Last Thursday I went to Shenandoah National Park to check out Overall Run Falls. At 93 feet this is the highest waterfall in the park. Before you get to the viewing area for the big falls you come to two smaller falls that you can see through the trees. I opted to not take a side trail to view these cascades up close as I wanted to get to the larger falls further down the trail. On a future visit I will stop but on Thursday, I was on a mission. I have been to several falls in the park and most are cascades so I wanted to see water falling more than 30 feet or so.
The turn from the AT on to the Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail is the usual cement post pointing the way. Once you are on the Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail you can’t help but think you are burning a lot of altitude. One guide I have says 1500 feet and another says 1850 feet. Either way I could not stop thinking that I was going to have to hike back up!
I was a bit early for the wild orchids that I could see along the trail so I’d like to go back in a few weeks once warmer temperatures have been around for a while. There were several different varieties of wildflowers in bloom and with all the rain we have been having the ferns and undergrowth was nice and green.
Before you get to the top two falls you cross two small streams that flow into Overall Run. There are rocks to cross on one and logs to cross on the other. Both places were a bit boggy if you did not cross on the rocks or logs but I think in times of lesser rainfall these will probably be nearly dry. You will hear the falls before you see them and there is a trail marker for the Matthews Arm Trail, leading to the Matthews Arm Camping area, not very far from the top two falls.
I kept going looking at the surrounding forest as I walked along the trail and before long I was at a rock outcropping that gave me a nice view of the falls. The gorge that the Overall Run falls into is steep with rock faces that for a “v” widening away from the falls. Don’t stop here, there are more viewing spots not much further down the trail. I sat and had a snack while looking at the falls and the view of the Shenandoah Valley. The trail go further down the mountain but this is where I started the climb back up the mountain.
I got to the falls in the mid afternoon and the sun was already at a point in the sky that the falls was in shadow. Where you view the falls is on the north side of the gorge. The dark wet rock surrounding the falls gives a nice contrast to the to falling water of Overall Run. I’d like to go back and arrive earlier in the day to see how the sun lights the falls. I’d also like to go back on a slightly overcast day to see the difference in contrast. Trees make a nice frame around the falls and would make from some nice photos when these trees are showing their fall colors. The view out over the valley is very nice and would be especially colorful in the fall!
First hike: Thursday, May 19, 2016
Distance: approx. 6.5 miles
Elevation change: -1500 feet / +1500 feet
Time Needed: approx 5 hours not including photo time.
Where to start: The trail starts at the parking area at mm 21.1, just south of Hogback Mountain Overlook. Follow the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the Tuscarora-Overall Run Trail. Several trail are mapped out on an information kiosk. You can download an official trail map here.