Hiking: Shenandoah National Park

Posted By BrokenClaw on July 25, 1999

On a Tuesday morning, we both had off from work, but we had no particular plans. Broken Claw was browsing through one of Trailwalker’s many travel booklets and noticed a small chapter on the hiking trails along Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. After a short discussion, we packed a few things and hit the road.

We arrived in Front Royal before noon. After a quick stop for lunch, we paid our toll and entered Skyline Drive. The scenery was beautiful, and we captured much of it on film. We stopped at one of the Visitors Centers and picked up a few more brochures, as well as a topographical map. We decided to hike one of the trails called White Oak Canyon. Since all areas of the park are only accessible from Skyline Drive, which runs along the top of the ridge, most of the trails lead immediately downward. White Oak Canyon is no exception.

Shenandoah National ParkOur ninety minute hike took us down several hundred feet in elevation below the first major falls. The trail is well-marked, and consists mainly of a dirt path, often aided by well-placed stones for added footing on the steeper portions. There is also a sturdy bridge at one of the larger stream crossings. At the falls, the stone trail takes on the characteristics of a staircase. And on this hot summer day, we took advantage of a chilling shower that poured from the rockface. Of course, the challenging part of the excursion was the hike back up the canyon. We passed several groups of travelers making their way down, as well as a few camera-shy deer. We arrived back at the car around 6:00 PM, when a series of thunderstorms suddenly rolled through the mountains. We couldn’t help but feel sorry for the hikers who were still down in the canyon. Nevertheless, it was quite an amazing and unforgetable sight. We pulled over at one of the scenic overlooks and watched the storm move swiftly across the valley. From our mountain perch we could see the whole storm: the clouds, the rain, and the sun still shining in the distance. We captured a few photos of the ominous thunderclouds before we were captured within the torrential rain. The drive home, through periods of rain, stretched past midnight.

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