After hiking Fallingwater Cascades many times, we’re sharing why we think it’s a can’t miss hike and our tips for making the most of it.
Fallingwater Cascades is a two tiered picturesque waterfall near Peaks of Otter at milepost 83.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hike isn’t as flashy as nearby Apple Orchard Falls, but it’s short, easy and pretty and worth doing.
Peaks of Otter is one of the most popular places to visit on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Most people are familiar with Sharp Top and the path around Abbott Lake (many people call it Peaks of Otter Lake).
Fallingwater Cascades is one of the lesser visited hikes near Peaks of Otter. This is not because it’s a bad hike or a bad waterfall, that’s a ridiculous idea. The other places just overshadow it, which means Fallingwater Cascades is a great place to visit if you are looking for a bit of solitude and quiet.
Length: 1.3 miles
Elevation: 450 feet
Great For: Families, small children, and it’s dog friendly
Location: Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 83.1
When to Visit: Spring, Summer, and Fall, check for closures in the winter
How We Rate it: 3/5, this is an easy hike with a nice waterfall. Because it isn’t visited much you a can usually find some solitude.
1. Hike Fallingwater Cascades Clockwise
There are two parking options for Fallingwater Cascades. The first is the dedicated parking area at milepost 83.5. The second is to park at the Flat Top Trail parking area at milepost 83.5. You have to cross over the parkway to reach the trail if you park at Flat Top, both options are fine for Fallingwater.
The hike to the waterfall forms a loop and you can enjoy it in either direction but it’s more difficult counter clockwise. The trail to Fallingwater Cascades is part of a larger trail system which is great, but the intersections aren’t marked by signs which can be a bit confusing. If you go clockwise just stay to the right at the intersection near the creek.
In addition to the intersections, the other thing to consider is the elevation. While hiking the trail, you will go down then back up no matter which direction you choose. The counter clockwise direction requires the longest climb back out. It’s not necessarily steep, but you will be climbing for most of the hike.
Going clockwise allows you to avoid this long climb at the cost of a slightly more intense climb that is short. Most of your climb will be near the waterfall and you’ll want to stop halfway up the falls, more on that next.
2. Take the small spur path in the middle of the waterfall
There is a great view Fallingwater Cascades from the base of the waterfall. There are even some fun rocks to scramble on and around in Fallingwater Creek. From that point in the trail you climb up the trail eventually reaching the top of the falls.
Along the way there is a small path veering off to the right. If you follow it, you’ll reach the middle of the falls. There is a small overlook area and you can see the upper section of the falls from here.
From the bottom you can’t see the entire waterfall. The waterfall isn’t the thunderous powerful version so as long as you don’t try to get into it, you are completely safe viewing from this viewing area.
3. You can hike Fallingwater Cascades as part of an all day adventure
Fallingwater Cascades is a great hike but sometimes you want more. Adding the hike to Flat Top to your Fallingwater experience is a way to get the most out of your trip. Flat Top is a strenuous hike but one you will enjoy if escaping into nature is something you love.
There are a few different parking options for Fallingwater Cascades. We’ve already talked about the parking dedicated parking for Fallingwater Cascades and Flat Top. The final option is to access the trail from the Peaks of Otter picnic area.
Fallingwater Cascades and Flat Top are both part of the Fallingwater – Flat Top National Recreation Trail. Unless you have a second vehicle or a deep desire for long hikes I wouldn’t recommend starting from the picnic area and going to Fallingwater Cascades and back. It’s more than 10 miles doing it this way.
The best option is to park at the Flat Top parking area, heading up the Flat Top trail and then returning to your vehicle for a quick lunch. After lunch take the much shorter and easier hike to Fallingwater Cascades and back. You can still hike the trail as a loop and I would recommend doing so.
Fallingwater – Flat Top National Recreation Trail
Length: 7 miles
Elevation: 2000 feet
Great For: Avid hikers
Location: Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 83.1
When to Visit: Spring, Summer, Fall, avoid in winter
How We Rate It: 4.5/5, this is an adventure and one that you are unlikely to run into many people.
Overall Fallingwater Cascades is a great hike and doesn’t get the love that some of the other great hikes near Peaks of Otter do. Planning on visiting Peaks of Otter? Check out our guide to the Peaks of Otter to help you make the most of your visit.