Sometimes you just have to get outdoors. Life gets stressful and none of us are impervious. A while back, I had one of those days and needed to head out for some fresh air and a change of pace. I needed to reboot myself and just take a break from it all. Not too far from where I was living at the time, there is a place known as Crabtree Falls. It’s located in Nelson County, Virginia and is part of the George Washington National Forest.
I hadn’t been out for a hike since my back surgery and wasn’t looking to tackle anything too strenuous. Although Crabtree is only just over a mile to the top, the bulk of the hike is upward at a pretty healthy incline. There are a total of 9 switchbacks and I figured it would be a great way to get my hiking legs up and running again. The falls are known as the tallest falls east of the Mississippi. They are reportedly named after William Crabtree, a farmer and woodsman who settled in that area in the late 1700’s. At the bottom of the falls is the The River. The Tye river is named after well-known Blue Ridge Mountains explorer Allen Tye.
The weather that day was overcast and in the low 50’s. I threw on a pair of nylon hiking pants (thin for the weather, but quick drying and roomy), a broken-in pair of Salomon boots, a light t-shirt, a light merino wool zip up top and stocking cap, and headed out. I took a small backpack with me as well. It was loaded with water, snacks and a few “if I get injured” items. I didn’t need to go too heavy on a pack, but wanted to make sure I got a little workout at the same time.
I started out about 7:00 AM and hit the road. The road in to the Crabtree Falls is a great drive. The leaves were falling from the trees and the fresh air was quite comforting. When I arrived at the entrance, I was somewhat surprised as I was the only one there. It’s known to be a pretty popular hike, but with the weather I guess others felt it was better to tackle it at a later point in the day. The start of the hike is somewhat flat with the falls immediately to your left. The water was crisp and clear. To be alone and surrounded by that beauty in the morning was pretty peaceful. Not too far ahead down the trail, the first switchback heads off to the right and then it’s onward and upward from there.
There is a combination of some flat dirt path, slippery rock sections, and on that particular day a rather large tree that had recently fallen across the path. Part of the adventure is the unknown. Just like the old obstacle course, I leapt up and threw one leg over, and then rolled over to the other side. I let out a nice sigh, checked my pack, and continued on my way.
There wasn’t a lot of wildlife to be seen that morning, but the rustling of leaves in the distance told me there were probably deer nearby. You never know, it could have been something even more exciting! It’s exciting to get outside and be by yourself, away from the city, and not have to worry about much if anything at that moment.
As I continued along the climb, there are a few railed overlooks adjacent to the falls. These spots give you a great view and appreciation for the falls and surrounding mountains. There were a few rock formations that were slippery and required some focused navigation, but nothing anyone who’s ever hit the trails couldn’t manage.
As you get closer to the top, there are some really large rock formations on the right. Some of them even had cave like entrances. It’s something to be aware of in case the weather changed and you needed shelter in a hurry from the elements.
The landing at the top is pretty neat in itself. When you get to the top, you cross a bridge that goes right over the falls. From there you walk to a nice overlook and rest area with built-in benches. The view of the falls and the valley is incredible!
The falls are steep enough that you can’t see the ending of them at the bottom. I sat there a while and took in the crisp mountain air. There is nothing like it! There were no people ruining it with their non stop banter, no cellphone selfies being taken, or anything else to disturb the peacefulness. I sat there for about half an hour and just took it all in.
When I was ready to head down, much like the holiday meal that takes all day to prepare and only 20 minutes to eat, I made my way down in no time flat. I would exercise caution as some of the rocks can be slippery and wet if you’re not paying attention. All in all, it was a great hike. There’s nothing too strenuous or record-breaking, but it was a good way to get back out there!
So if you get that itch to get outside – do it! Grab a pack, make a plan, and just get it done. If you’re unfamiliar with the area around you, there are an abundance of online resources available to help you find places to explore. You’d be surprised how may trails are out there just waiting for you to explore them!