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Frozen Cascades

posted Jan 28, 2014, 5:31 AM by Justin P   [ updated Feb 2, 2014, 1:48 PM ]

Sunday, we headed up to Virginia to see the (hopefully) frozen Cascade Falls, located in the Cascades Days Use Area in Jefferson National Forest.  It had been three years since I last visited here; the last two winters just weren’t cold enough to freeze a waterfall.  But this year, we had gotten some unseasonably cold weather and conditions were good for the Cascades to freeze.  We left the carpool location in Chapel Hill just after 730 and made our way up to Virginia.  Casey, who had stayed with his parents in Blacksburg, was meeting us up there and said that there was quite a bit of snow on the ground.  As we crossed into Virginia on I-77, there wasn’t much snow to be seen.  But by the time we were heading towards Pembroke, it was looking a lot snowier.  Cascades Drive, which leads to the recreation area, had not been plowed and was quite slippery.  They did plow it, however, right after we arrived.  After paying the day-use fee, we got ready and started our hike along the lower section of the Cascades Trail.  This scenic four-mile loop is a National Recreation Trail and was quite beautiful with snow on the ground and the creek.  We started off on the lower section of the trail, which runs right along Little Stony Creek.  Although frozen in places, the creek was still flowing, but the snow and ice along the rocky creek was gorgeous. 

The hike to the falls is only two miles, but it took a while to make it there.  Not because the snow on the ground made treacherous hiking; with Yak-Trax, the hiking was pretty easy, even on snow and ice covered stairs.  Rather, there were so many places to stop and get pictures of this winter wonderland.  The ice forming around small cascades on the creek was beautiful and a few sections of rocky cliffs along the trail had massive icicles hanging from them. 

After a while, we got to the falls.  Although not completely frozen, the mostly frozen waterfall was a magnificent sight.  The right and left sides of the falls were solid ice, with liquid water flowing down the middle.  The basin below the falls was mostly frozen, but likely not solid enough to be safe to walk on.  We ate lunch here and took many pictures of the falls from various angles. 

Before heading back, though, we wanted to stop for one more waterfall.  We headed up to the old road bed, but instead of turning to head back down to the parking lot, we turned the other way, continuing to head up.  This unmarked trail leads to Upper Cascades, another waterfall a half-mile or so up from Cascade Falls.  The trail leads to the top of the falls and there isn’t much of a view here.  So we climbed down to the base to view the falls from a better angle.  Like the larger waterfall downstream, this one was only partially frozen, but the ice surrounding the falls was gorgeous.  It’s possible to get real close to this one and see all the icicles up close.  We got some shots here and then headed back up to the trail, stopping for a while to make a snowman and have some fun in the snow. 

We don’t get much snow down in Raleigh, so we took the opportunity to have some fun in the snow while we could.  Then we slowly made our way back to the parking lot.  Rather than take the old road bed back to finish the loop, we returned along the lower trail to enjoy the sights along Little Stony Creek once more.  Once we regrouped at the parking area, we headed to Blacksburg for dinner at Cabo Fish Tacos and then headed back to the Triangle.  A wreck on I-77 closed the highway, which made for a very long drive home.  Below is a video I made of the hike to the falls: