|Lands Run Falls (Upper falls)|
Difficulty: Moderate, due to short-segment of off-trail hiking
Access: Trailhead off Skyline Drive (paved road), Shenandoah National Park entrance fee required
Henry Heatwole's Guide to Shenandoah National Park gave this hike a mediocre review; however, I found this very short hike to be fairly rewarding. As there's a bit of bushwhacking at the end, what you see on this hike will depend partly on far you're willing to go off trail, and your prior hiking experience. I wouldn't do this as a first hike- the end of the hike goes off-trail- but if you've done some hiking in Shenandoah before, this could be a fun short hike to do and see a pretty waterfall that's hidden in plain sight. The waterfall isn't as towering as South River Falls or as graceful as Doyles River and Rose River Falls, but it is an enjoyable spot to visit. I would recommend doing in this hike in winter and spring; since the falls are halfway up Compton Peak, I expect that they would run dry in late summer and fall. Bushwhacking down to the falls would also become less pleasant between April and October, so I'd recommend a December to March time frame for this hike.
For DC area residents, Lands Run Falls is probably the easiest waterfall to get to in Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead is just over a 15 minute drive from the North Entrance to the park, not far from I-66. I did this hike on a sunny, fairly warm December day with my family, leaving Fredericksburg and taking US 522 to Front Royal. If you're coming from Northern Virginia, it's about an hour drive west on I-66 from Tysons Corner to the North Entrance on US 340. We entered the park and took Skyline Drive 9 miles south to the unmarked trailhead at Lands Run Gap. You'll have to look carefully for this trailhead, as it's unmarked: it's less than a mile before Compton Gap, so once you've gotten to the parking area for Fort Windham Rocks and Compton Peak, you've gone too far. You'll see the ridge coming down to meet the drive at the trailhead, with a small parking area to the right of the road. To check whether you're in the right place, make sure that the concrete post on the fire road next to the parking area says "Lands Run Fire Road."
From the parking area, we followed the wide Lands Run Fire Road gently downhill. The road passed through a winter forest that had a few fairly large and pretty trees. This fire road was just one of the many mountain roads that used to criscross the Blue Ridge before the advent of the park; this particular road once ran up from Browntown Valley and crossed Lands Run Gap before descending into Hickerson Hollow. When the park was established, only the Thornton Gap and Swift Run Gap crossings were made available to motor vehicle crossings.
|Lands Run Fire Road|
We scrambled all the way down to the very foot of the top drop, which cascades about 20 feet into a small pool. A bit of ice adorned the rocks in the cascade: the past few days had been very cold (with temperatures down to 10 degrees Fahrenheit), but that particular day temperatures had warmed up quite a bit and most of the ice around the falls had melted off. This set of falls was just the highest of a long string of cascades: the run continued to make more small drops as it continued down a narrow gorge. I would recommend most hikers to turn around after seeing the first falls, which are the most worthwhile to see, anyway.
|Lands Run Falls|
|View into Browntown Valley|
|Icy Lands Run Falls (lower portion)|