Apple Orchard Falls
A gorgeous hike from start to finish! This hike along Apple Orchard Mountain, one of the highest peaks in Virginia and only a mile from the Appalachian Trail, meanders along streams for its entirety, leading to a 200-foot cascade. This hike offers great camping spots within its first mile as well as towards the end of the longer Cornelius Creek Trail route. High elevation, uphill climbs, and some rocks and roots take this trail from a leisurely stroll to one that will make you break a light sweat.
From the parking lot, take the Apple Orchard Falls trail on the left; taking a right at the first intersection. About one mile down the trail there are two bridges; take the second bridge, and higher portion of the trail, to continue along the Apple Orchard Falls path. After 1.3 miles of picturesque scenes of North Creek, you will reach the falls. Take the steep wooden stairs to a bench, the only sitting area on the entire trail, and a smaller waterfall a little further down the trail. This is a perfect place to take in the beauty around you!
From here, return the way you came or continue on to complete a slightly more strenuous loop on the Cornelius Creek trail. This route, adding one mile and one hour to the hike, will pass precariously placed boulders and swimming holes. To follow this route, continue on the trail for .3 mile and take a right at the intersection. After one mile, continue straight onto the Cornelius Creek Trail for a little over two miles, passing additional small waterfalls and streams. The trail leads to parking area as well as past a great campsite that is complete with fire pits and a rope swing.
From the Lexington Visitor Center, drive east on Washington Street to a left at the stoplight onto East Nelson Street (US-60). Continue .2 mile to a right onto Lee Highway (US-11 S Bypass). Drive .9 mile to a left at the stoplight, continuing south on Lee Highway. Stay on Lee Highway for 13.5 miles. Upon entering Arcadia, turn left onto Arcadia Road (State Route 614) and drive 2.9 miles. At the fork, turn left onto North Creek Road (FS-59). Continue until the road ends at the parking lot / trail head.
- Always stay on the trail. Fatalities have occurred at the falls when hikers have left the designated trail.
- The views are spectacular year round, but a trip in the springtime is best due to higher water levels from increased rainfall and fewer black flies and mosquitoes. Trips in the fall have caused some hikers to lose sight of the trail beneath heavy foliage.
- If hiking the Cornelius Creek loop, wear shoes that can get wet if water levels are high; there is a small stream to cross.
- Watch for Stinging Nettles; the nonpoisonous plant’s sting is easily alleviated when rubbing a crushed Dock Leaf onto the affected area.
- Pack a picnic lunch from goods at Layne’s Country Store on Lee Highway to enjoy near the falls.
- If you’re headed back into Lexington, stop at Pink Cadillac Diner on Route 11 for an Elvis Burger or Foot Long Hot Dog in a ‘50s diner atmosphere.
- The trail is also accessible from the Sunset Fields overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.