(Thanks to VirginiaTrailGuide.com for all the pics in this entry.)
Right now it doesn’t exactly feel like waterfall hunting weather. But it will again soon, I promise. And when it does, you need to be ready. A couple of weeks ago, I featured a road trip to Nottoway Falls, an entry in my 2015 book — Hiking Waterfalls in Virginia – A Guide to the State’s Best Waterfall Hikes. That one is only about an hour from Richmond. Today’s entry is further afield — in the northern part of the Central district of Shenandoah National Park — but it has a little bit of everything and is totally worth the drive.
Taking in the beauty of Hazel Falls. Note the caves to the side of the falls. (Credit: VirginiaTrailGuide.com)
Hazel Falls isn’t one of Shenandoah’s most well known waterfall hikes — that title probably goes to Whiteoak Canyon — but it should be. In addition to the respectable 20-foot drop on Hazel River, you’ll find a moderate/strenuous, 5.1-mile hike; a gorgeous swimming hole at the bottom; and a broad, deep cave behind and next to the falls. What’s not to like, right?
Ok, so I’ve sold you. Here are the directions to the Hazel Mountain Overlook, which is just north of Hazel Mountain Trailhead, where the hike begins. Like most hikes in SNP that start on Skyline Drive, this one is a relatively simple down the mountain and back up, about 2.5ish miles each way. But if you’re the kind of person that could get lost in Costco, here are the miles and directions:
0.0 Miles: Begin hiking on the Hazel Mountain Trail (the concrete post at the trailhead calls it the Hazel Mountain “Road.”); 0.4: Buck Ridge Trail forks off to the left. Stay on Hazel Mountain Trail; 1.6: Go left onto the White Rocks Trail; 2.4: Turn right onto the Cave and Falls Trail; 2.5ish: Arrive at Hazel Falls.
Back in 2014, when I did the hike, it took me about 2.5 hours. But with the swimming hole and the cave to explore, I recommend taking a lunch and hanging out by the falls for as long as you can. You will not regret it!
The swimming hole at Hazel Falls is surprisingly deep. (Credit: VirginiaTrailGuide.com)