Tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Upper Shamokin Falls is a beautiful series of waterfalls that can be explored from all angles via an easy 0.8-mile loop hike. If you’re looking for a nice short hike near Wintergreen or the Afton and Nelson 151 area, Upper Shamokin Falls Trail is a great option! In this article, we’ll give you all the details about the Upper Shamokin Falls Trail so you can decide whether the hike is right for you and plan your visit.
Upper Shamokin Falls Trail
- Distance | 0.8 miles
- Elevation gain | 270 feet
- Time | 30 minutes to 1 hour
- Epic-ness rating | 4
- Difficulty | easy
Find this hike on AllTrails: Upper Shamokin Falls & Morgan’s Loop
For a short hike with a lot of bang for your buck, try the Upper Shamokin Falls and Morgan’s Loop located in Wintergreen Resort. It’s one of the best hikes near Charlottesville, Virginia, accessible in about an hour’s drive from the city.
The trail follows along the edge of Shamokin Falls as it cascades over the rocky terrain, before crossing the stream at its base and returning up the other side.
Although it’s a short hike, the trail is rocky and steep in sections, so be prepared with appropriate footwear. AllTrails lists the hike as moderate due to the elevation gain over a short distance. That being said, this hike is certainly doable for families and children.
It’s also possible to access Upper Shamokin Falls with a longer 3-mile route via the Shamokin Nature Trail or from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Read more about Virginia
Looking for more to do in Charlottesville and the surrounding area? Check out these useful resources to help you plan your visit!
Where is Upper Shamokin Falls?
The Upper Shamokin Falls Trail is located inside Wintergreen Resort, about 1 hour west of Charlottesville, and 1.5 hours west of Richmond. From the Blue Ridge Parkway, the trailhead can be accessed via a short connector trail.
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
Upper Shamokin Falls Trail is part of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in western Virginia.
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests cover over 1.5 million acres of the Appalachian Mountains across Virginia, located just west of Shenandoah National Park.
A portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile winding road that stretches from Smoky Mountains National Park to Shenandoah National Park with amazing mountain views, also runs through the national forests.
- Short and fairly easy hike.
- Features an impressive waterfall.
- Lesser known trail tends to be quieter than others hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Steep, rocky trail.
- Limited parking at the trailhead.
Remember to Leave No Trace. Pack out what you pack in, stay on trail, be well-prepared, leave nothing behind, take only photos and memories with you, treat the area with respect and help preserve this beautiful spot for generations to come.
How difficult is Upper Shamokin Falls trail?
Due to the short distance, we’d consider Upper Shamokin Falls to be an easy hike. That being said, be prepared for a bit of elevation gain.
The trail drops down to the bottom of the falls first, so you’ll have to climb back uphill to return to the trailhead. The trail is a little steep and rocky in sections, but nothing too challenging!
The fastest way to access Upper Shamokin Falls is via the Morgan’s Loop trailhead off Laurel Springs Drive in Wintergreen, as we describe in this article. However, there are a couple other routes you could take:
- Shamokin Nature Preserve: A 2.8 mile out and back hike to one of the Upper Shamokin Falls viewpoints. Tack on an additional half-mile or so to complete the full Morgan’s Loop (recommended). This is a good option if you’re looking for a slightly longer hike.
- Via Dripping Rock Parking Area: If you are coming from the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is the best route to access Upper Shamokin Falls. From the Dripping Rock parking area, follow a short connector trail uphill until you come out onto Laurel Springs Drive. Turn left and walk along the road for about half a mile until you reach the Upper Shamokin Falls Trailhead. This adds a little over a mile roundtrip, but saves you a ton of driving time if you’re already on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Lower Shamokin Falls
As you may have guessed, there is also a Lower Shamokin Falls located nearby. Lower Shamokin Falls cannot be accessed via the Upper Shamokin Falls Trail.
The trailhead for the lower falls is located about a 30-minute drive from the Upper Shamokin Falls trailhead. The hike to reach the Lower Shamokin Falls is more challenging compared to the upper falls, at about 4 miles with 1,100 feet of elevation gain.
When is the best time to hike?
The Upper Shamokin Falls Trail can typically be hiked year-round. During the winter, however, the trail can become icy as the water and mist from the falls freeze on the surrounding rocks. If you do the hike during the winter, use extra caution, especially on the steep, rocky sections.
During the summer, temperatures in the area can reach the upper-80s and lower-90s during the day, making the shaded hike around Upper Shamokin Falls a nice spot to cool off and escape the heat.
Our personal favorite time to hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains is during the fall, from September through early November. We can only imagine how beautiful Upper Shamokin Falls is surrounded by bright yellow, orange, red and green leaves!
Where to stay nearby: come stay with us!
Looking for a great place to stay near Upper Shamokin Falls trail?! You’ve come to the right place.
After several years on the road, we decided we needed a home base so we purchased our home in Afton, Virginia. We poured our hearts into transforming it into a cute little farmhouse, perfect for hosting weekends in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It’s located right off Nelson 151, a.k.a. the “Brew Ridge Trail” in the heart of Virginia wine country, 20 minutes from the southern entrance to Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
As Virginia natives and double University of Virginia alums, this area will always feel like home to us and we love getting to share it with our guests!
While we’re traveling, we rent our house out so guests can experience everything we love about the Blue Ridge Bungalow. Check it out on Airbnb!
What to pack
Below are a few important items to make sure you pack or wear for the Upper Shamokin Falls hike:
- Hiking boots | You’ll want to wear shoes with good traction for hiking Upper Shamokin Falls, as the trail can be slippery and steep. The Danner Mountain 400s are my all-time favorite hiking boots.
- Hiking Poles | These can be helpful for extra support on the steep and rocky sections.
- Hiking backpack | The Camelbak Rim Runner comes with a water bladder and it’s just the right size to pack the essentials. Plus, all the straps are adjustable so it actually fits my body. Goodbye back pain!
- Water and snacks or lunch | Pack lunch and enjoy it sitting by the water at the base of the falls!
For more details on our favorite hiking gear for day hikes, we’ve compiled a complete guide here:
Hike Details | Upper Shamokin Falls Trail
In the following section, we’ll describe the Upper Shamokin Falls hike in more detail.
Parking and getting to the trailhead
Parking at the trailhead is limited. The trailhead is located in a neighborhood, and there is no designated parking area so you’ll need to park on the side of the road.
There are a few spaces just past the trailhead on the other side of the road with enough space to park.
Look for “Upper Shamokin Falls Tr” sign and the green Wintergreen resort sign to know you are in the right place.
Starting the Shamokin Falls hike
From the trailhead, follow the yellow markers on the trees to stay on the trail to Upper Shamokin Falls. The trail continues downhill for about a tenth of a mile before reaching an intersection.
Please note that the trail goes right between two houses, so be respectful and stick to the trail.
Which direction to hike?
Because this hike is a loop, at the intersection you can continue straight to hike counterclockwise or turn left to hike clockwise.
Although it doesn’t make a huge difference which direction you hike, we prefer to turn left and hike in a clockwise direction. This leaves the best view of Upper Shamokin Falls for the end of the hike, on the way back uphill.
After turning left, continue downhill along the Morgan’s Loop trail. The trail meanders alongside a stream and then follows the waterfalls downhill. From the trail you can catch a glimpse of Upper Shamokin Falls through the trees.
After about a quarter mile walking downhill, you’ll come upon another trail intersection. Take a sharp right to loop back around towards Shamokin Falls.
Base of Upper Shamokin Falls
You’ve now reached the lowest point on the hike. The trail crosses over several streams, with log bridges to assist you, before arriving at the base of Upper Shamokin Falls.
Here you’ll enjoy a nice view of the bottom section of Upper Shamokin Falls. Note that there are a few different sections to this massive waterfall – the most beautiful viewpoint (in our opinion) is still ahead as you begin to climb back uphill.
The trail heading back uphill can be a little difficult to see, especially when covered in leaves. Look for the sign for Upper Shamokin Falls and continue to follow the yellow tree markers.
Upper Shamokin Falls Viewpoint
After just a few minutes from the bottom, you’ll come upon the best viewpoint of Upper Shamokin Falls. From the trail, there is a little sign pointing toward the falls.
You’ll need to go slightly off the trail here, following the boulders to get to the base of the falls. From here, you’ll have an amazing view of the two levels of Upper Shamokin Falls. At the base of the falls is a small pool, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day.
Completing the loop
After taking your time to enjoy the falls, return to the trail and continue your journey uphill. The trail branches off in a few different directions, so be sure to follow signs for the Laurel Springs Drive access.
Eventually, the trail crosses over the stream and arrives back at the intersection for the Morgan’s Loop trail.
Return to the trailhead
After you cross the stream return to the start of the loop, continue back uphill to the trailhead to complete the hike.
Other things to do in nearby
Looking for more to do nearby? Below are a few great ideas to spend the rest of your day.
- Wineries | The Upper Shamokin Falls trailhead is located just minutes from the heart of Virginia wine country. Incredible wineries like Afton Mountain Vineyards, Valley Road Vineyards, Veritas Vineyards and more are all located within 30 – 45 minutes.
- Breweries | Upper Shamokin Falls Trail is located right off Nelson 151, home to Devil’s Backbone, Blue Mountain Brewery, Bold Rock. Stop by and grab a cold beer after your hike!
- Skiing at Wintergreen | The trailhead is located in Wintergreen Resort, just minutes from the slopes!
- Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway | The road the trailhead is located on runs parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway. To get there by car, you have to drive out through Wintergreen and around, so it’s about a 30-minute drive. However, you can use a connector trail to easily access the Dripping Rock hike, for some incredible Blue Ridge Mountain views.
Questions about hiking Upper Shamokin Falls trail? Drop us a note in the comments section below!