September can be a magical time in the Blue Ridge. Just this morning, we awoke to temperatures in the mid-60s, giving us just a taste of fall before the mercury rises into the standard 80-degree range. Of course, we could still see a scorcher or two before autumn sets in with earnest, but peak summer is behind us for the most part. But as we transition into the fall recreation season, this does not mean you need to pack the swim trunks in the attic. There are still plenty of opportunities to get your refreshing dip on in the mountains. In fact, it’s the perfect time of year to make a swimming hole your trail destination. Start in the morning when the air is crisp and cool, and by the time you work up a sweat and make it to the river or waterfall, it will be warm enough to jump in and cool off. What could be better than that?
Luckily, here in the shadow of the Appalachians, nearly all trails lead to, or through, some sort of water feature. Hiking into these beautiful places is fine and dandy, but if you have a mountain bike, riding in only adds to the adventure. Plus, air drying is a snap on the first downhill. We put the spotlight on biking to waterfalls in our September feature Wheels and Waterfalls. North Carolina’s DuPont State Forest was the focus – it is the “Land of Waterfalls” after all, and a mountain biking hotspot – but there are plenty of other places to ride to waterfalls in the northern region as well. Whether you are an expert in the saddle or are just looking for a leisurely pedal, there is something for everyone.
For the advanced rider, check out Blue Suck Falls near Millboro, Virginia. This 4.5-mile singletrack loop in Douthat State Park has everything: steep climbs, steep downhills, and scenic views. If you are looking for a gentler, more family-friendly ride, head a little further south to the Guest River Gorge Trail outside Coeburn, Virginia. This rail trail traces the path of the river providing scenic views of rock bluffs, hardwood forests, and waterfalls. Either option is a great way to take advantage of cool morning temps and hotter afternoons.