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Little Mountain Falls Trail Loop

Hike stats: 5.20 miles, 722' elevation gain, 2:52:16 moving time, 33:06 average pace. Link to trail data at the end of the post (click the AllTrails map). Since we did the clean sweep of the trails at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, we are now working on the trails at Fairy Stone State Park near Stuart, Virginia.

Going forward, I will try to include a slideshow of video clips and pictures from the hikes. This will do a couple of things--first, it will provide more content for those who are kind enough to visit and read this blog and, second, it will (hopefully) reduce the amount of time it takes me to format blog posts since I will include most of the pictures in the slideshow. While I don't currently have a lot of content on my YouTube channel, feel free to subscribe while you're there.

We start this new quest with the Little Mountain Falls Trail Loop. The trail does not directly connect to the trailhead at the park's amphitheater parking area, but a short hike up portions of Beach Trail (White/Silver blazes), Lake Shore Trail (Yellow blazes), and Turkey Ridge Trail (Blue blazes) will connect to this loop.

This trail, as well as the other trails connected to it, is multi-use so be prepared to encounter mountain bikers and those on horseback as well as other hikers. Because of this, appropriate trail etiquette is a must and is explained at the trailhead and on signs at trail junctions. We saw no bikers or horses on today's hike, but there was evidence of horse on the trail--tracks in the mud and equine fertilizer. The etiquette hierarchy is: Hikers yield to horses and bikers yield to horse and hikers.

Several of the reviews we read suggested taking the loop counter-clockwise was better for various reasons and that's what we chose to do. Looking at the trail data, I think this was the best choice as well because it breaks up the overall elevation gain with relatively flat sections and a long downhill section--going the other way would mean going UP that long stretch instead of down. The elevation gain for this trail is going to be the same regardless, but how it is distributed does make a difference. The payoff for the climb up is the Blue Ridge Overlook at the halfway point.

The last reason I think taking the loop counter-clockwise is the best choice is the ultimate payoff for the effort--Little Mountain Falls. While this lovely little waterfall may not be as grand as others along the Blue Ridge, it is a fantastic reward for reaching that 2/3 or 3/4 mark of the trip. Going the other way would be like having your dessert before the main course. After stopping for a break at Blue Ridge Overlook (see the pic above), the trail heads down hill and eventually starts crossing (and re-crossing) a stream. These are easy crossings above the falls (there is one very muddy crossing just below the falls where the trail effectively IS the stream for about thirty feet) and eventually the stream tumbles down several drops and glides before the grand event. The area at the base of the falls is nice and spacious but there is no place to sit except the ground (which was wet and muddy today).

After the waterfall, there's a one and half mile hike back to the parking area. The trail descends the hill along the stream for awhile before going around the shoulder of the ridge and then across another stream. This crossing was the sketchiest of the day. It looks as if some have used some small tree trunks to cross, but we chose to rock-hop with the aid of our trekking poles. (Neither of us fell in, so that was a success.) A long gradual elevation gain across the next ridge and then it was down past the yurts (they are for rent from the park and look quite nice on the outside) and back to the trailhead parking.

We thoroughly enjoyed this lovely and challenging trail. If you get a chance to visit the area and want to get some mud (and maybe some equine fertilizer) under your boots, give this one a try. Go see what's out there!

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