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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Apple Orchard Falls. Apple Orchard Falls viewing area. U.S. Forest Service photograph.

Mountain fetterbush. Mountain fetterbush. Photo by Fred Huber.

Mountain fetterbush. Nodding pogonia. Photo by Fred Huber.

Large-flowered trillium. Large-flowered trillium. Photo by Fred Huber.

Waterfan lichen. Waterfan lichen. Photo by Fred Huber.

Apple Orchard Falls

Forest: George Washington & Jefferson National Forests

District: Glenwood/Pedlar Ranger District

Description: For the most part, these are an excellent hiking trails for members of the whole family, young and old alike. These trails are easy to moderate in most places, but some stretches are difficult. Read the descriptions below to plan your hike. The easiest route is from the bottom at the end of FS 59 along North Creek to the falls, although the last ½ mile gets rocky and steeper. From the falls to the Blue Ridge Parkway the trail is steep. You will see rhododendron, turtle head, mountain fetterbush, trillium, bleeding heart, and showy orchis, as well as many other plants. North Creek is home to a rare species of aquatic lichen, the waterfan.

Safety First: There are several bridge crossings on these trails; some have several steps at each end. Beware of slippery rocks and please stay on the trail. There is a safe viewing area at the falls. Do not attempt to climb the rocks around the falls as they wet, slippery, and very dangerous. Always carry a snack, water and a light raincoat, and wear (comfortable) hiking boots, when hiking.


Apple Orchard Falls Trail: This trail begins at an elevation of 3500 feet on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Sunset Field Overlook near milepost 78. It leads in a northwesterly direction, crossing into the Jefferson National Forest at 0.1 mile, crossing the Appalachian Trail at 0.2 mile and a seeded logging road at 0.8 mile. At 1.1 miles the trail passes a huge overhanging rock on the right that would give shelter from rain. It begins a steep descent around the falls at 1.2 miles. At 1.4 miles, look back for a beautiful view of a 200-foot high falls. The trail leads into the headwaters of North Creek, following old woods road downstream. At approximately 3.4 miles, the northwest end of the trail (elevation 1500) joins FS Road 59 at the end of Cornelius Creek Trail. The trail can also be accessed from FS Road 59. From Interstate 81 take the Arcadia exit (exit 168). Follow Route 614 approximately 3 miles to FS Road 59. It is 4.5 miles to the trailhead at end of FS 59.

Cornelius Creek Trail: This trail begins at an elevation of 3300 feet on the Appalachian Trail, 1.5 miles south of FS Road 812 (Parkers Gap Road). It descends steadily, following old logging roads. During its 2.9 mile northwesterly route to North Creek, the elevation drops to 1500 feet at its junction with FS Road 59 and Apple Orchard Falls Trail. From end of trail, follow FS 59 west for 4.5 miles to junction with Va. Route 614, then 3 miles to interstate 81, (Exit 168).

Apple Orchard and Cornelius Creek Loop: These trails may be combined for a loop hike, beginning either at Sunset Field Overlook on the Parkway or at the end of FS Road 59. It is suggested that the hiker start at the end of Fs Road 59 (plenty of room for parking), go up Cornelius Creek Trail and either hike across on the seeded logging road (18A) to Apple Orchard Falls Trail or continue up to the Appalachian Trail to the Apple Orchard Falls Trail. Go down the Apple Orchard Falls Trail to the end of FS Road 59, where you started. The short route (hiking access on the seeded logging road (18A) is 6.1 miles. The long route (going up to the Appalachian Trail and across) is 7.5 miles.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Glenwood/Pedlar Ranger District.

Closest Town: Lexington, Virginia.