Vien R. Guenther
Crab Tree Falls - Virginia, U.S.A.
Updated: Jan 8
After visiting Monticello and Williamsburg, we decided it's time to commune with nature, including a couple of good hikes, and even take advantage of visiting some of the many wineries, breweries and distilleries for which central Virginia has become well known. Farming has been one of the main industries in Virginia since the first settlers arrived in the area, so raw products for making spirits are plenty. My sister-in-law took us to several including the Bold Rock Cidery & Tap Room, the Virginia Distillery Company and the Devils Backbone Brewing Company. We even sampled some of their products - at least everyone but me.
After visiting some of these place near the city of Lynchburg, the next two days were devoted to sampling some of the local hiking trails in the area. Since Lynchburg, where we stayed for several nights, is right at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is no shortage of beautiful terrain to explore on foot. If you like hiking like we do, and you happen to be in this part of the state, there are two places that you might want to visit: Crab Tree Falls with great waterfalls and Sharp Top Mountain with incredible 360-degree views. There are plenty hiking trails but these two are among the most popular.
CRAB TREE FALLS – George Washington National Forest
Crab Tree Falls, located in Nelson County, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Virginia. It has a series of five major and several smaller waterfalls, cascading down a steep gorge towards the Tye River. The waterfalls plunge a total of 1,080 feet, the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River.
The first overlook is a short walk from the upper parking lot. For non-hikers, that is good enough to get some great shots of (or selfies with) the lowest of the waterfalls. But for more serious hikers, the trail continues for about 3.5 miles.
There are four more overlooks up high which offer spectacular views of the falls and the vistas over the Tye River Valley, which was named after Allen Tye, who explored the Blue Ridge Mountains and discovered the Tye River. From the top of the falls, the trail follows the Crab Tree Creek from the upper falls for another 1.4 miles, but we didn't go that far.
The trail is short (at least for us), but quite steep and rocky in some parts with a series of many steps in some areas. You definitely need a pair of hiking boots, though we managed without since we left ours at home. Though the weather was just about perfect, there was still plenty of water flowing, an indication that this part of the country receives plenty of rain.
The trail is within sight of the waterfalls most of the way. So we got many photo ops! Going beyond the designated trail is irresistible, but we stayed on the trail. Many people have died at these falls most probably for wanting to get that exceptional shot of the falls. Those boulders are wet and covered with moss, making them extremely slippery. It's not worth risking your life to get that shot you were aiming for. Yet lots of people will take the risk.
You will lose sight of the waterfalls at some points along the trail, but don't worry, you will be rewarded with beautiful views at every turn of the trail before you reach the top. It was really stunning with the autumn colors of the trees, though they were not at their peak when we were there.
In national parks, dogs are not allowed on trails, but since this is in the National Forest they are permitted on this trail. Definitely a popular hiking trail for dog lovers, including my sister-in-law. Boy! I can't believe how many dogs we met on this hike.
At the viewing point above the top-most waterfall, there is a bench to rest on and have some snacks while looking at the panoramic view of the mountains. Hermann and I have hiked in many places, here in the United States and abroad, but every trail and every view is different.
Here, the mountains are dense with trees - if only the autumn colors had been at their peak. Even so, it was a beautiful hike and a crisp and sunny day. The waterfalls are definitely the highlight of the trail. There were quite a few hikers, but it was not as crowded as we expected, considering it is a popular hike. After all, it was a weekday.
The next day we hiked the Sharp Top Mountain, one of the three mountain peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains called the Peaks of Otter.