South River Falls Loop

  • Highlights: Waterfalls, wildflowers, Appalachian Trail
  • Distance: 4.9 mile loop
  • Elevation change: 1,081 feet
  • Difficulty level: Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Skyline Drive South River Picnic Area mile post 63, park fee required. Park near the rest rooms at the far end of the picnic grounds.
  • Website: Shenandoah National Park
  • Beer Pairings: Patch Brewing Co.—Home Field Advantage porter & Hoppy Gus IPA

The Hike:

South River Falls is the 3rd highest waterfall in Shenandoah with a height of 83’. This hike has nice views from the top of the falls and even better views from the base. The trailhead is located at the far end of the parking area near the rest rooms. There is a kiosk at the trailhead with a map and trail details. We were joined on this hike by our friend Shaq. 

Begin the hike on the blue-blazed South River Falls Trail which descends to a junction at .1 mile with the Appalachian Trail. The AT will be part of the return for this hike. Continue straight on the blue-blazed trail as the descent continues. The trail is steep in places with several switchbacks. The South River runs beside the trail much of the way. At 1.3 miles, reach the upper falls overlook. Continue past the overlook and at 1.5 miles turn right to continue on the South River Falls Trail. 

The descent into the gorge continues and at 2 miles, the trail appears to end at the river. Look for the cement trail post on the right and follow a rocky spur trail up a series of stone steps to reach the base of the falls at 2.2 miles. Cross the stream near the pool at the base of the falls for some great views of the falls and gorge.

Retrace your steps on the spur trail heading down to the cement trail post near the river. Follow the blue-blazed South River Falls Trail uphill to the junction at 2.9 miles with the yellow-blazed  South River Fire Road. Stay straight on the fire road and continue the steady upward climb.

Reach the four-way junction with the Appalachian Trail at 4.3 miles. Turn left and follow the white-blazed AT for .5 mile to the junction with the South River Falls Trail. Turn right here and return to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Patch Brewing Co. in Gordonsville converted a former VFA site into a craft brewery. Currently they have an outdoor pavilion with fire pits, a kid’s play area, and a dog park. They are renovating their indoor brewing facility to include indoor seating. A variety of food trucks visit on weekends and they also have several Virginia wine and cider options.

Kathy really liked Hoppy Gus, a west coast-style IPA. Brewed with a trinity of hops and malts, this IPA is nicely hopped with just the right amount of bitterness. Pete really liked Home Field Advantage, an American-style Porter with coffee and chocolate notes and medium bitterness. This brewery is off to a great start and we look forward to watching their progress in the years ahead.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.