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Hike to Saint Mary's Falls

Raphine, Virginia

4.8/5
based on 8 reviews

Details

Distance

4.4 miles

Elevation Gain

300 ft

Route Type

Out-and-Back

Description

Added by Jess Fischer

Saint Mary's Falls is an easy hike with little elevation gain, this trail hugs Saint Mary's River and will take you to a beautiful Blue Ridge waterfall.

Saint Mary's Wilderness is one of Virginia's largest designated wilderness areas and is an old iron ore mining area. There are two ways to get to Saint Mary's Falls and this Blue Ridge adventure will start you off at the parking area off Saint Mary's Road. 

Once on Saint Mary's Road, you will drive until you come to a dead end and see a big kiosk that signals the beginning of the trailhead and provides some additional information about the area. From the trailhead follow the trail along the river. The trail is very well defined, although it is not blazed. For the first 1.8 miles of the hike you will follow the trail beside the river and cross the river once. At about 1.5 miles into the hike, the trail becomes precarious due to the fact that the trails have been washed out from past rainstorms. The trail is still accessible but please use extreme caution while hiking this short section. Trail restoration crews have been working hard in the area to restore this section but I am unsure whether or not the work has been completed. 

At mile 1.8 you will come to an area where it seems like there are other trails leading into the area. Keep straight with the river on your left and keep an eye peeled for a river crossing. There is pink ribbon on the trees beside the river, a pink ribbon tied to a tree trunk in the center of the river and another pink ribbon tied to a tree on the far bank. This is your crossing. At no point should you take a right on the trail or start hiking away from the river, if you miss the crossing you will hike another .15 miles before it dead ends, turn around and keep an eye peeled for the pink ribbon again. Once you have crossed the river continue to follow the well beaten path but now the river will be on your right. After about .2 miles you'll come to a huge swimming hole and about .2 miles after that you'll arrive at the waterfall. To get back to the parking lot retrace your steps.

* The trails are not blazed but they are well traversed and you will not easily lose them 

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Features

Fishing
Swimming
Hiking
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
River
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Swimming Hole

Reviews

such an amazing and surprisingly easy trail (with breaks of course). my family and I loved it!

I took a whole crew to the falls with me this past weekend! Including my 3 year old and very rambunctious dog and a couple of hiking newbies! The scenery was beautiful and the falls more gorgeous than I anticipated! The trail can get a bit rocky in some areas and the river crossings can be a tad tricky, but overall it’s a pretty moderate/laid back hike! Will definitely be going again!

Didn't find this too hard, nor was it too steep. We stopped here and made some coffee, watched the falls, and hung out.

My group went on a hot day, and it was really refreshing to cross through the river and stop at the swimming holes. The waterfall itself was beautiful too! That being said, the trail is a MESS. There are basically 2 trails on either side of the river, not marked on either, and you just try to cross the river to the other trail whenever the one you're on is too washed out. Apparently, what the "trail" is can even change week to week. We crossed the river several times, and at one point we were just hiking in the river. This trail is not good for folks with mobility issues - the rocks are very slippery and we had a few falls - and we found that it took a lot longer than anticipated, likely in part because we were unsure of the trail. We didn't see any snakes, though it looked like prime snake territory so I'd exercise caution with kids and dogs. Overall a good experience, but not sure we'll head back.

Went on this hike on Father's Day 2018, with wife and two kids (15 and 12). This was a great adventure for the family. Due to recent washout of the trail, there were five river crossings. All were adventurous and not at all dangerous. Crossing #1 is about a mile in. The first four were not marked and leave your water shoes on for the hike between the four. Of the first four, the only tricky ones were #2 and 3 which was the washout bypass. For #2, you will hike to it with the river on your left; go until you reach a junction (a few hundred feet from #1) with a boulder in the middle of the right branch; this is where you will descend and cross the river. The path will be clear on the other side of the river. With the river now on your right, the path is super rocky (only a few hundred more feet) and will lead you to the river bank again. The path on the other side will not be clear but just cross and find an opening on the other side and go up the bank to the well beaten path and just trust that it's there. Crossing #4 is a short hike more and obvious again. This is where we wished we waited to put our hiking boots back on, instead of changing our shoes two times prior. Crossing #5 was about a half mile or so from #4 and just a bit up past the swimming hole. It was marked with bright green tape hanging from trees which show you where to go. Leave your water shoes on because you just made it to the falls and, yes, it was well worth the adventure!

My husband and I took our GSD on this trail on a warm February day. We did end up with water in our boots crossing the river a few times because we had done creek crossings in the past and managed to keep our feet dry but these were rather deep in some places. I would not recommend taking small children or inexperienced or smaller dogs. The water can be quite swift in a few places you have to cross also parts of the trail gets pretty slim with a drip off on once side. There is a section where the trail is almost completely washed away and we were going to turn around until we spotted across the river another trail but it meant two more creek crossings, but our boots were already wet so we went for it. The waterfall at the end was worth the trip and it's a lovely challenging hike without so much elevation change. Would be an awesome trail for the summer!

Favorite spot😁 Highly recommend water shoes!

This is one of my staple hikes I come back to over and over. It's great with kids in that its a pretty flat walk (but extremely rocky and uneven), but the river crossings and the missing bits of trail keep them entertained beyond "just walking". I particularly love how you can jump off the waterfall into the swimming hole at the end. I've even seen folks jump off the cliff above where the trail ends (opposite the falls) into the small pool (something you will never see me even consider attempting).

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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