Stiles Falls: Hike to a 40-Foot-Tall Waterfall in Shawsville, Virginia

Stiles Falls is a beautiful 40-foot-tall waterfall in Shawsville. It’s located on the property of Alta Mons, an outdoor ministry and faith-based summer camp.

The trail that leads to Stiles Falls is on private property, but it is open to anyone and everyone, from dawn until dusk.

Stiles Falls, from a distance

I arrived late in the day for this 3.3-mile round trip hike, but I quickly traversed the creek crossings and excitedly reached the 40-foot-tall waterfall.

Trail Stats
Length3.3 miles
Trail TypeOut-and-Back
Elevation Gain338 feet
Duration2-3 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock trails, some gravel road
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

Alta Mons is steps from the South Fork of the Roanoke River, which runs alongside State Route 637 (aka Alleghany Spring Road) south of Shawsville.

Trail Kiosk at Alta Mons in Shawsville, Virginia

Drive in to Alta Mons on Crockett Springs Road. There’s a large gravel parking lot on the right for visitor parking, as well as a large trail kiosk. 

Before you lock up your car, bring a pencil or pen. Alta Mons asks that all day use guests sign in and sign out. You’ll need to know your license plate number, too.

The First Steps 

The trail for this easy to moderately challenging hike begins just past the trail kiosk, on a gravel road. You’ll pass a playground, a pool and picnic tables.

A Small Pond at Alta Mons Camp

You’ll see a few cabins, as well as a small pond and a few canoes on the right. At the 0.5-mile mark, a concrete bridge crosses Purgatory Creek.

At this point, the gravel trail bears left. At the 0.8-mile mark, you’ll see a small wooden bench on the edge of the gently flowing creek.

A wooden bench next to Purgatory Creek on the way to Stiles Falls

The trail transforms into grass, dirt and rocks at the 0.9-mile mark. A trail sign nudges you to turn left to continue on to Stiles Falls.

At the 1.1-mile mark, stay left for Stiles Falls. There’s also a trail map and a brief history behind the name of the falls. It’s juicy, too.

A Stiles Falls trail map next to the hiking trail

So the story goes, a sailor for the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War named Randolph Stiles was showing off at the falls at a Sunday School picnic.

He was swinging from tree limbs, much like he did swinging from ship riggings, when he fell to his death, thereby giving “Stiles Falls” a double meaning. 

Crossing Purgatory Creek on two tree limbs

In a few steps, you’ll reach the first of three water crossings. The white-blazed trail skirts along rolling Purgatory Creek. Along the way, peaceful cascades.

The second opportunity to hopscotch the creek is at the 1.3-mile mark. From here, ascend a few steps. A hand-rope is on the left at the 1.5-mile mark.

Purgatory Creek at Alta Mons Camp

From here, there’s just one more crossing over Purgatory Creek. The tumbling waterfall is now close and makes its appearance at the 1.6-mile mark.

As you approach the waterfall, a steep path on the left leads to the top of the waterfall. I encourage you not to take this unsafe path for fear of injuries. 

Stiles Falls at Alta Mons

Instead, stay right for a rock scramble. There is a small basin, but you’ll need to navigate some very large rocks to safely reach Stiles Falls. 

Enjoy your time at the falls, then re-trace your steps to the parking area. It’s really a beautiful, forested hike.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the parking area, this waterfall hike to Stiles Falls took me nearly 90 minutes to complete, including time spent snapping photos of the falls.

Eager for more hikes? Here are more trails when you want to go hiking in Roanoke, Virginia (or near Roanoke).