by Jonathon LaRoy, local hiker and adventurer extraordinaire
Waterfalls create a lot of buzz in the hiking community.
Based on experience, I see where most people’s preferred hiking days are those with lots of sunshine, without a cloud in the sky.
I too like those days but would argue that if you want a serene experience at a waterfall, you should choose a different day.
In fact, it’s very rare I venture to any popular waterfall on a nice day. The trails are simply too crowded or on the busiest days, you may not even gain entry into some parks.
Instead, make these popular treks when no one else would dare go out. During or just after big rains and if there is a cold snap, get ready for a rare treat!
This is a special secret that I’m sure a few folks share with me. The really cold days are the best days to go hunt down a waterfall. It’s these days where the really good magic happens. I’ve experienced amazing ice falls, gigantic snow bridges and beauty beyond imagination.
If you can time this right, you’ll be in for a treat like no other you’ve experienced.
What do I mean by cold? Preferably I’d like to see the mercury reading in the twenties or even teens if possible. It’s during these times that the water will slow, and given the right circumstances, freeze the flow in place.
There is magic in the hills when this happens as many of our granite walls that seep water will freeze completely. If a waterfall has a large volume of water with a big spray at the bottom, such as Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap, it can create a natural snow bridge when the cold snap arises. I’ve climbed over 15 feet of frozen snow and ice at the bottom of that falls before!
Happy terrible weather hunting!