About 150,000 visitors a year visit the Cascades.
Without question, Cascade Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls
in Virginia and possibly on the entire East Coast. Little Stony Creek
falls over a vertical cliff in several different streams. Several
streams cascade a couple times on the way down while others fall the
whole distance of the falls.
The 69 ft. falls crash into a large pool
surrounded by two hundred foot cliff walls from which large ice
formations hang in the winter. The scene is both breathtaking and
peaceful as the falls combine both power and beauty. The falls are also
fairly easy to view, with wooden stairs and platforms on one side of the
pool allowing a visitor to get very close to the falls as well as
allowing a photographer many different angles for photographs.
About the hiking trail
The Upper Trail is a beautiful hike with scenic,
aerial views of Little Stony Creek. But, it's only half of the
well-loved four-mile loop.
Picking its way along the banks of Little Stony, the
Lower Trail pauses at the edge of buggy backwaters and hangs over
gushing cataracts. It winds its way through families of moss-covered
boulders and cuts through rhododendron thickets. The roar of Little
Stony is its constant companion as it climbs toward the main waterfall.
The spectacular views from the Lower Trail are as
beautiful as the Cascades. It takes four bridges and innumerable stone
steps and walkways to give visitors this experience. The original trail,
built in the 1960s, was so artfully constructed that it seemed to
In 1996, melting snow and heavy rains turned Little
Stony into a raging torrent. When the waters receded, three of the
bridges and much of the trail were missing. The U.S. Forest Service
allocated $400,000 to rebuild the trail and make improvements at the
They turned to Charlie Dundas, whose company, West
Virginia-based Tri-State, had done a good bit of repair work to the
trails over the years. Dundas said the Forest Service liked his plan to
rebuild the trail without heavy equipment, and thus disturb the land as
little as possible. When he began, a quarter of the two-mile trail had
"Certain key areas were just totally gone," Dundas
said. "It [the flood] scoured it down literally to bedrock." In some
places, the old trail was resurrected, in others all new trail was
built. A few ghosts of the old trail remain -- stone steps that survived
the flood but now lead nowhere.
The new bridges are mighty structures, supported
by enormous beams and enclosed on both sides with log railings. They
should have at least a fighting chance if Little Stony floods again.
Tri-State sought to restore not just access, but
also the character of that original trail. The countless stone steps
seem at home here and so will the bridges once they've been smoothed and
stained by a few Giles County winters. And, just like the old trail,
there are plenty of roots and rocks to trip over and slick spots to slip
The closer the trail gets to the big waterfall, the more work there
was for Dundas. Here the trail clings more desperately to the steep
banks of the gorge. Raised stone walkways, held together with steel
pins, were built to make it passable. But the rougher the terrain gets,
the more impressive the sights. Furious white water rips between
boulders to fall churning into a pool below. Up ahead, a small stream
tumbles down the side of a cliff into Little Stony.
Finally, the upper and Lower Trails meet and
ramble on to a stunning climax. Vegetation and an enormous boulder
conspire to hide the falls from sight for as long as possible. When
hikers round the boulder, the Cascades suddenly appear, roaring for
The waterfall reigns in this bowl-shaped arena it has carved from the mountain. Little Stony's rushing waters leap from the edge, cascading down
the rock wall and landing in churning, misty turmoil in the pool below.
From the rocks midstream or the observation deck near the top, the sight
is spectacular enough to merit the thousands, if not millions, of
photos that have been taken.
Time to go home. Tradition demands that the Upper
Trail be taken back. From its lofty perch on the side of the gorge, it
provides hikers with a new perspective of Little Stony. Its direct route
is an asset now, as it leads the weary back to their cars and a cold
drink in Pembroke.