This is Day Three of a travel series to Shenandoah National Park. If you'd like to start at the beginning, go HERE. Day Two is HERE.
Every succeeding day at Shenandoah National Park got better than the day before. The weather warmed up, melting all the snow and each trail was better than the previous one. We definitely did the trails in the right order, saving the best for last, although we didn't plan it that way.
Whiteoak Canyon Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park, and it certainly was the trail we saw the most people on while we were there, although I still didn't feel it was too crowded. There are multiple ways to experience this trail, and everyone needs to decide for themselves what is best for them. You have three options:
- "Cedar Run - Whiteout Circuit Hike" which is a very strenuous 7.3 mile circuit with a 2,794 elevation gain, and takes 6.25 hours
- "Boundary to Lower Falls Hike", which is the easiest hike but you'd miss the tallest waterfall. It is 2 miles round trip with a 500 foot elevation gain and takes 1.5 hours hiking time
- "Skyline Drive to Upper Whiteoak Fall Hike" which is a moderate hike of 4.6 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 1,040 feet and takes 3.5 hours. You can stop there after viewing the tallest waterfall or continue on and add another 2.7 miles to the hike to see five more falls.
Although we would have loved to have seen all the waterfalls, because our bodies were aching from two full days of hiking already, and we had other hikes we wanted to take in the park, we chose option 3 and hiked only to the tallest waterfall on the trail, and returned back. We also cut some time off of our hike by parking in the Limberlost Trail parking lot and NOT the Whiteoak Canyon Parking Lot.
This trail was so far on our trip one of the prettiest, and easiest trails we hiked yet. I've heard if you start on the opposite end, it's pretty tough as you are pretty much climbing straight up, but the way we went was very moderate and comfortable hiking.
Once you get through the Limberlost Trail area and a small forest, you are walking alongside a gorgeous river all the way to the waterfall.
My son Jordan was always scurrying ahead of us to rock scramble on the river or climb the largest rock he could find.
The trail had lots of large rocks and boulders of interest along the path.
There were lots of spots where there were smaller rapids and pools of water where one could swim on a hot day.
The waterfall is breath taking! It is 86 feet tall and you do get a nice look at it from a rock formation above.
This is the rock formation that you climb onto to view the falls.
And here is a very short video of the falls. It was totally worth the hike to see these falls!
My son went on ahead of us to see the other five waterfalls and said it was the "Best Waterfall Hike Of His Life!". I wish we could have done it, but our bodies were saying "No" so we returned back. Below are four of the waterfalls Jordan went on to see (he didn't take a picture of one of them).
After lunch, Jordan caught back up with us and we headed out for our last hike of the day: Hawksbill Summit.
Hawksbill Summit is the tallest point in the park and a must-see if you are ever in Shenandoah. Once again, there are multiple ways to get there and you need to pick the option best for you.
- "Hawksbill Loop Trailhead" a 2.9 mile circuit hike rated as moderate with an elevation gain of 860 feet and a hiking time of 2 hours.
- "Hawksbill Summit Trailhead"a shorter 1.7 mile , yet steeper hike to the summit rated as moderate with an elevation gain of 690 feet and a hiking time of 1 hour 15 minutes.
- "Hawksbill Summit via Upper Hawksbill Trailhead" a 2.1 mile hike rated as easiest with an elevation gain of 520 feet and a 1 hour and 30 minute hiking time.
Our goal, was just to make it to the summit as quickly and as easily as possible, so we chose option 3. However, we were perplexed why the trail was described as "Easiest" (maybe it was the easiest of the three?) as we thought it was quite challenging since we were pretty much hiking straight up all the way there.
The steep, long hike was worth it though because it was GORGEOUS!
The top of the Shenandoah's highest peak offers a 360 degree view of the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Virginia Piedmont.
It was a cloudy day, but the views were still incredible.
The summit of Hawksbill Mountain is 4, 050 feet.
There is also a historic building at the top that the park turned into a picnic pavilion.
By now, it was late in the day and we were tired, so we called it a day. Our next day in the park, was our last and best day yet and I will talk about that next week. I might have to divide the post into two separate posts...it was that good!
Have a Great Day! Amy
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