The natural geologic cut of the Appalachian Mountains, and the plentiful moisture and frequency of springs in the region, combine to produce a cascading system of waterworks from Shenandoah National Park down through the Blue Ridge Parkway and into Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides more than enough incentive to take a hike.
Across this rumpled region that stretches more than 500 miles are countless waterfalls that draw visitors throughout the year, whether they come to counter the cloaking heat and humidity of summer or marvel at the intricate iceworks of winter. Though locals know these waterworks well, and when best to view them, newcomers could use some advice, and that's where Waterfalls of the Blue Ridge comes in handy.
Now in its 4th edition, this book provides entries on more than 120 waterfalls, from flumes 50 feet long to cataracts that plunge more than 100 feet. There are general locator maps, GPS coordinates, and a too-short section of beautiful full-color pictures. The authors also give you some tips for photographing waterfalls (don't forget to provide perspective by including people, or at least trees, in your shots, watch for rainbows in the falls' mist), and even short sections on the individual national park units. One thing they neglected to point out, or which I overlooked in the book, is the need to watch out for snakes. Poisonous copperhead and timber rattlesnakes are common in these parks. When I was hiking down into Whiteoak Canyon in Shenandoah one year I had to make a last-second leap to avoid stepping on a snake.
Unfortunately, the book does not offer trail maps, something that could be immensely helpful in areas where there are crisscrossing trails and multiple routes you can take. For instance, the hike to Lewis Spring Falls in Shenandoah starts you out from a parking area near the Tanner Ridge Overlook, but when I did the hike a couple years ago I started from Big Meadows Lodge. In short, the hike described in the book does the same loop I took, but in the opposite direction.
As the authors take care to specifically note how far you hike in between turns along the trail(s), having a GPS device to measure distances would be extremely helpful.
Overall, if you're planning a trip to any -- or all -- of these park units, this book is a good resource to find waterfall hikes both in the parks, and in the surrounding countryside of state parks in Virginia and North Carolina.