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Overall Run Falls - Virginia Highest Waterfall
Being an attraction by itself, the Skyline Drive (see side bar on the right) provides access to many trails and places of interest located in Shenandoah National Park. One of such places is the Overall Run Falls - two waterfalls near each other where the second, lower drop is the highest in the park. Hiking to Overall Run Falls is rather difficult but can be rewarding because of the beauty of the place when you reach it. You will be facing about 2000 feet total climb and about 7 miles walk on, at times, rough and rocky terrain. You will go down all your way to the falls, and inevitably you will have to go up to return to your car. We recommend that you plan for at least 6 hours which include two spent near waterfalls. If you never before attempted to walk 4 miles uphill, you may want to think twice before plunging into this adventure since your way back can be particularly demanding.
Talking about cars - there is parking lot near Hogback Overlook, milepost 20.9, elevation 3385 feet which is the starting point of your adventure. You can download this excellent map of the Skyline Drive to identify the place and plan you trip. Coming from Front Royal, you should pass the overlook (actually, you should stop and enjoy wonderful views to the Shenandoah River valley - the Shenandoah River below, the two ridges of Massanutten Mountain and the Alleghenies with the valley of Overall Run, Mathews Arm and Gimlet Ridge in the foreground). Anyway, having passed the overlook, in about two hundred yards you will see on the right side an entrance to the parking lot. It also happens to be the place where Appalachian Trail crosses the Skyline Drive. You start the hike by taking the Trail (marked with white "blazes" on trees and located on the left side of the lot if you face the valley).
About a third of a mile from the start, turn right from Appalachian Trail onto the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail. You cannot miss this point - despite wilderness and roughness of the area, trails are clearly marked and have concrete posts at cross points with names of trails, directions and distances to landmarks. If you are equipped with a GPS system, this location is at 38.75787°, -78.28600° and you will be heading NW from this marker post.
In 0.7 mile, you will see another post where Tuscarora Trail turns 90 degrees, and you should follow it. From this junction, the trail continues for 1.6 miles where you reach a hub of several trails (again, marked with a concrete post). Keep right to the Mathews Arm fire road and in a hundred yards turn left onto the Overall Run Trail. At this point you are already very close to falls, and you can hear the sound of the Overall Run. The trail descends and in several minutes you see ahead of you and slightly to the left the sight of the upper (small) waterfall. You can explore it if you want, otherwise, continue downhill and in another hundred yards take one of side trails that lead to a steep gorge. One of these passages ends at a small and cozy overlook very close to the spot where the stream starts its 93-feet drop. The GPS location is 38.78088°, -78.29097°.
This is a wonderful place where you can rest or continue your exploration of the big falls. Like many other waterfalls in Virginia, both Overall Run Falls are cascading rather than plunging all the way down. There are several trails to viewpoints from which you can watch the big falls and approach the stream very closely. One of such spots is in the middle of the big falls with its higher part plunging from the top to where you stand, and lower part is a cascade down the rocks.
The best time to visit Overall Run Falls is mid-April when the weather is warm but trees are still naked so that you can see better the falls and enjoy the views from the overlook on the top of the big falls. Rather banal and pragmatic reason for this timing is that snakes (and there are plenty of them) and insects are not yet very active. Yet another reason for this choice of season is that during dry summers there may be little or even no water at all and if it happened that would certainly spoil your day whereas when there is plenty of water it's a beautiful sight. You should avoid winter time when trials, especially near the falls, become dangerous in wet and icy conditions. Our final recommendation is that you should plan to start your hike from the parking lot not later than 9 am (which also helps guarantee a spot on the parking lot that can be quite crowded when the weather is good).