White Rock Falls Hike is a hidden gem of a hike: moderate, 2.5-mile out-and-back, that offers very pretty views, hidden grottos amongst the rhododendron, wading pools, and a series of small water cascades that collectively form White Rock Falls.
It’s located in central Virginia south of Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile 19.9.
And now you know the secret of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 🙂 Other parkway tourists will pull into the Slacks Overlook parking lot, snap a few photos and selfies, and drive away, oblivious to the trail lurking just across the parkway from the overlook.
The name White Rock came from the abundant quartz rock found in the area.
After you cross to the east side of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Slacks Overlook parking area, you’ll notice the trail a few yards north of the parking lot north-most exit.
The trail takes you down the side of the mountain you’re on — in fact in places, the trail even offers stairs — either log or stacked rocks.
The trail crosses a stream several times as it cuts back and forth through the valley. Take a few moments to enjoy the pleasant rhododendron and mountain laurel grottos, because the trail soon heads uphill, and you’ll get your heart pounding as you head up the next mountain.
In fact, all the rhododendron and mountain laurel means that spring-time is a good time to do this hike, when these shrubs are blooming.
Throughout most of the hike, the streams tumbling through the mountainside provide a soothing soundtrack.
Once at the top of the mountain, the trail offers some amazing views through the trees — made even better because the late fall had caused most of the leaves to fall, opening up more sweeping views.
The trail carries you past several overlook points (not officially part of the trail but the paths out to the rock outcroppings are well worn and quite obvious).
You cross along the ridgeline for a bit before heading down the mountainside via a series of switchbacks to the stream and series of cascades below.
You’ll want to plan to explore the various levels of falls. Although in the summer the water level drops somewhat, depending on the recent rains, that’s also a great time to do the hike because of the various wading pools and the opportunity to get under the falls themselves.
It’s an out and back hike, so if you go down, you come back up. The elevation loss/gain is 773 feet (that’s the marked trail to the end of the falls plus an additional exploration about halfway down the switchbacks to the upper end of the series of falls — not a shabby exercise in just 1.25 mile.
But the falls are beautiful. We packed a picnic, which we spread out at the base of the falls so we can enjoy the sound of the falls while we ate.
Since we were there on an early November day during the week, we were alone for the most part, although we passed a few other hikers.