As I mentioned, you will find Graveyard Fields at Milepost 418. It is a great set of trails right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway and is usually full throughout the day during all seasons except for winter. It is particularly busy in the early Fall as Graveyard Fields is usually one of the first places to show Fall color. Once you get to the parking lot you will see the restrooms to your right (looking from the Parkway). They are positioned right at the entrance to the hiking trails. After you come down the steps you will find a paved portion of the trail that starts you off. For this waterfall, you will need to stay straight and follow the signs for "Lower Falls".
Once you continue past this, you will climb back up a little bit before descending one more time down to the Second Falls It is easy, but there are a lot of steps that you will have to climb to get back up to the trail. I didn't count them, but it is not excessive by waterfall step counts. Once you get to the base of the waterfall, you will see the issue with this particular waterfall.
There are a lot of boulders strewn about at the base. They provide a visual obstruction that really prevents most photography from taking place from the viewing platform or directly below it. There are no easy paths to take which will put you in a better position to photograph. The only thing that I can suggest is that you come prepared to wade through the water (which is deeper than my mid calf boots, or do some rock hopping. I opted for the latter and found a path that was workable to get to a higher location among the boulders. It was relatively simple, but I have been rock hopping for years and know how to be really cautious to avoid slipping, or finding myself stepping on a loose rock.
When it comes to photography, after you are able to get in position, this is an impressive waterfall to work with. It works well as a horizontal or a vertical shot. It is also one of the few falls that works when lit by the sun. The trick is to go early in the morning and catch first light on the waterfall. When I went at the end of September, the sun was in the perfect position to light the waterfall evenly. I assume at other times of the year that the sun will move to the left and right causing some shadows which will be very problematic.
|Cascades on Cascades|
The hike back to the parking lot is just the reverse of getting here. Then entire round trip will be about 2/3 of a mile. The climb up the stairs will get your attention, but can be done relatively easy. If you are wanting more, you can strike out to the right fork when you come to it to view Graveyard Fields, and ultimately the Upper Falls. The trail will loop back to the parking lot after a couple of miles. It makes for a nice day, but be sure to start early as this area fills up really quickly. Also, pay attention to the "No Parking" signs on the Parkway as you will get a ticket if you park on the shoulder through here due to the amount of congestion that is present much of the year.
Whenever you do go though, be sure to be careful and have a good time. There is a lot to see and do around Graveyard Fields.