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South River Falls


A moderately easy, out-and-back hike down to the scenic South River Falls.

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Out and Back

2,947' 898 m


2,117' 645 m


829' 253 m


830' 253 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (14°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Family Friendly Easily accessible, starting and ending from a picnic area, and with a waterfall at the end of the hike.


Dropping nearly 800 feet in just under a mile and a half, this hike descends from the picnic area at the South River Trailhead, following along the South River until it cascades through the canyon. Like most of the hikes off of Skyline Drive, this one provides a fairly strenuous climb back to the start. Keep an eye out for old stone walls that were built as dividing lines when these woods were cleared a number of years ago.


Begin this hike on the South River Falls Trail that heads past the drinking fountain at the South River picnic area. The trail begins by descending across the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) and continuing downhill along a straight, drawn-out stretch. The trail bends to the left, drops along several switchbacks, and then straightens out as the South River merges from the right (south).

Head across the tributary stream, which can be hard to spot in places, but can be heard fairly clearly. After around a third of a mile, the trail will cross another stream. Here, the edge of the falls should start to come into view as the trees thin out, revealing views of the park beyond.

Follow the trail for another hundred yards or so, and you'll arrive at a path on the right. This path dives very steeply toward the head of the falls and provides a number of slipping hazards to avoid. Stay straight on the South River Falls Trail as it leads to an observation point down on the right, toward the falls. Look for the ledge surrounded by a constructed guard wall.

From here, you'll find the best views of the falls, out toward the gorge, and the northeast ridge of Saddleback Mountain beyond. Return to the South River picnic area and parking lot using the South River Falls Trail, the way you came.

If you'd like to extend your hike, you can add a short loop by continuing to South River Falls Road, and then connecting to South River Falls Trail, where you can make your way back to your car.

Thanks to Larry W. Brown, for sharing this description. If you’re interested in learning more details about great hikes, weather, camping / lodging, wildlife, and scenic drives, check out the comprehensive Guide to Shenandoah National Park.

Flora & Fauna

Look for Oxalis europea, yellow wood sorrel, and the less frequently spotted, Euphorbia corolata, flowering spurge.


Shared By:

Larry W Brown

Trail Ratings

  4.0 from 13 votes


  4.0 from 13 votes
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in Virginia


63 Views Last Month
2,899 Since Apr 14, 2016



Some of the smaller falls along the stream that parallels the South River Falls Trail.
Jun 17, 2021 near Elkton, VA
View from the base of South River Falls.
May 12, 2016 near Elkton, VA
The scenic South River.
Apr 15, 2016 near Elkton, VA
Moss on the boulders along the South River Falls Loop.
Jun 17, 2021 near Elkton, VA
One of the many scenic views of the stream that runs along the South River Trail.
Jun 17, 2021 near Elkton, VA
South river cascades.
Apr 15, 2016 near Elkton, VA



Current Trail Conditions

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Minor Issues 51 days ago See History
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May 22, 2021
Amy Hammond
Apr 10, 2021
Shawn B.
Apr 9, 2021
Christopher Masla
Oct 19, 2020
Ta Yo
Sep 20, 2020
Heather Franke
Aug 4, 2020
Shannon Berger
Jul 28, 2020
Miranda Clark
can't really see falls, nice hike through woods
Jul 26, 2020
Brandon Fleming