If you are looking for an easy hike that provides for plenty of cascading stream views, the hike to Stiles Falls provides for a high views to work ratio. So it is a great hike for beginners or kid friendly hike. But it is a busy one for those same reasons.
The hike was closed shortly after we hiked here back in March, so I delayed in writing it up until now.
- name: Stiles Falls
- type: in & out
- distance: 3.4 mi
- elevation change: 341 ft
- time: 1:31 hours
- location: Alta Mons (private property) nears Shawsville, VA (google map directions)
Stiles Falls is located on private property owned by Alta Mons, an outdoor ministry of the Roanoke District of the United Methodist Church. As such, the trail is only open for hiking from dawn to dusk and they update the status of their trails on their facebook page. Please follow their regulations when hiking here. They also offer camping, retreats, and other activities here, you can find more information on their website.
The hike starts at the main parking lot on the Alta Mons property. There is a sign in sheet here and bathrooms. To avoid the majority of the traffic as COVID was just beginning when we did this hike, we started late in the day around 5:15pm.
The trail starts opposite of the building on the dirt road continuing further into the property. Initially, we passed a swimming pool and basketball court. There are several dirt roads branching off along the way, but keep following the signs for Stiles Falls.
After going around a pond and through a bit of forest, we crossed Purgatory Creek over a bridge.
We would follow Purgatory Creek for the rest of the hike in. To our right is a large open field and the Pearlman House, one of the many buildings you can rent out here (Alta Mons).
The hike thus far was relatively flat on a wide dirt road, we follow the signs and finally switch onto a trail for the last 0.7 miles.
Shortly after we were on the trail, we cross Purgatory Creek without a bridge for the first of three times. The waters here in Alta Mons are said to have healing properties after a Shawnee Brave nursed himself back to health on the waters after being injured in battle. Later on, the Crockett family bottled the water and sold it in the county (you can find several information plaques along the hike). There were two specific places that we could cross the stream, so see what works best for you in keeping your feet dry.
After the second crossing, the trail starts to noticeably gain some elevation.
Roughly, it would be 9.8% grade incline over 0.4 miles following the creek upstream.
There were some cool rock formations on our other side of the trail.
The 3rd water crossing is next after a brief few steps downhill.
As we neared the falls, I scrambled onto a few rocks around the pool below. If it was warmer, these could be some nice swimming holes. However, they may be very busy. There were only one other group here late in the day.
At the end of the trail, we scrambled up onto a large boulder for a direct view of the falls at the top.
The falls was named after Randy (Randolph) Stiles, who fell to his death by swinging on tree limbs and vines during a Sunday School picnic. He was trying to show off skills he picked up as a sailor for the Confederacy during the Civil War where he would swing from ship riggings. I don’t know if Purgatory Creek was named before or after that, but it would make sense as a lesson for others that the idiot is now stuck in Purgatory. So as the information of the trail specifies, don’t climb above the falls or go off the trail.
We didn’t hang around for too long and retraced our steps for an easy evening hike.
The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.
- view: 2. As always, I am a sucker for hikes next to a rushing stream and this hike is that. At the end of the stream is Stiles Falls to top it off. On a hot summer day, you can find a couple pools here you can take a dip in to cool off. The only negative is that you most likely won’t have the place to yourself as this is a popular hike for beginners, families, and Virginia Tech students.
- difficulty: 1. The trail doesn’t gain much elevation and is pretty short.
- technical: 1. There are 3 stream crossings and depending how close you want to get to Stiles Falls, some minor scrambling at the end depending on how close you want to get to the falls. However, I wouldn’t consider any of the stream crossings dangerous unless we get a deluge in the area and the trail is very well signed.