Stanardsville, Virginia

Hike South River Falls

4.4 Miles Total - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Brandon Dewey

​South River Falls is my favorite waterfall in Shenandoah National Park. This 83 foot tall waterfall is a unique two-tiered waterfall. The first tier is a single fall that flows into a rock shelf before separating into two parallel falls. South River Falls is located in the Central District of Shenandoah just north of the Swift Run Gap Entrance.

 The trail head for the South River Falls Trail is located at mile marker 63 off of Skyline Drive via the South River Picnic Area.  Loop around the picnic area until you reach the Eastern corner where you will find a sign and a map marking the beginning of the 4.2-mile trail.  Over the first mile hikers will descend down a well maintain and easy to follow trail.  The trail is marked with blue blazes.  At 0.2 miles, hikers will cross the Appalachian Trail; continue straight to follow the blue blazes down the mountain toward South River Falls.  After hiking down the mountain, the trail flattens out as it follows the South River.  There are two river crossings along this part of the trail, which will give you an idea of about how much water will be in the falls.  At 1.3 miles, hikers will arrive at a stone wall overlook.  This overlook is a great spot to take some pictures from above the falls.  There are a lot of trees, so depending on the time of year, you may not be able to see all of the falls.   

To reach the bottom of the falls, continue along the trail past the overlook for 0.2 miles until you reach a fire road.  Turn right to follow the fire road 0.4 miles the rest of the way down the mountain until it ends.  Once you are at the end of the fire road, follow the blue blazes up the narrow rocky path for 0.3 miles to the base of the falls.  This is the best location to enjoy the beauty and to take pictures of the falls.  

The canyon leading to the falls runs east and west, so in the morning the sun will be shining directly on the falls, but in the evening, the sun will be setting behind the falls allowing photographers to get a sunstar through the trees above the falls.  South River can be used as a great leading line to help guide the viewer’s eye to the waterfall (for more composition tips, click here).  There is also a nice large flat rock on the right side of the falls to sit or to place a subject on. Once you are down taking your pictures and enjoying the falls, backtrack the 2.2 miles to return to the trail head.  For tips on how to photograph waterfalls with silky smooth water, click here.  

South River Falls is the 3rd tallest waterfall in Shenandoah National Park and is a popular hike because of the beauty of this waterfall and because it is located so close to the Swift Run Gap Entrance.  I have hiked to this waterfall on multiple occasions and have always seen other people, including the time I went during the middle of the week with 1 foot of snow on the ground.  South River Falls is at its best during the spring or after a lot of rain.  During the summer and fall, there isn't much water in the river resulting in water just trickling over the falls.  Dogs are allowed on this trail, which makes it a great hike for the whole family. 

Read More


Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

A Gorgeous Waterfall

Hiked this on a Saturday morning (starting at 7am) and didn't see a soul. It is steep descending down to the falls and in the summer there aren't really views from the stone overlook as Brandon mentioned. Continuing to the base of the falls is your best option. After exploring the base of the falls, try hiking back up the fire road, then turning left on the Appalachian Trail (traveling south on the AT) for an easier ascent back to the parking area.

Beautiful but can get crowded

This is a gorgeous waterfall after a good rainfall but when there hasn't been much rain it can be a trickle of water. This is also a great hike in the winter time.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

Stay Nearby


Getaway Shenandoah

A Handcrafted Hideaway Enjoy your tiny spot in nature - our collection of cabins is spread across 57 acres. The cabins are scattered throughout our Outpost, but you'll be near your neighbors.  Unpl...

From $199/night

Stanley, Virginia

Big Meadows

Overview Secluded in the thick trees and rolling hills of Shenandoah National Park, the Big Meadows Campground is the ideal spot for an outdoor family getaway.Recreation Shenandoah National Park ha...

Crozet, Virginia

Loft Mountain Campground

Overview Perched on top of Big Flat Mountain, this is one of the largest campgrounds in the park. Loft Mountain is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, providing a wilderness getaway in t...

Grottoes, Virginia

Dundo Group Campground

Overview Dundo Group Campground is a beautiful campground located at milepost 83.7 along the Skyline Drive with the Appalachian Trail passing through the site. The southern end is a picnic area an...

Nearby Adventures

  • Hike to Bearfence Mountain

    This is one of my favorite hikes in Shenandoah National Park for its views, easy access to the trail, and the option to combine it with a much further hike on the AT. There is also a really fun little rock scramble at the top that scares a lot of ...

    1.2 miles 380 ft gain

  • Hike to Hightop Mountain, Shenandoah NP

    The parking area for the Hightop Mountain hike is one mile south of the Swift Run Gap entrance on Skyline Drive. If you’re looking to add extra mileage to your hike, you can also park at the entrance and pick up the Appalachian Trail just south o...

    3.2 miles 900 ft gain

  • Photograph The Point Overlook

    The Point is the best overlook off of Skyline Drive to watch the sun set behind the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Point Overlook is one of 72 overlooks for people to enjoy the beauty of Shenandoah National Park as they drive along Skyline Drive.  Sky...

  • Hike to Bear Church Rock via Bootens Gap

    The trail leads along the ridge of Jones Mountain to the gorgeous views at Bear Church Rock, and it's the perfect hike for those seeking solitude - didn't see another soul the entire time on a holiday weekend.From the parking lot, head out left on...

    9.4 miles 800 ft gain