Roanoke, VA: Crabtree Falls Trail

Five cascading waterfalls are the draw on this popular 4.2-mile out-and-back that starts with a climb and ends with a leafy streamside ramble.
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Five cascading waterfalls are the draw on this popular 4.2-mile out-and-back that starts with a climb and ends with a leafy streamside ramble.

Towering waterfalls tumble and splash past a series of overlooks on this well-maintained trail, making it a popular side trip from the Blue Ridge Parkway. For the best views of the cascades - which extend almost 1,200 feet - hit the trail in the spring or after a summer rainstorm. Late fall and winter are best for unobstructed mountain views from the summit.

From the parking lot, a short, paved trail leads to a nice view of the lower falls. Just before this viewpoint, turn right at the marked junction for a rocky, tree-lined climb to the upper falls. The trail frequently cuts back to the falls and the photo-friendly viewpoints. At 1.2 miles, turn left at the unmarked junction and follow the walkway over Crabtree Creek. This spur ends at a low-walled viewing area. To extend the hike, return to the trail and turn left, hiking south on the blue-blazed trail beside the burbling Crabtree Creek. The trail ends one easy mile later at a parking area off SR 826. Turn around or continue .5 miles to the AT.

Note: Hikers should heed the warning sign near the trailhead. It states that 23 people (now 25) have lost their lives at the falls. The rocks are deceptively slippery and the protective walls and railings should not be ignored

There is a $3 day use fee. 

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 4.5

Waypoints

CTF001

Location: 37.850913, -79.079517

The main parking area borders VA 56.

CTF002

Location: 37.850795, -79.079

Trailhead with information board and pay station ($3).

CTF003

Location: 37.849548, -79.07817

Continue straight ahead for a view of the lower falls. Turn right onto the marked dirt path to climb to the upper falls. The trail switchbacks across the slope as it ascends, passing several overlooks beside the cascades.

CTF004

Location: 37.846982, -79.077832

Pass a small cave on your right.

CTF005

Location: 37.844304, -79.075962

Summit in sight from this overlook.

CTF005

Location: 37.843674, -79.075175

Turn left at the unmarked junction. Follow the walkway over Crabtree Creek, just above the upper falls, to a viewing area fronted by a low wall. Though tempting, don't climb over the wall. The rocks just beyond are more slippery than they look, and a fall is potentially fatal.

CTF006

Location: 37.843073, -79.074637

Trail forks at unmarked junction. Stay right.

CTF007

Location: 37.840986, -79.078763

Turn right at the unmarked intersection. The wide, blue-blazed trail runs south alongside Crabtree Creek.

CTF008

Location: 37.831005, -79.08258

Pass road barrier.

CTF009

Location: 37.83085, -79.082723

Information board at upper trailhead.

CTF010

Location: 37.830491, -79.083755

Marked junction with SR 826. Turn around to complete out-and-back. Side trip: if you want more, turn left to reach AT in a half mile. The AT climbs another mile to the Priest Trail shelter.

Trailhead

Location: 37.85079, -79.07899

First Trail Sign

Location: 37.850767, -79.078656

Lower Falls

Location: 37.84956, -79.078175

Leafy Ascent

Location: 37.849601, -79.078122

Walkway to Viewing Area

Location: 37.84893, -79.077919

Feels Like Fallingwater

Location: 37.847818, -79.077706

Upper Falls Viewing Area

Location: 37.844066, -79.075018

Upper Crabtree Falls Trail

Location: 37.837344, -79.079577

Trail Junction with SR 826

Location: 37.830491, -79.083755

Crabtree Creek

Location: 37.84369, -79.074968