Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
950.00 ft (289.56 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
3.90 mi (6.28 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

This loop takes you down to a rocky outcrop overlooking Lewis Falls, which at 83 feet is the third highest of Shenandoah National Park's (SNP) numerous waterfalls. On the return trip, this loop hike provides expansive views of South Fork of the Shenandoah River along the Appalachian Trail (AT) at two separate rocky overlooks. At high water, Lewis Falls can be impressive due to the height, but unfortunately during an extended dry spell, it often shrinks to a trickle.

At the falls, enjoy the views of the cascade and to the west overlooking the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Right below your feet is a series of small shallow cascades trickling around and over the vibrant, green, moss-covered rocks. Don't forget to look down; they can be quite pretty! Along the return to the campground, the views along the AT would make a wonderful spot to stop and enjoy magnificent sunsets overlooking the Shenandoah River Valley. After dark, they would only require a short night hike back to the trailhead along the easy AT.

This is a moderate hike, not due to distance, but due to the steep, rough trail tread of the Lewis Falls Trail and the 870-foot descent and climb back out. The sections along the AT are a relative highway by comparison. There are two options to start this hike: the amphitheater/picnic parking lot in Big Meadows Campground or from the "E-loop" of the campground near site 172. At 3.9 miles, the longest route is from site 172. It is the route described here.

If you aren't camping at the campground, you can also take off from the Lewis Falls Trailhead at Skyline Drive (milepost 62.8) making this an in/out hike. This route, unfortunately, misses the AT portion and the views from it. The best maps for this hike are Trails Illustrated National Geographic, Shenandoah National Park (Map #228) or the Potomac Appalachian Trail Conference (PATC), Shenandoah National Park, Central District (map 10).

From site 172, look for the concrete trail marker and take the spur trail to the AT. At the AT, merge onto the AT and continue straight to go south on the AT. In about 0.5 mile you will come to the multiple trail junctions near the side trail to the amphitheater/picnic area and Lewis Falls Trail. Take Lewis Falls Trail (hiker's right) and start the steeper and rougher descent. As you descend, Lewis Falls Trail gradually gets rougher and in some spots steeper.  In about another mile and a half, there will be a short, easy-to-see side trail on the hikers right. Take it to the rocky overlook of the top of the falls, a small cascade, and a view to the west. Fall danger is real, so watch your step and your kids.

On the far side of the narrow step canyon, you will see a human-made rock wall. This is the only spot to get a full view of the falls. Fortunately, it isn't too hard to get to by continuing along the now-faint side trail and making the easy crossing upriver from the top of the falls. There is an old single-rail guardrail along the cliffs on the far side, so again, watch your step. There is no safe way to the bottom of the falls, so retrace your steps back to Lewis Falls Trail, turn right to continue the loop, and begin the steep ascent to reconnect with the AT near Lewis Spring. Near Lewis Spring, the trail intersects the gravel service road and passes by the old pump and springhouse. Shortly the road intercepts the AT. Turn left to close the loop and return to the start. The two rocky overlooks are along this section of the AT on the left side of the trail at 38.522156, -78.442767 and 38.5274583, -78.4439783.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Pretty waterfall. Panoramic views. Appalachian Trail.

Cons

Parts of the trail have a rough trail tread.

Trailhead Elevation

3,580.00 ft (1,091.18 m)

Highest point

3,640.00 ft (1,109.47 m)

Net Elevation Gain

870.00 ft (265.18 m)

Features

Waterfalls
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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