Exploring a Rainforest in Virginia – Really

Cascades Gorge Hike Virginia

Brazil? Yes, of course. Costa Rica? You bet! Heck, I even knew that New Zealand has some rain forests, but I was honestly surprised to learn that my home state of Virginia is also home to some pretty impressive rainforests; a fact I learned while a guest of the Omni Homestead Resort.

The semi-tropical micro-climate is actually a feature of the southern Appalachian Mountains, a fact along with many others that I learned while on what is quite honestly one of the best hikes I’ve ever joined. The Cascades Gorge Hike is one of the most popular activities at the Homestead, a great testament to the active clientele that seek out the classic hotel for some rest but also to get a little closer to nature. One of America’s truly classic properties, the Homestead first opened its doors in 1766; one of the chief draws even back then the beautiful forests surrounding the hotel.

Unlike some other rain forests, the Appalachian temperate rainforest has a very cool and overall mild climate. They also live up to their name and receive not just a lot of rain throughout the year, but a lot of mist resulting in a forest that is almost constantly moist.

A two-mile journey along this Appalachian Mountain trail, guests weave around waterfalls, over fallen logs and see nature in a way they may never have before. It wasn’t only the 13 waterfalls and misty mountains that made this hike so much fun, it was the guide. Brian has been the Homestead’s naturalist for more than 25 years, so it’s safe to say that he knows the woods and gorge better than just about anyone else on the planet. His knowledge shines through, but it’s his wit along with his wisdom that makes the tour so very much fun. Entertaining guests from ages 8 to 80 isn’t easy, but his thoughtful and easy style quickly made me realize why the hike is the top activity at the resort.

By the end of the hike I’d learned a lot not only about Virginia forests, but of local Native American lore, medicinal plants and a lot more. I’ve done a lot of active experiences around the world, but this lovely morning walk through one of Virginia’s most beautiful regions is one of my favorites.


By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

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