I have been wanting to go back to Shenandoah for ages! The only time I’ve been was a quick drive down Skyline Drive with some friends and it was so cloudy we couldn’t see anything. So when some of J’s college friends wanted to do a weekend in Luray, I was game. The only problem is it was cloudy AGAIN! What luck?! So instead of a beautiful overlook, we decided to tackle the White Oak Canyon trail which feature 6 different waterfalls. The full hike is 9.5 miles but we did about a 5.5 mile loop. Afterwards, we headed back into Luray to grab a beer at the local brewery Hawksbill. It was a great spot and we were taught by the locals how to exactly say Luray ending a long debate among us friends. Apparently it’s LOO-ray if you’re a local and Luh-RAY if you’re an out-of-towner. Insider tips!
THE HIKE: Whiteoak Canyon Trail (Shenandoah National Park)
Length: 9.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,400ft
Time: 4-5 hours
Trail use: Hiking and leashed pets
Parking: Large lot ($35 per car fee to enter park)
White Oak Canyon is a fairly popular trail located in Shenandoah National Park near the Skyland Resort. While it doesn’t lead to an amazing vista like the more popular choices such as Old Rag or Stony Man, this out and back trail features 6 different waterfalls! It also climbs over 2,000ft so it’s not for the faint of heart. There are two way to tackle this trail. Either you can start in Shenandoah using the parking lot off of mile marker 43 on the Skyline drive. If you’d rather hike up first and end with downhill, you can start at the other end by parking at the Lower Whiteoak Canyon Fee Station. Since our group knew we weren’t quite up for doing the full trail, we opted to start at the Skyline trailhead. Just a heads up, cell service is very spotty in Shenandoah so make sure you have your trail downloaded ahead of time! Or just go to visitor’s center at Skyland where a very nice guide gave us a map and some trail suggestions.
I really liked this trail because of the huge rock formations along the water. I’m such a sucker for a good water trail and this was no exception. It really felt like you were in an ancient forest. And despite this being a more popular trail, we really didn’t run into too many people until later on at the main falls overlook. I also really liked how we followed the river from where it started as a small trickling stream until it turned into a beautiful waterfall! While it wasn’t the biggest or most impressive waterfall I’d ever seen, it was still majestic in its own way. We spent a lot of time at the overlook relaxing and taking pictures (and taking pics of each other taking pics). Then it was time to hike back up.
Do you ever start walking and not realize that you’re going downhill until it’s time to turn around? Yeah that’s what happened to us. I was so focused on the beauty and not tripping on rocks that I didn’t quite realize how steep the trail had gotten until it was time to turn around. We really got a good workout! If you decide to tackle this trail, make sure you have plenty of water and are ready for a bit of a challenge! Needless to say, we were quite ready for beer after this one.
THE BEER: Hawksbill Brewing
Address: 22 Zerkel St, Luray, VA 22835
Distance from Trail Head: 21 miles, 35 mins
Food?: Bring your own!
H&H Rating: 4/5
Okay okay, I know I said I usually try to keep the brews less than 30 mins from the trailhead. But I hope you’ll let this one slide since more than half of the drive is along the beautiful Skyline Drive in the national park!
Hawksbill Brewing is a small brewery in Luray, Virginia which prides themselves on being grown here and brewed here. They partner with local farms in the county to source the freshest ingredients and even make their Hooray for Luray using their own homegrown Cascade hops! Their beer was pretty good and was all the more refreshing after our exhausting hike. Even better though, Hawksbill was one of the friendliest breweries we’ve ever been to. It had such a great small town vibe and we instantly felt welcome. They had a sizable taproom with bar and table seating, as well as picnic tables outside with a lovely view of the mountains. It was too bad that we had to drive home or I could have stayed here all evening!
- Hooray for Luray – IPA – 6.3%
- Seven Days a Wheat (Watermelon) – Wheat Beer – 5.25%
- Brown Cow – Milk Stout – 6.1%
- Cock Your Doodle Doo – Stout – 6.3%
Whiteoak Canyon is a difficult hike in Shenandoah National Park that features six waterfalls. It has steep elevation but you’re rewarded with incredible views all along the way. Make sure to bring plenty of water and have sturdy shoes! After you finish up this challenging hike, reward yourself with a cold one at Hawksbill Brewing Company. They have a variety of beer styles with a focus on locally grown ingredients. It’s a proudly local place and you may find yourself chatting with the table next to you. If you’re looking to get out of the city, this is the perfect hike & hop for you!