White Rock Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 18.5
Distance: 4.6 miles
Views: Waterfall and vista
Dogs: Leashed dogs allowed
Trailhead: Across the road from the parking area at mile 18.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Notes: Mostly shaded, stream crossing, waterfalls, and a hike up to some nice views.
There are two good driving options to arrive at White Rock Falls parking area from Charlottesville, VA. The first option is to leave town and head west on 64. Take the 250 E exit on top of Afton Mountain and turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will find the parking area on your right a little while after passing the Humpback Rock picnic area. This route will take about 45 minutes to an hour from Charlottesville. An alternative route is perfect if you are already in Nelson County enjoying a brew from Blue Mountain Brewery or Devil’s Backbone. You can easily get to this hike from 151 by turning onto 664 when you see the Ski Barn and Devil’s Backbone. Keep on 664 until it intersects with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hang a left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (south) and reach the hike in a few miles. From Charlottesville, this route will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Either route works well; park in the parking area at milepost 18.5.
Difficulty and length:
This is a moderate hike with some difficult sections. There is a steep climb (i.e. switchbacks) after seeing the streams and falls. The 4.6 miles takes me about 3 hours to complete (including picture stops and a lunch stop).
Once you park in the parking area at milepost 18.5, take a moment to look at the information kiosk posted there. Cross the Blue Ridge Parkway and start your hike at the White Rock Falls trail marker (see picture above). Follow the yellow-blazed trail along White Rock Creek. You will cross the creek a little over a mile out from the beginning of the hike. This portion of the hike is fairly easy, shaded, and slightly downhill.
After spending some time in the water and the pools, cross the creek and begin hiking up switchbacks to a nice overlook. It may take you about 1 to 1.5 hours to get to this spot from the beginning of the hike. But this depends on how long you stop for pictures and playing in the water. Sit for awhile and soak in the views.
Continuing on, you will cross a few wooden bridges (more like small planks and boards). Eventually, you will come out of the trees and arrive at the Blue Ridge Parkway. You will want to cross the Parkway and turn left walking down the side of the road for a bit until you reach the pullover and parking area for Slacks Overlook. Once you are in this parking area/pullover spot, look for the Blue Blaze Slacks trail to continue on your hike (right corner of the lot if you are looking out at the views).
Tip: Watch out for mountain bikers on the Slacks section of the trail.
Continue hiking and take a right on the orange trail towards White Rock Gap Intersection (this is where your car is parked). You will be at your car in about half a mile.
Note: If you want to extend your hike, you can take a left when you reach the orange trail and it will lead to Sherando Lake. Lake Sherando is a wonderful place to take a dip or do some camping.
I did this hike over the summer with my friend, Kitty. We started at around 9am on a hot June day in Virginia. Great idea, right? Let’s just say we were sweating a little by the time we finished.
Overall, this is a fun hike. Lots of shade at the beginning and some fun around the water. I’d love to go back in the spring and see what the creek and falls are like after snow melt and some rain. Definitely be prepared for those switchbacks. It was getting quite hot by the time we reached those on our hike; we were a dry-heaving, sweaty mess when we reached the top. We had some trouble finding the trail when we crossed the road, part of the way through our loop. We didn’t realize we had to walk down the Parkway for a bit to the overlook/pullover. Keep this in mind when you try this hike.
I always have a blast with Kitty and this hike was no exception. Our conversation and giggles got us through the tough uphill climb on this hike. Or maybe the laughing made it harder to breathe? Either way, I love a day spent on a trail with friends.