Kurt and Gail Rheinheimer
Pre-geezer hikers block the hazy view from Barney's Wall.
A hot and pretty day, a son and his girlfriend visiting from Raleigh and a good wet spring . . . what better place for a hike than the Cascades and Barney's Wall?
Which began with the parking filled to overflow and a steady stream of walkers headed out of it and toward the falls.
Little Stoney Creek, the primary feature of the first two miles of the walk, was a noisy, splashy flow as hoped for, and as portending a strong cascade at the Cascades. And sure enough, the falls was full of water as well as people, to the extent that it was hard to pick our way through the crowd to the trail above the falls.
But as is always the case once you are beyond the falls, you pretty much have the woods to yourself, both along the half mile of forest road and then on the Conservancy trail up to Barney's Wall.
The 1,600-foot climb from the parking lot to the overlook at Barney's Wall proves itself well worth it every time, as the view from the sheer drop is long and pretty, though there was some haze on this warm day. We had the viewpoint to ourselves for lunch, aside from a brief, apologetic visit from three guys on dirt bikes, who had come up from the other side of the mountain, where the forest road brings visitors to within a half mile or so of Barney's Wall.
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All led us up the mountain, and the hour and 55 minutes seemed like pretty good time. At least until flatlanders David and Emily – polite followers on the way up – burned us back down the four miles in an hour and 20 minutes, on the lower part weaving us through so many little packs of slower hikers that they said it was more like making your way into the football game than hiking in the woods.
Cascades Trail and Conservancy Trail to Barney's Wall and back. 8 miles.
How to get there: U.S. 460 west from Blacksburg to the right turn onto Va. 623 in Pembroke and 3.5 miles to parking area at the end of the road.