After 6 days of hiking and tubing, everyone needed a quiet morning. I was still ready to tackle another hike in Shenandoah National Park. I had my eye on the Whiteoak Canyon Trail starting from Skyline Drive and viewing all six waterfalls. The trail is considered moderate to the first waterfall and then turns to strenuous for the next 5 waterfalls. I was planning to do the hike solo, but my wife surprised me and asked to join me. This was one of my first canyon hikes and seemed like a mountain summit in reverse coving 6.7 miles and about 2000 feet of elevation.
We started our hike at the Limberlost parking lot which cut about a 1 mile from the listed distance. This was a very well maintained trail. We arrived at the view point of the upper falls after about 2 miles of fairly easy hiking down hill. My wife and I had a quick bite to eat on the rocks overlooking the falls and then continued to the bottom of the falls. The first falls are an impressive 86 feet tall, however, it is more like a cascading waterslide rather than a dramatic fall.
The path after the first falls was nearly paved with all of the rock work and had some impressively constructed steps. The trail crew that built this area really worked their tails off and did a great job. Each of the next 4 waterfalls had views at their base. These falls ranged from 35 feet to 65 feet, all being more shaped like a waterslide. Each waterfall unique and peaceful in their own ways.
At one point we passed an older couple, probably in their 60’s with some serious backpacks. They were heading up the canyon as we were heading down, based on the gentleman’s breathing, we were expecting to see a search and rescue team. We were puzzled as to why they had such heavy packs since the trail really was not between any camping sites. I’d have taken a day pack and left my gear at camp.
As we descended deeper into the canyon, the cliffs to our left became more and more impressive in stature. We experienced many different rock formations, caves and mini-waterfalls. One of the cliffs looked like camouflage.
We arrived at the lower falls after about 3.5 miles of downhill hiking. We were greeted by a couple of “bathing beauties” at the base of the falls. There were also several people hiking up from the boundary trailhead. Talking with the girls, locals, they were surprised that we hiked from Skyline since it was so strenuous. They also mentioned that people slide down the falls. My wife had remarked that it looked like you could tube down some of the sections.
Time to turn around and head up the canyon. We had about a 2000 foot climb back up those nicely hewed steps, though the camouflage canyon and back to the trailhead. We came across the older couple with the large packs again, heading the opposite direction. Again, why carry the big packs? Arriving back at the trailhead gave us the same satisfaction as summiting a mountain. I would definitely do another canyon trip and would love to try canyoneering at some point.
- Day 1 Introduction
- Day 2 Lay of the Land
- Day 3 Luray Caverns
- Day 4 Tubing
- Day 5 Old Rag
- Day 6 Dark Hallows and Hawksbill Mtn
- Day 7 Whiteoak Canyon
Maps, Routes and GPS Information
Route Statistics: 6.71 miles, 1,942′ elevation
Caltopo Map: https://caltopo.com/m/878E