Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolutely breathtaking experience. The National Parkway was established in 1936 and boasts the title of longest linear parkway in the United States. Running predominantly along the Blue Ridge Mountains, the parkway spans 469 miles (755 kilometers).
The long, winding road passes through Virginia and North Carolina and features a number of scenic overlooks. In addition to stunning views, exhilarating hikes are also easy to come by. The expansive trail registry offers hikes for all ages, abilities, and time constraints.
In my most recent trip, my hiking partners and I opted for a quick waterfall hike to stretch out legs on our long journey south. The Apple Orchard Falls Hike fit the bill. Being on a bit of a time crunch, we decided to take the 2.4-mile round trip out-and-back trail starting from the Sunset Field Overlook. The Falls can also be reached from the North Creek Campground, which offers an Apple Orchard Falls Loop option that’s about 7-miles round trip.
The hike to Apple Orchard Falls was all downhill, which made for a quick descent. Signs along the trail help ensure that you’re headed in the right direction, making it easy to become immersed in the immense beauty of the surrounding nature. The narrow path weaved under a canopy of lush trees. Freshly fallen acorns and leaves were scattered along the trail while picturesque mushrooms dotted the trees.
As the hike continued, a soft soundtrack of a gently flowing stream accompanied the sound of wind rustling through the leaves of the trees. Before you know it, you’re passing by a giant boulder and approach a charming bridge which serves as a stupendous place to view the Apple Orchard Falls. The beautiful waterfall cascaded over mossy rocks, creating an enchanting view.
After getting our fill of the Falls, we began the trek back up to the Sunset Field Overlook. The reason behind the strenuous rating given to the trail by the Blue Ridge Parkway website soon became apparent. All members of our party broke out in a well-earned sweat as we followed the slow and steady ascent from the Falls to the Overlook.
Overall, the hike was a spectacular mid-drive jaunt. I would recommend wearing layers that can easily be removed, bringing water (as one should on any hike), and toting along a camera to capture the natural beauty of the Falls. Regular athletic shoes will work just fine for the trail, although I must advise any hikers that plan on clambering around near the waterfall that rocks ARE in fact slippery when wet 🙂 Happy hiking!