Last Updated on January 2, 2022 by Erin Gifford
I still can’t believe I recently hiked at Shenandoah National Park on a weekend. On a Sunday, no less. I often avoid the park on weekends because it can get very crowded.
Thankfully, I managed to choose a trail with no other hikers. I only saw a couple of backpackers who had set up their tent by the trail and were just waking for the day.
It helped that I got an early start, too. I arrived at the Meadow Spring parking area at 8 am for the hike to Cave Falls (aka Hazel Falls) by way of the Hazel Mountain Trail.
Three hikes, including Mary’s Rock (southern approach), share this small parking area, so I was elated to get a parking space. The hike was a winner, too.
|Elevation Gain||1,017 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & rock trails|
|Fee||$30 per vehicle (good for seven days)|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
Arriving at the Trailhead
There are just 12 parking spots, including nine pull-in spots and three parallel spaces. It is also possible to carefully parallel park along the two-lane Skyline Drive.
The trailhead is easy to find on the south side of the parking area at milepost 33.5. You’ll see a concrete trail marker and a path that descends into the leafy forest.
The marker reads “Hazel Mountain Road,” though the gravel path is listed simply as “Hazel Mountain Trail” on AllTrails.
The First Steps
Once you walk by the concrete trail marker, you will shortly reach a fork in the trail. Stay to the right for the yellow-blazed Hazel Mountain Trail.
From here, it’s an easy-going descent along a lush leafy trail. Heads up, the trail splits again at the .4-mile mark. Stay right once more for the Hazel Mountain Trail.
It’s a relaxing hike, but there is not much to see. You know, beyond deciduous trees, cheery wildflowers and negligible water crossings. Maybe a downed tree or two.
At the 1.2-mile mark, you will begin to hear the peaceful burbling of the Hazel River. You may think, oh the falls must be close, but sadly you would be wrong.
In a few more steps, at the 1.6-mile mark, you will turn left onto the White Rocks Trail – away from the Hazel River. The trail also narrows quite significantly.
Press on, friends. You’re really are getting close. At the 2.4-mile mark, you will see a trail junction and a concrete marker. Hurray, Cave Falls is .2-miles from here.
Turn right at the marker onto a blue-blazed spur trail. At this point, it’s a fairly steep descent to Cave Falls. There are steps and rocks to navigate as you head for the falls.
You reach Cave Falls at the 2.6-mile mark. There are cascades and caves. It’s really quite lovely. Also, Cave Falls. It’s a small waterfall, but it boasts a watering hole.
I met a couple with a bright-yellow tent who had camped out alongside the falls. They readily admitted they were too close to the trail, but it was such a great spot.
Adjacent to Cave Falls you will see a couple of dark shallow caves. Both are worth safely exploring while you are alongside the crystal-clear cascading waters.
Sit and stay awhile on one of the large rocks next to the falls. It’s a well-shaded area and perfect for enjoying lunch or a snack while listening to the relaxing waterfalls.
From here, re-trace your steps to the parking area. Your peaceful hike to one of the most lovely waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park is complete.
From the parking area, this hike took me just over two hours, including time spent ogling the falls and chatting up the backpackers with the bright-yellow tent.
For those eager to re-fuel post-hike, proceed north along Skyline Drive to Elkwallow Wayside at milepost 24.1.
You’ll find groceries, camping supplies, souvenirs and grab-and-go sandwiches. There is also a restroom and a picnic area.