There are numerous hikes that start off Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. From summit hikes to wilderness treks and trails leading to impressive waterfalls, this fantastic national park offers visitors a wide range of hiking options. If you have trouble choosing a hike, I can recommend the South River Falls Trail.
South River Falls Trail, Shenandoah National Park
Falling 83 feet from a cliff in Shenandoah National Park’s central district, South River Falls is the third-largest waterfall in the park. The trailhead lies on milepost 62.8, just north of the Swift Run Gap entrance station. The trail starts at the South River picnic grounds, just to the right of the water fountain.
This is an out-and-back hike. Running downhill for 2.2 miles, the way back is on the same trail. (There are some options to make it a loop hike, though.) The trail descends gradually at first, before you hit a series of switchbacks. After approximately 1 mile, the South River Falls Trail drops into a narrow wooded valley. This enchanting place is made up of tall trees, moss-covered boulders and a small, bubbling river. Another 0.3 miles ahead, you can catch the first glimpse of the waterfalls from an overlook.
While some people turn back there, it is absolutely recommended to continue down to the base of the waterfall. The South River Falls Trail connects with another trail just past the overlook, after which it widens. After swinging right sharply, you will eventually arrive at a cement marker. While it looks like the wide trail ends there, you can keep going on a narrow rocky trail for about 0.1 miles to get to the waterfall’s base.
The South River Falls Trail ends at the base of South River Falls, the final destination of this wonderful hike. Take the same way back to the trailhead.
The total hiking distance of the South River Falls Trail is 4.4 miles. Timewise, it will take 45-60 minutes to get to the waterfall and 60-75 minutes to hike back up to the trailhead. Also, when planning the hike, make sure to allow for some time to actually enjoy the waterfall. It can be quite spectacular at times.