Monday, January 21, 2013

Dry Run and South River: Lots of Waterfalls

This week's hike was another installment in waterfall season. I like to go searching for waterfalls in winter, particularly when there isn't any snow on the ground. Often the rocks near the falls are covered in bright green moss, providing a pop of green in an otherwise gray and brown landscape. We had some rain this week, so I was hoping that the falls we were looking for would be running well. We were not disappointed.

We met a friend and parked at Swift Run Gap in Shenandoah National Park at the trailhead for the Appalachian Trail (AT). While we were getting ready, one of the park rangers that we know stopped and chatted with us. We hadn't seen him since our last weekend on Old Rag in the fall, so it was good to catch up for a few minutes. We headed northbound on the AT, making quick work of the 3.5 miles to the South River Fire Road, where we turned west and crossed Skyline Drive. Dry Run Fire Road gradually descends the west side of the ridge, passing some cliffs and crossing the creek that gives the road its name.  We did some bushwhacking, seeking waterfalls and wrestling greenbriar. Eventually, we hiked down to the boundary of the park and returned to Skyline Drive.  

Back at the junction of South River Fire Road and the AT, we had to make a decision about whether to go down to South River Falls. It was 3pm and going down to the falls would add three miles to our trip, a hike down into the valley and back up again, and it would mean that we would finish in the dark. We ultimately decided to go for it.  After all, what is three more miles? We were rewarded for our effort by a nicely flowing waterfall - the biggest one we'd seen all day. The return hike wasn't too bad and we finished up about 15 minutes after the last of the day's light drained from the sky. We saw a total of two other groups, both of which were on the South River Falls Trail.  

Pictures (click to enlarge):  
A small waterfall on Dry Run.
One of the upper falls of Dry Run Falls. There are a series of cascades, not all of which are particularly easy to get to.
Moss near Dry Run Falls.
Looking west from Lost Cliffs. Massanutten Mountain is the ridge in the distance.
South River Falls.
 Looking east, down the South River in the fading light.
Sunset from the Appalachian Trail.

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