Explore Virginia's Falling Spring Falls: Prize Of The Allegheny Highlands
Nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Highlands, an hour north of Virginia's famed Triple Crown route lies a fairly well hidden waterfall. Its roadside overlook is barely noticeable to travelers. Blink while driving along VA-220 and you'll miss it. The 80-foot plunge falls known as Falling Spring Falls may be the prize of the Allegheny Highlands, but few other than nearby residents know it even exists.
It was part of an 82-acre land grant from England's King George III in August 1771. In 1780, then Governor of Virginia Thomas Jefferson granted the land to Major Thomas Massie, a Revolutionary War soldier who a year later was present at the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown. The site was once visited by Jefferson to survey the falls and he mentions it in his manuscript "Notes on the State of Virginia" written in 1781. "The only remarkable cascade in this country is that of the Falling Spring in Augusta." While we know that not to be the case today we'll give the future president some slack.
I stumbled upon the falls when researching the area for a backpacking trip my father and I ended up taking one fall. We spent a weekend sectioning the Appalachian Trail and afterwards made the drive to the falls on our way home. The view from the paved walkway above the falls provided a great view, but we noticed a few people swimming in the emerald colored pools that gather downstream and decided to make our way down. There's no official path down to the falls, but starting from the left corner of the parking lot and scrambling down the steep, rocky ravine was how we found our way. Once at the bottom you can either walk behind the falls where the spray will completely soak you or take the fairly well defined, muddy trail to the area in the photo above. There are several small cascades below the main falls that empty into gorgeous pools just before Falling Spring Creek takes form again. They seem to be a fairly popular swimming spot even though signs suggest being off-limits.
The whole area below the falls can be a muddy mess and very slippery, so use caution if you venture down. Reaching the top of the falls is also doable with some minor bushwhacking. During periods of low flow you can stand at the top and peer over the edge if you're so inclined.
A few years after the trip we read that there may now be no trespassing signs at the top warning of fines for exploring, so do so at your own risk.