Apple Orchard Falls

  • Highlights: Waterfalls, rock formations, wildflowers, wildlife
  • Distance: 2.8 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 995 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Sunset Fields parking area, milepost 78.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Website: US Forest Service
  • Beer Pairings: Peaks of Otter Lodge—Free Verse IPA & Gold Lager

The Hike:

Apple Orchard Falls is a popular Blue Ridge destination. The 200-foot cascade is best seen in the spring when the North Creek is at high water levels. Wildflowers and rhododendron are also in bloom in the spring. We made this hike during a very dry summer and the flow at the falls was reduced to a trickle. It was still a great hike.

The trial is well marked and well maintained. It is possible to make this into a longer loop hike by combining the Cornelius Creek Trail and the Appalachian Trail. We decided to begin the hike from the trailhead at Sunset Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway and hike down to the falls.

From the trailhead, follow the signs to a trail map kiosk and then follow the blue-blazed trail steadily down. The trail crosses over the Appalachian Trail and becomes rocky in places. Several enormous boulders appear as you work your way down to the falls. The trail is steep in places and a series of wood steps help traverse the landscape.

The trail makes several stream crossings including one on a small footbridge. There is a small cascade to the left as you cross the footbridge. Pass beside several more giant boulders/rock formations. The trail become rather steep at this point with more stairs and switchbacks. Just before the falls, the trees open up on the left with a nice view of the valley and mountains.

Reach the falls at 1.4 miles. A short boardwalk takes you to the foot of the falls. Take in the falls, have a snack, and get ready for a steep climb back up. Retrace your steps to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Just a few miles south on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 86 is the Peaks of Otter Lodge. The Lodge is typically open from March to November. Their lounge has several craft beers on tap with nice views of Abbot Lake and Sharp Top. They also serve food; however, only indoor seating is available.

Kathy liked the Free Verse IPA from Virginia Beer Company. This unfiltered IPA is brewed with Azacca and Chinook hops and scores a very respectable 77 IBUs. We had enjoyed this beer before and it’s really good. Pete tried Gold, a Helles-style Lager from Beale’s Brewery in nearby Bedford. It was crisp and refreshing just like a good lager should be.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.