The Roaring Run gorge in Virginia's Blue Ridge sports numerous scenic slides and cascades, on top of a spectacular 35-foot Roaring Run Falls. Several short nature trails provide easy access to this pristine location. The area also has an interesting iron ore mining history, which can be observed today in the form of the Roaring Run Furnace, an iconic sight along this short loop hike in the vicinity of Roaring Run. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 26th, 2016. My plan was to hike the Roaring Run Falls Loop clockwise, by first following the Streamside Trail and then returning along the Woodland Trail, after hiking the side trail to Roaring Run Falls. This hike was the sixth of seven hikes that I did during a four-day Thanksgiving trip to the mountains of western Virginia.
R/T Length of Trail: 1.6 Miles
Duration of Hike: 1:30
Type of Hike: Loop
Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 411 Feet
Pros: Easy trail to several beautiful water features
Cons: The gorge view on the Woodland Trail is more limited than one would have desired
Points of Interest: 35-Foot Slide on Roaring Run - 5 stars; Roaring Run Falls - 10 stars; Other cascades and slides on Roaring Run; Roaring Run Furnace
Trail Blaze Colors: None
Best Seasons to Hike: Spring
Beginning Point: Roaring Run Day Use Area
Directions from Covington, VA: From the intersection of US Route 60/220 (Allegheny Avenue) and VA Route 18 (Carpenter Drive), follow VA 18 South for 1.9 miles. Then, turn left onto VA 657 (Pitzer Ridge Road). In another 1.9 miles, turn left onto VA 619 (Hayes Gap Road). Follow VA 619 for 3.3 miles, before turning left onto VA 616 (Rich Patch Road). In 7.1 miles, turn right onto the entrance road to the Roaring Run Day Use Area, and reach the trailhead parking area in 0.2 miles.
Click the link below to download a .KML file with a track of this hike.
Roaring Run Falls was a hike that had been low on my list during my trip to Virginia. In fact, I had debated skipping it altogether, but I eventually found time to fit it in one evening. I have to admit that I had not expected anything as beautiful as this picturesque little gorge. The Streamside Trail to Roaring Run Falls passes several beautiful slides and cascades, including one of notable height (35 feet), before reaching the main show: a top-notch high-flow waterfall that spills over a ledge in the form of an upside-down "V". I highly recommend this short outing, if you ever find yourself in this area of Virginia.
The hike begins at a historic gate at the large parking area. This iron gate, bordered by two stone pillars (one with a USFS logo and the other with the words "Roaring Run" inscribed), appears to be here for exhibit purposes, as the trail begins to the right of the gate. An "Iron Furnace & Trails" sign directs you in the right direction along a gravel path, leaving the picnic area to the right. Only about 250 feet from the trailhead, reach a major intersection at an information kiosk and restrooms. Here, thee trails head in different directions. To the left, the 2.4-mile Iron Ore Trail leads to the Hoop Hole Loop, which is a figure-8 loop that is actually designated as a National Recreation Trail and is around 9 miles long. Straight ahead, the Streamside Trail leads along Roaring Run to Roaring Run Falls. To the right, the Woodland Trail leads to the Roaring Run Furnace and then stays above the gorge on its alternative way to Roaring Run Falls. I hiked the Streamside Trail/Woodland Trail loop clockwise, passing through the scenic area first. For this short hike, you will not use the Iron Ore Trail, although it is certainly an option for extending the hike. To hike the loop the way I did, continue straight on the Streamside Trail.
The Streamside Trail shortly comes alongside Roaring Run, which is a typical cascading mountain stream. At 0.2 miles, the trail crosses Roaring Run via a footbridge - just below a notable side - only to cross back to the west side of the creek a few dozen feet later. At about 0.35 miles, the trail passes by a taller slide to the right that is quite picturesque, especially during times of higher water. The gorge then narrows and the creek becomes faster, as the trail follows it along a boardwalk before crossing it for the third time at 0.5 miles, via another well-constructed wooden footbridge. On the other side of the creek is a junction with the Woodland Trail, which turns right and loops back to the trailhead. For now, turn left onto the spur trail to Roaring Run Falls. Just ahead is a multi-tiered slide on the creek that has a height of about 35 feet. In my opinion, this is a worthwhile waterfall in its own, although the main show definitely lies ahead.
After ascending some rock steps and traversing increasingly rocky terrain, the trail dead-ends at Roaring Run Falls at 0.65 miles. This waterfall is a sight to behold. The creek spills down a 35-foot rock ledge, and the water fans out into two different channels down the ledge (that start at one point). The shape of the waterfall is like an upside-down letter V. Below the falls, the scenic creek tumbles over a few fast shoals before bending out of sight. A large slanted rock slab covers the area to the right and above the falls. This is one of the most photogenic waterfalls that I have seen, despite the relatively low height.
From Roaring Run Falls, retrace your steps to the junction with the Woodland Trail. Continue straight onto it. The trail quickly ascends out of the gorge and leaves the creek. This is the the biggest uphill on the hike, but it really isn't much. The travel levels out around 1.0 miles, staying below VA 616. There are some winter views of the gorge to the right. The trail reaches a stone observation area at 1.05 miles, where there is a limited view into the Roaring Run Gorge. After this, a gradual descent begins as the trail works its way down into the valley towards the trailhead. Reach the Roaring Run Furnace, which is fenced off to the right, at 1.5 miles. This location was perfect for the Roaring Run Furnace, because the four main elements that are required to make iron were all here: limestone, trees, iron ore, and running water. In the 1800s, iron ore was mined in nearby rocks and then was fed into the furnace, together with limestone and charcoal, to form iron. Two signs at the furnace described the operations that were done at Roaring Run in detail.
After the furnace, the trail crosses Roaring Run on an impressive wooden footbridge. I highly admire whoever constructed the trails around Roaring Run. They have done an excellent job, especially with all of the footbridges. At 1.55 miles, the Woodland Trail ends at the information kiosk and four-way trail junction near the trailhead. Here, turn left on the access trail to the trailhead and reach the parking area at 1.6 miles, concluding the hike. Due to the beauty of Roaring Run Falls and the Roaring Run Gorge in general, I decided to rate this hike a "Best Hike"!
0.0 - Roaring Run Day Use Area
0.35 - Slide on Roaring Run
0.5 - 35-Foot Slide on Roaring Run
0.65 - Roaring Run Falls
1.05 - View of Roaring Run Gorge
1.5 - Roaring Run Furnace
1.6 - Roaring Run Day Use Area
Hike out and back to Roaring Run Falls via the Streamside Trail - 1.3 Miles
There are several other trails in the area that could be hiked, including the Craig Creek Trail and Hoop Hole Trail (that consists of a shorter lower loop and longer full loop).
My apologies for the darkness of some pictures. I did this hike in the early evening, starting at around sunset, and I didn't have enough light to take good pictures of some of the sights along this hike.
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