Virginia’s Crabtree Falls Hike

A second hike!  Eee!  This comes just seven days after my first one which left me in the wilderness seriously contemplating my survival skills.  Despite my lack of hiking ability then, I was still eager for the next trail.  If you know me, you know I am a crazed overachiever, and that’s said lightly.  You’ll also know any new activity I undertake becomes an immediate obsession.  With that mindset, I set a loose and lofty goal of going on at least two hikes every month.  While I am beyond excited at this thought, I am also nervous that I may not be able to find hiking buddies for each trek.  I even prepared for this earlier by asking Vinayak (you’ll remember my athletic hiker from Hike One) about how safe it is for a female to go solo.  He recommended me not . . . well, at least not on new trails, which I tend to agree with because at one point during our hike together I thought we were lost on the only visible trail there was.  I even told Vinayak, “It’s a good thing I’m following you because I personally think we are lost.  All of these trees and ferns and mushrooms look the same.”  He turned back to smile at me but kept walking in expert hiker-fashion.  (PS–I didn’t put that in my last post because I figured I had already embarrassed myself enough.)  Anyway, this was a new day and a new hike and new hiker friends, which I was lucky to meet because that meant I didn’t have to see the day that I was indeed lost in the wildness on my own, unable to read the compass I have in my pack.  Like my first hike, I didn’t know these three hikers either but turns out we are all neighbors and we all wanted to take a venture to Crabtree Falls.

Without further ado, here’s the information on George Washington National Forest’s Crabtree Falls trail:

  • Almost four miles total from start to finish
  • There’s a little less than a 1,400 foot elevation
  • Rated a Level Two of Five difficulty

Crabtree consists of lower and upper falls.  Not only that, but this hike connects to the Appalachian Trail (which, side note, is at the top of my bucket list: I’ve read the A.T. is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.  It runs from Maine to Georgia and is a little less than 2,200 miles.  However when compared to the other two U.S. long-distance trails, it has the highest elevation of 515,000 feet).  Anyway, on the Crabtree Falls trail, you have the ability to go on a thru hike to The Priest or Spy Rock.  That’s a little crazier though for my only second hike, and you’ll see why.  Here’s the information on that Crabtree and Spy Rock trail:

  • Almost fourteen miles total from start to finish
  • There’s a little more than a 3,600 foot elevation
  • Rated a Level Four of Five difficulty

I obviously am not ready for this yet, but I do hope to hike the entire Crabtree and Spy Rock trail soon.  Oh, speaking of hoping to do something, I am not the only one excited to hike.  My kitten Lysander was also ready and, per usual, hopped in my pack.

Ly in hiking bag
That look you see in his eyes is him saying, “Don’t pretend.  I’m obviously going with you because I am obviously ready.  I don’t play games, and I’m tired of yours, mom.”  He can be a little pretentious at times.

Back to Crabtree: We arrived at the George Washington National Forest ready to go.

Pst-They are my new hiker friends!

This time, I asked if they minded if I stopped every once in awhile to take pictures, and they were very supportive.  In fact, so supportive that I walked away with 210 pictures total (though the majority was just shots where I am trying to get my light right).  Still, knowing they were happy with me taking pictures made me feel calmer because if it came to me open-mouth pant/gasping again, I could completely pull out my camera as an excuse to pause on the trail.  Spoiler: All pictures taken were because I was actually calm and breathing normally and enjoying myself.  Guess what else?!  I didn’t open mouth-pant at all.  I know — It’s true! Guuuys, I may be becoming a real hiker!

Okay, so real hikers talk about the trails: This trail was different than what I expected.  It could be pretty steep at times before it leveled off for awhile.  Not only that, but the actual trail was wider than my last one; in fact, sometimes all four of us walked side-by-side with room to spare.  Still, what was most surprising was how the trail was made.  Sometimes it had actual constructed stairs and built platforms so you could get a closer look at the falls (which was important because there were warning signs everywhere not to stray off the path towards the falls because at least thirty people had already died doing that).  Other times though, the trail was smooth with just dirt and fallen leaves . . . then there would be some rocks . . . and next it would be full of thick roots . . . and in another second, you’d be walking over several feet of large rocks.
Image-1Not only that, but we traveled past large boulders then only trees . . .

This shows some of the larger rocks there.

Overall, this type of trail variation was exciting.  Another thing I liked was that you immediately saw waterfalls . . .

Part of the lower falls

. . . and you follow these falls all the way up.

I learned the falls come from Crabtree Meadows.
It is actually a series of waterfalls that drop 1,080 feet though hanging valleys which are supposedly rare for this area.
Our first main waterfall . . .

Me, Vaishali, Usua, and Sam

As you start to move up, you get a better view of the mountains too which is exciting.  Any time you can mix water with mountains, I’m in.IMG_0046

Here’s an example of a platform that was built to get a better look at the falls which are flowing right below our feet.
You can better see the falls here.


The sound of water added an even more peacefulness of the trail.  We saw some pretty plants and even a few snakes . . .
Image-5Image-2Speaking of plants, fun fact: Sam taught me that fungi and algae have life spans of fifty to 4,500 years!

Fungi provide nutrients to algae.  This is more moss on a large rock, but algae were on the rocks closer to the water.  That’s why a lot of people slip and fall to their deaths.
A large millipede
This is a looking up to the upper falls, which is much larger than this picture portrays.

Once we got to these upper falls, the view was beautiful . . .IMG_0152

Made it!

At the top, there were also pretty butterflies . . .
Image-7and they kept landing on us which was really neat . . .
Image-8Not only did we find friendly butterflies, but we also found unfriendly snakes.  Well, they actually aren’t ‘unfriendly.’  When we entered the forest, I saw a flier about Northern Water Snakes, which are common for the area, so I think that’s what they were.  In fact, they can grown pretty large (almost five feet long).  The good news is as long as you leave them alone, they should leave you alone.  They are also not venomous but normally mistaken for their scary brothers like Cottonmouths or Water Moccasins and Copperheads.

It takes a little bit of time to see it, but this snake is pretty thick.  Also, someone estimated it was about four feet long.
This one was smaller.  The same person estimated him to be about two feet long.  This snake quickly slithered away when more people came.

After we got to the top, we were all wanting more of a hike.  (ME!  More of a hike!!!)  Again, with all the platforms encouraging you to stop and take pictures, I hadn’t open-mouthed panted or felt that I was dying so I was all for more!  I almost wanted to tell my group, “Do you want to try going to Spy Rock?” but I felt it better to end on a high note than push myself about fourteen more miles on a crazy high elevation hike before realizing I’m not a true hiker and then being heartbroken.  Still, we wanted something more so we decided to keep going up the trail (towards Spy Rock) to Crabtree Meadows, where the falls flow from.  This is a campground site and only about a mile away.

There wasn’t much to see.  We were hoping for a view, but it was as advertised: a campground.

After the hike, Vaishali recommended earlier going to a nearby lake, Lake Sherando.  I’m so happy we did because not only was it beautiful, but getting in the water after a hike was probably the highlight of the day.

There were so many people here, mainly kids.  This picture did not do it justice.  It was like a-holiday-at-Virginia-Beach crowded.
There was a little island you could swim to, but my legs were excited for relaxation so I just floated in the water.

What was most beautiful was the area though — I haven’t seen lakes tucked into mountains this steep.IMG_0199
After swimming, we all relaxed on our towels . . .
then Usua and I leaned back and looked up at the sky while Vaishali and Sam played badminton.

Overall, this was an awesome hike. It was a beautiful day with a gentle breeze and never got too hot.  More importantly, I felt special to have new hiker friends and be a part of such a diversified group (Vaishali and Sam are from India and Usua is from Spain).
I also was proud of myself — Combining the Crabtree hike with the additional trail up to Crabtree Meadows, it was an almost six mile trip with the elevation about one hundred feet shy of my first hike with Vinayak.  Being that I didn’t contemplate how long I would survive, this hike was a dramatic improvement from my first.  I’m wondering how much had to do with that particular Level Three hike or how much of it had to do with the fact that I hadn’t really been hiking.  Oh!  I almost forgot the best best part — When I woke up the next day, I didn’t have the slightest sore muscle!  That alone is a complete win!  Here’s to the next trail . . . !

Author: L

Hi there! I am the impulsive do-er, the jumper, the one tugging to move past comfort zones to embrace a life of sheer surprise. I am a writer -- a pursuer of stories -- because I believe in the destination over the journey. I am a chaser of sunrises and sunsets and cherisher of the moments between. I have an overwhelming curiosity, an insatiable desire travel, and an obsessive yearn to turn dreams into realities. For all of these reasons, the word that best summarizes who I am is "seeker" -- I am forever a seeker.

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