Issaqueena Falls is an attraction in the same park as Stumphouse Tunnel. This is a great picnic spot with several nearby attractions.
The falls were named after an Indian girl who found out that her tribe was planning an attack on a nearby community of white settlers. Seeing this as unwarranted, she galloped her horse to warn the settlers of their impending doom. Places of interest along the way were named for the distance from the tribal center, such as Mile Creek, Six Mile, Twelve Mile, Eighteen Mile, etc. Her tribe quickly learned of her planned betrayal and chased after her. They caught up with her at the falls, an area still called Ninety-Six.
Threatened with retribution for her actions, the girl backed up to the ledge of the falls and jumped. Knowing that surviving that kind of fall was unlikely, the rest if the tribe mounted up and returned home. But Issaqueena had not fallen to the bottom of the falls. She boldly jumped to the next ledge and hid in the cave beneath the cascade. After her pursuers left, she made her escape to the white settlement.
You can see the ledge over the hidden cave near the top of the falls.
This is one of the few waterfalls I’ve visited where you first see the falls from above. You hear the roaring water as you approach and there’s a viewing area off to the side where you can take in the full cascade. If you look through the pictures above, you’ll see the view from the inside the hidden cave beneath the falls.
The split rail fencing suggests that you’re not supposed to climb down the left side of the falls (when viewed from the top) to access the ledge, but enough people do it that there’s a clear trail. It’s steep, slippery, and a long way to the bottom. If you’re going to try it, I suggest that you wear some hiking shoes with very good tread.
There’s a hike right next to Issaqueena Falls that follows the old Stumphouse Tunnel rail path that goes to another uncompleted (and not public) tunnel 2.5 miles away. It’s a 5-mile round trip called the Blue Ridge Railroad Historical Trail.