A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices

Hiking the Highlands

The Cascades of Appalachia

By Joe Tennis
images/voice_uploads/IMG_4236_.gif">You can’t help but fall in love with The Cascades - or that special person who accompanied you on the two-mile hike getting there.

The natural beauty of Little Stony Creek is so terrifically tantalizing that even folks who don’t like to hike will want to make this journey.

First, there’s the music. It’s a symphony, played by the rushing waters of Little Stony Creek, slapping the sides of gray boulders and swirling into tiny pools.

And then?

Welcome to the waterfall.

The Cascades is a 66-foot beauty that folks have been photographing for more than a century.

In the late 1800s, tourists roaming the New River Valley - especially ones going to the nearby hotel at Mountain Lake - called the attraction “Little Stony Falls.” At that time, visitors reached the remote waterfall by wagon and, then, by walking.

Today, the Cascades are part of the Jefferson National Forest.

Located near Pembroke, the falls drop like a bridal veil and fan into a pool perfect for taking a dip.

The Cascades look like a beautiful painting come to life. The waterfall makes a large midair drop. Then it splashes and spreads, fanning into a dazzling display on a sloping rock wall. Evergreens fragrance the ultra-clean air, dampened by light mist.

This landmark could hardly disappoint any waterfall seeker, any hiker - or any photographer, beginner to pro.

Hikers, actually, have a choice to get there with two trails running through the woods. Both originate from the parking lot of the Cascades Recreation Area.

The easy road follows a Jeep trail running along a ridge overlooking Little Stony Creek. This is an easy-to-follow path with a few moderate elevation climbs. But, it is not nearly as scenic as another well-developed hiking trail leading upstream and following close to the edge of the creek.

In places, the lower trail crosses the creek on wooden footbridges made of hand-hewn logs. The creek-side path also passes countless water ruffles, chutes and whirlpools on sometimes slippery moss-covered boulders.

Be careful, it is easy to burn up a whole roll of film - simply taking pictures of the creek before making it to the star attraction.

Crowds at the Cascades can be common on weekends. The falls are popular with students at local colleges, young lovers and families.

A wooden platform, overlooking the falls, provides a natural spot to click a camera - or steal a kiss.

It’s been said that hiking to The Cascades is a ritual for all Virginia Tech students at nearby Blacksburg.

Still, it should also be required that all Virginia lovers see these shiny waters.

It’s a given they’ll want to return again and again.

Joe Tennis is the author of “Southwest Virginia Crossroads: An Almanac of Place Names and Places to See” (The Overmountain Press).




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