Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lost Cliffs and Dry Run Falls

View of Hanse Mountain, Massanutten Mountain, and Shenandoah Valley from Lost Cliffs
 About 4 miles round trip, about 700 feet elevation gain.
Difficulty: Moderate, due to bushwhacking and possibly some scrambling based on the route you take. In certain conditions, moderate-strenuous
I really shouldn't tell you about this place. Lost Cliffs and Dry Run Falls are only a stone's throw from the Swift Run Gap area of the park, but they have somehow become forgotten- few visitors come here, which is both a shame and a blessing. The Lost Cliffs have decent views of the area and Dry Run Falls is a very pretty waterfall, but neither are directly on a trail, so neither is visited often.

I did this hike with a big group- six of us headed into the park on an early November morning and parked at the trailhead at the South River Overlook, around mile 62 of Skyline Drive. The trail started across the drive and slightly north, where an unmarked fire road began heading downhill.

We followed the Dry Run Fire Road for just a while (no more than 15 minutes from the trailhead) when we came upon the Lost Cliffs, a wall of greenstone that rose to the right about 50 yards off of the trail. Although it's probably possible to find some scrambling route to the top, we ended up just following an unmarked footpath on the far end of the to the top. The cliffs are just able to clear the surrounding forest, so there are good views south and west to Hanse, Massanutten, and Grindstone Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. The Lost Cliffs themselves are part of Baldface Mountain.

After a short break on the cliffs, we descended the other side of the cliffs- a slippery bit, especially with all of the newly fallen leaves. We continued following the Dry Run Fire Road downhill and reached and crossed Dry Run itself; after the trail crossed the run, it swung left and followed the water. A few small cascades were visible down by the stream. Other hiker-bloggers have written of visiting the Dry Run Falls and finding them somewhat unimpressive; I would bet that many of them settled for these cascades rather than the actual falls, which are much further downstream.

The fire road eventually swung to the right and away from the run. I'm a little hesitant to give precise directions to the falls; I'd rather any hikers who really want to see this special place find their own way. But I will give some vague pointers similar to what Henry Heatwole offers in his guide: at the point where the fire road swings right, we left the road and bushwhacked toward the stream and followed it downhill until reaching the falls. Some sections were very rough and the bushwhacking would occasionally get ugly through some of the undergrowth.

The falls were beautiful- the water was low, appropriate for a stream named Dry Run, but it was still substantial enough to make them worth seeing. There were no man-made cleared viewpoints or overlooks there- I found the best view to be from the top of a large rock right next to the falls. The total drop of the falls is likely 50 to 60 feet, so this is one of the higher falls in the park.

Dry Run Falls

This is only one of the many trailless waterfalls in the park, but this is the first that I have explored. PATC maps show that Cedar Falls is very close by, but off national park land. I have also heard that there is a smaller waterfall further up Dry Run from the main falls, so I am curious to return and do more exploring. The hike to this waterfall was one of the most rewarding I've done in Shenandoah, as it got me to finally leave the trail and taught me to read the terrain here much better.

1 comment: