Adventure Us: Falls Ridge Preserve, Elliston, VA
In the Roanoke area, you don’t have to venture far off the beaten path to find natural treasures the whole family can enjoy. Just east of Blacksburg, along the North Fork of the Roanoke River, Falls Ridge Preserve boasts unique beauty and diversity accessible to explorers of all ages. A short quarter mile hike brings you to the preserve’s most remarkable scenery. Mineral-rich water from the mountain stream has shaped the landscape here in striking ways. Most obvious is the waterfall plummeting 50 feet over the cliffs. Just as beautiful are the series of cascades and pools above the falls, where you can see the calcification process at work in the remarkable rock formations. These rocks are not wearing away but actually growing, as calcium from the water is gradually deposited to form new layers of rock. A short trail climbs past the falls, follows the stream for a short distance, then circles back around through the woods, down a steep set of stairs, and across a foot bridge to the starting point below the falls. Before crossing the foot bridge, stop to explore the caves in the massive limestone rock outcropping (bring a flashlight to enjoy the formations inside the wood-framed opening!). All throughout these cliffs, fossilized imprints of plants can be found in the rock – another attraction for both young and old. Facing the caves stands an old kiln in which lime was once produced from the calcium carbonate within these rocks. For those who prefer a longer hike, follow the Chamberlain Trail further along the ridge. It also forms a loop and is a total of 3.3 miles.
The Nature Conservancy owns and maintains the 655-acre preserve. To reach the preserve, take Rt 603 (North Fork Rd) and watch for the Falls Ridge Rd sign and the narrow single-lane bridge on the river side. Immediately after crossing the river and the railroad tracks, make a sharp left. The gravel road will wind around to the parking area. Clearance is low but the road can be navigated by a sedan. Respect the environment, stay on the trails, and don’t bring your dog. Also, take note, families: there are no bathrooms on the premises.
Name: Falls Ridge Preserve, Falls Ridge Road, Elliston, VA 24087
Time from Roanoke: 40 minutes
Activity Options: hiking, waterfalls, caves, historic ruins
Nearby Food: none right nearby, but Blacksburg is just over 15 minutes farther on, where you can find restaurants like Cook Out, Lefty’s, Bojangles, Our Daily Bread, Avellino’s Pizzeria, and many more
Nearby Attractions: downtown Blacksburg, Virginia Tech campus