Hiking White Oak Canyon

11:45:00 AM

When most people think about the Shenandoah National Park, they immediately think about Skyline Drive and all the scenic areas overlooking the Shenandoah Valley.  And believe me, they are spectacular views, especially in the fall when all the leaves are changing colors.

But if you come to the Shenandoah National Park to hike, there are just as many trails to choose from.  One of the most popular hikes is the White Oak Canyon waterfalls.  At nearly 8 miles of steep rocky trails, it is a very strenuous hike.  No matter which way you approach White Oak Canyon, whether from Skyline Drive or at the bottom of the Blue Ridge off of Rt. 600, it will be steep climb.  There's actually a sign at the beginning of it warning you not to hike above your physical ability.  But if you can handle it, the trail is well worth the effort for all the waterfalls, streams, nature, and wildlife you see along the way.  You definitely want to make sure you pack plenty of water and food.

This time we decided to start our hike along Skyline Drive.  As we left home we noticed clouds above the mountains.  Clouds that were not in the weather forecast the night before.  I checked the Weather Channel app on my phone, and it said 10% chance of passing shower.  

This is what a 10% chance of shower looks like from the mountain.

While we waited for the showers to pass, we visited the Skyland Resort, where we used the bathroom and perused the gift shop.  After that we parked at the Hawksbill Gap parking area, at around mile marker 45.5, and ate lunch in the truck.  

Once the showers passed, we set out on our hike.  We had a chilly start.  This portion of the hike follows a horse trail and the fire road.  It's relatively flat and provides some beautiful scenery, and easy to follow with several markers along the way.

Further down the trail my daughter and husband told me to stop, there was a bear up ahead.  I didn't believe them at first, thinking they were trying to tease me.  "No, that's a tree stump," I told them.  Then the tree stump turned it's head and looked at us.  By the time I thought the lift the camera up and start taking pictures, the bear ran off.  

So this is where the bear was standing, rooting around for food.

Shortly after this we heard the sound of rushing water and arrived at the top of White Oak Canyon.  There are 6 distinct waterfalls in White Oak Canyon, divided into what is called the Upper White Oak Falls and the  Lower White Oak Falls.  Today's hike just consisted of the upper portion to the beginning of the lower portion.  This is considered one of the most difficult portions of the hike.  Even though it is only about half a mile, it's a very steep climb over rocks.  You don't want to miss a step.  To cross over the water to descend the falls, you can either hop over rocks, or take the foot bridge.

The upper falls of White Oak Canyon plunge 86-feet into a pool below. 

Once we reached the midway point between the upper and lower falls, we took a drink and snack break, then made our way back to the truck.  I gotta say, this little girl is tougher than $2 steak.  Seriously.  All that hiking up and down rocky terrain and she barely breaks a sweat.  

On our way back we found out the answer to the age-old question, "Do bears poop in the woods?"

And, well, if we did not pass that poop on the way to the falls, that only meant that a bear had passed by here not too long ago.

And we were right.  About 75 feet ahead of us a young bear ambled around the forest floor in search of food.  He looked up at us a couple of times, but decided that we were not interesting enough.

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