The view of the Shenandoah Valley from Q’s View in the early miles of the 2020 Waterfall 50 km.

Keith Knipling

Waterfall 50 km

WTF. Since I’m here, I’ll climb it again.

  • Sun Jan 17, 2021
Start location
Start time
  • 8:00 am
  • 30.7 miles
Total ascent/descent
  • 7,500 feet
Aid stations
  1. Gap Creek (9.0 miles)
  2. Massanutten Visitors Center (19.7 miles)
GPX file
Print or download
Sunrise & sunset
  • Begin civil twilight 8:00 am
    Sunrise 8:29 am
    Sunset 6:20 pm
    End civil twilight 6:48 pm
What to wear
In charge
Course records
  • Lance Dockery
    5:04 (in 2018)
    Kelly MacDonald
    6:48 (in 2018)
Waterfall 50k sticker
The coveted Waterfall 50k sticker.

The 6th annual Waterfall 50 km will take place on Sunday January 17th, 2021, which is Day 2 of the MLK holiday weekend training runs. Start time is 8 am, so you can sleep in for the full day on the trails that will await. Waterfall is a tough, rocky, winter-time run in the central Massanutten Mountains near US Route 211.

In the past, this slot on the trail running calendar was filled with a variant of the “Gap to Gap” run at the southern end of the Massanuttens. This 50 km is yet another variant on that theme, but with a mighty kick. And oh what a kick it is…

Course description

Runners should refer to the turn sheet for detailed directions, but this will give you the big picture.

The course is a figure-8, the centerpiece of which is the chin scraper climb up Waterfall Mountain, which runners do early in the run and then again about halfway through.

Starting from the parking area on US Route 211, the course follows the white blazed Massanutten Connector Trail to the orange blazed Massanutten Trail at the base of Waterfall Mountain. From there, runners make the 700 foot climb up to Crisman Hollow Road and continue on the Massanutten Trail to Kerns Mountain, which they follow north for a little more than 5 miles to Jawbone Gap.

Here the course leaves the Massanutten Trail. After a short out-and-back on a white blazed trail to a view, runners descend the east side of Jawbone Gap on the blue blazed Gap Creek Trail down to the first aid station at Gap Creek (also an aid station at MMT).

Aid StationSplitCumulativeCutoffMap
Gap Creek9.0 mi9.0 mi
Massanutten Visitors Center10.7 mi19.7 mi2:30 pm

From the aid station, runners continue on the Gap Creek Trail up and over Peach Orchard Gap to the orange blazed Massanutten Trail in Duncan Hollow. They then turn right, heading south, up the steady climb up Duncan Hollow. After topping out on the ridge, runners stay on orange and descend a short way down to Scothorn Gap.

At this four-way intersection, runners take a left and continue on the Massanutten Trail, descending along Big Run (a creek) down to the base of Waterfall Mountain.

Climbing Waterfall Mountain (the second time) during the 2020 event
Climbing Waterfall Mountain (the second time) during the 2020 event.

With the northern loop done, runners climb Waterfall again, this time turning left at the top onto Crisman Hollow Road and taking that to the Massanutten Visitors’ Center and the second aid station.

If you’re not feeling it, this is a good place to cut the run short and take a 2 mile downhill jog back to your car.

From the Visitors’ Center, runners climb Bird Knob on the Wildflower Trail and the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail. After the overlook, runners bear right on the white blazed Bird Knob Trail and do not take “Ant Hill Road” as they would during MMT.

The southern loop is completed by taking Big Mountain Road to the purple blazed Roaring Run Trail and then the pink blazed Browns Hollow Trail all the way back to the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail and your car.

King and Queen of waterfall

The “run within the run” — The King and Queen of Waterfall. The first 5 km covers from the starting gate up Waterfall to Crisman Hollow Road. We will be tracking the splits of everyone from the start to Crisman and the fastest male and female will be declared the King and Queen of Waterfall. These runners also need to have completed the whole course in order to be King/Queen.


Entry will open in mid December, at first to VHTRC Members, and after a few days to all. The field filled between December 19th and January 3rd for the 2019 event, with a cap of 105 runners, and no wait list as a result. There was a similar pattern in 2020, with the event opening on Friday December 20. The goal is to arrive on event day with under 75 starters.

Think about it

If you also sign up for the MMT Training Academy Run #1/MLK #1, which will be held the day before, please give serious consideration to whether you will be able to run both days before signing up for this event - in other words, don’t take up another runner’s slot if you are unlikely to get out of bed after MLK #1 feeling psyched to run MLK #2. Volunteer slots are available in that case! To volunteer, send a note to Bur.

Results and reports are listed above, so you can do more research before pulling the trigger on your entry.

Last updated October 20, 2020

Club Event Participant Medical Policy

This is an event with very real risks to your well being. The VHTRC does not provide medical care for runners at this event. Runners are responsible for their own health, safety, and well being at this event. No doctors, nurses, or emergency medical technicians, or anyone with any medical training are available along the course, at any aid station, or at the finish. The club does not supply any medical goods or services, including bandages, splints, antiseptic, or Ibuprofen or any other drugs to maintain the health of runners. Physical, medical, and emergency care is the runners' responsibility. In case of an emergency, we will endeavor to get local emergency personnel to an injured runner as soon as possible. Since most of our events are in remote areas, medical care may be far away in distance or time. Each year, runners finish — or are forced to drop out — with scrapes, deep cuts, hematomas, dislocations, and sprains. Runners have experienced cuts, bruises, bee stings, and asthma attacks. This is an event with very real risks.