you want to switch over to the other, you can around the 1 mile mark with a short access trail.
2. Cascades Waterfall is only one of many on the hike
The 66 foot waterfall is amazing and the main reason you should hike the Cascades National Recreation Trail, but there are several waterfalls along the way you don’t want to miss.
If you are still considering taking the Conservancy Trail up and back, this should convince you otherwise. Here are some of the awesome waterfalls you can see along the way.
3. There is another incredible waterfall after Cascades Falls
Yep, you read that right. The second upper falls is about 20 feet tall and close to 40 feet wide.
Even better, most people don’t know about it, so you’re likely to have it all to yourself.
The main waterfall is amazing; if you hike to the main waterfall and don’t continue on to the upper falls, you will still have an amazing experience.
Cascades Falls is a 5/5 hike for so many reasons on it’s own, but adding the short extra hike to the upper falls really enhances this already exceptional trail.
How to get to the upper falls
To reach the upper falls from the viewing platform at the Cascades Falls, head up the stairs at the rear of the platform. The stairs split, going right takes you to an upper viewing platform for the Cascades waterfall. Going left takes you to the Conservancy Trail.
The walk up the stairs to the Conservancy Trail is steep but short. From the top of the stairs, head to your right.
You will walk about half a mile before there is a fork in the trail. Head right and you will descend to the creek and the upper falls will be to your right.
You will be standing on the upper edge of the waterfall. There is a narrow path through the rhododendrons that leads to a small rocky area where you can more easily view the waterfall.
The left fork leads to a calm section along the stream and is the best spot for a snack on the whole trail.
4. The Best Time to Hike at Cascades Falls
Late spring and summer weekends are crowded at the Cascades Falls. By 11 a.m. parking can be an issue.
For those of you allergic to crowding on trails, here’s what you need to know:
- Plan on getting to the trailhead by no later than 9 a.m. on weekends April – September.
- Go during midweek if at all possible.
- Rainy days scare aware fair-weather hikers, but can make for beautiful hiking.
If you can go early in the day on a weekday, you may even have the waterfall all to yourself. Cascades Falls is good enough to take a day off of work so you can have it to yourself.
5. Go in Late May to Early June for the Rhododendron Bloom
One of the best things about late spring and early summer in the Blue Ridge is the rhododendron bloom. Many of our mountains are covered with the beautiful plants. The creekside trail to the Cascades Falls is no different.
The trail is lined with rhododendron and makes the beautiful hike simply incredible.
6. Cascades Falls is even more beautiful when frozen
In winter many people skip out on hiking. If that’s you, I get it, it’s cold and the trees are barren. You might consider going to the Cascades Falls though.
The waterfall is always beautiful and always worth visiting, but in winter if it’s cold enough, the waterfall freezes.
If you’ve never seen a frozen waterfall, it’s stunning. Not only because of the striking icy formations, but also because of the eerie silence. Normally the Cascades Falls is a thundering waterfall; when it’s frozen all you hear is the trickling creek.
To catch a frozen Cascades waterfall, it will need to have been very cold for several days. As unpleasant as multiple days in the low teens can be, this is what you need in order to see the frozen falls. There is a short YouTube video that someone made capturing the frozen falls.
And we have a whole list of other great winter hikes if you’re hoping to become more of a year-round hiker.
The Cascades Falls is an incredible hike and a mandatory experience if you love waterfalls. After visiting the Cascades Falls again and making our way to the upper falls I’m having a hard time thinking of a better waterfall hiking experience in Virginia. Crabtree Falls is the only other one that comes close. You’re going to love the Cascades Falls.