Nicknamed the “Trail of Many Nicknames” (see hiking notes below), this one goes in the category of half-fantastic, half-dull and tedious. We would do a shortened out-and-back version of this hike again to see the waterfalls in various seasons, but we probably won’t do the entire loop again.
It took us about 1 hr 30 min to drive to the parking area/trailhead from Fredericksburg, VA.
Pay attention to the parking notes on Hiking Upward. There is no “lot” to park in, just a little bump-out in the road at the tail end of 630 at the start of someone’s private drive. You have to walk up that drive (with homeowner’s blessings, we assume from the signage at the base of the driveway) to get to the trailhead. There are lots of “private property” and “keep out” signs on both sides of the drive and at the start of the trail, until you get on the trail proper. SNP is definitely encouraging hikers to honor those signs so that trail access can be preserved amicably with the landowners. The parking area is so small that only maybe 3-4 cars could park there safely, and then only if they cooperated with one another. Two cars parallel-parked filled the area entirely when we were there.
Bentonville, VA on 23 December 2016
Saw the sun for a short time just as we reached the bigger waterfall. Beautiful!
Just typical day-hike prep…water and snacks in day bags and out the door. Put a little thought into what to wear because it was chilly to start, but we knew we’d get warm as we moved…so, layers. Henri is the cold-weather wimp of the two of us, so she wore fleece-lined tights under hiking pants with a long-sleeve sport-tech tee, a sweatshirt, and a jacket. By the time we were 1/4 way up the first hill, the jacket was unzipped, her beanie was off, and she says she felt pretty comfortable. There wasn’t much wind, so that was good. It was cold enough for the waterfalls to be iced over, which was beautiful.
OUR HIKE NOTES
Somehow we managed to do the trail backwards (as Hiking Upward has it mapped out, anyway). This had some pros and cons…and the cons, to us, outweighed the pros. Doing the trail backwards meant that we started up Beecher Ridge Trail, which we have now nicknamed “Boring Ridge Trail.” We were super glad that it was December and the leaves were off the trees because were it not for a vague glimpse of the mountain ridges through the branches, there was just about nothing to see for the first 3-4 miles of the hike…which was UP. So we also called that leg of the trail “Unrewarded Up.” No vistas along the way. And, once we were past the stream at the start of the trail, no water feature for the first half of the hike. Didn’t even get to see a black bear (Fergus was so bummed). The other downer of the Up on this part of the loop was that the trail had not been cleared or maintained in a long time, so we were slogging through 6-8 inches of fallen leaves, earning the trail the additional nickname “Ankle Turner.” Lots of hidden rocks and roots and brambles under those leaves! In a couple of spots, branches or small trees had fallen across the trail and we either cleared them ourselves or found a way around them. It wasn’t un-fun, honestly, but it was one of the least maintained trails we’ve seen so far in Shenandoah National Park.
Once we turned down Overall Run Trail, things instantly improved. It was cleared/maintained (though still leafy…which was fine until we started to go down and then we wished we’d brought a sled to slide down the slippery blanket of leaves). This is where we picked up the stream, as well. And, of course, the UP was pretty much over, which meant less physical work to just move forward. It wasn’t long before we came across the top of a lovely waterfall that was partially iced over. Had a snack there and then proceeded down to a REALLY gorgeous vista and waterfall, just as the sun was starting to go down beyond the ridge. Lovely.
In a way, we’re glad we did it backwards because we got the work & boring bit over and ended with gorgeous views and interesting terrain. Had we done it the “right” way, we would have left the cool stuff behind and spent the last 2/3 of the hike trudging/slogging through the boring leaves back to the car. So, maybe we take our “cons outweigh the pros” comment back, after all. We remarked afterwards that it really changes your experience to come across waterfalls from the top rather than the bottom…you hear them, but can’t see them until you’re almost falling over the edge. Kinda cool.
We decided we would do this trail again, but probably only hike (the “right” direction) up to the waterfall and then back. We don’t think we’d do the whole loop again, just because so much of it was pretty dull in comparison to that part…and there are so many other trails to try!
OUR FAVORITE BITS
- The waterfalls and vistas on Overall Run Trail
- SOLITUDE: We only saw 1 other person on the trail the entire day (5 hours of hiking)
- A few animal encounters: 1 white-tailed deer, 3 pheasant, and a small bear (we think small…it was jussssst on the other side of some brush from us. We heard it moving around, heard what was clearly a bear cub sound, but didn’t get to see it). The audio below wasn’t taken by us, but it’s the same sound we heard.