You know that Crabtree Falls drops more 1,200 feet over five major cascades and several smaller ones — the placard at the trailhead tells you as much. Yet you’re still amazed at how the falls keeps revealing more and more of itself as you continue to climb: past the 0.1-mile marker, the 0.2-mile marker, the 0.3-mile marker … . Yes, the climb is so relentless that the George Washington National Forest folks feel compelled to keep you updated every tenth of a mile on your progress.

Frankly, though, you’re so in awe of this never-ending miracle of nature that you pay scant attention to the markers as, switchback after switchback, you keep tabs on the falls’ progress. The trail is well-designed, with switchbacks to ease the climb and handrails in the harrier spots, and offers frequent observation decks where you can pause and marvel.

When you do finally reach the 1.7-mile mark and the top of Upper Falls, decking crosses the stream (which is surprisingly small), allowing you to stand on the precipice and get a sense of what an unsuspecting trout is in for.

And the trail doesn’t end here. You can hike another 1.3 miles to Crabtree Meadows, another half mile or so beyond that to the Appalachian Trail.

There’s a $3 day use fee, probably the most entertaining $3 investment you’ll make all year.

More info:

Getting there: From Charlottesville, take US 29 south to VA 56. Go west on VA 56 for about 21 miles to Crabtree Falls Highway and the trailhead.


Difficulty: Strenuous (short but a steady climb)

Distance: 1.7 miles (3.4 miles roundtrip)

Time to hike: 2-4 hours

Address: 11581 Crabtree Falls Highway

City: Montebello

Zip: 24464

GPS: 37.51075, -79.04703