We have not had a bad trip to the Shenandoah yet. Everytime we have walked away from the car, we have been rewarded with spectacular scenary and great fishing. I hate to think of all the time I wasted on the Rapidan and Conway when I compare the crowded experience over there wtih the Rose, the Hughes and now White Oak Canyon.
Following the directions shown on the map, you will find the trail is initially very easy to negotiate. Like all trails in the Shenandoah, it is exceptionally well maintained. The first mile of the walk is on a gentle uphill path that only gains 350 feet from the parking lot as you can see from the profile below.
About a mile into the hike, the trail pitches up as it runs up on the first waterfall – what a great picture opportunity. There is a great looking pool at the base of the falls. Dick fished it with flies, with no luck – I’m sure this area turns into a swimming pool later in the summer as hikers pop in to cool off in the clear water.
We walked up the trail to head to the next fall, but about 200 vertical feet later realized that the trail would leave the stream and have us walking more than we wanted given our short window of time to fish. We had to be back at the truck by 1200 – so we abandoned our desire to see what the next stretch looked like and decided to start fishing. Dick worked his way back downriver and I worked my way over to the top of the first falls.
A word to the wise, as you walk up the trail, be alert for a small path that leads to the top of the falls. It’s the best way to get there even if it is quite steep. Once at the top of that offshoot, there is a small hump and then you are in a level valley full of deep plunge pools that runs up to the next falls.
Great fishing between the falls. I caught a number of 9 – 10″ trout (all released) on Panther Martins and small plastic worms. There does not appear to be much pressure on this stream. While we saw plenty of hikers, there was only one other party of fishermen – a group of 6 college kids all armed with fly rods.
As far as the hikers go, it was a diverse crowd – all ages from babies in hiking backpacks to some pretty old looking folks.
Based on our experience, they have no clue… if some of them see you fishing, they will stop, talk loudly, come right up to the stream to see how you are doing. So – best to just work the parts of the stream that are away from the trail once the activity picks up.
Getting there: Locate the town of Etlan on MapQuest – it’s on VA state route 231. Follow the signs for White Oak Canyon – From the north, turn right onto 643 and follow it until it deadends in a T-intersection. Turn right. Go about 3.6 miles or so and you should see the sign to turn left to enter the White Oak trailhead area. You will have to pay a fee to enter the park (recommend an annual pass as it is good for all entries).
From the ranger shack at the top of the parking lot, head to the northeast and you will pick up the White Oak Canyon Trail. Just follow the trail – well marked with the blue blazes on the trees – and try and contain yourself as the water immediately starts looking good.
Dick at a typical White Oak Canyon pool – when you see this on the way in, you want to stop and fish right away.
Your blogger at the first falls – what a great scenic spot!
Typical trout – about 10″ – that lives between the falls
Example plunge pool – has to be 8 feet or so deep
9″ trout pulled from this pool
Crisis! My rod broke! Luckily, there was one eye left and I could still fish for the last hour we were able to spend on the river.
Second falls – very, very deep pool. Caught one nice fish here on my damaged rod.
Before you get excited – it is tough going to work your way up the stream between the falls. You need to be prepared to crawl on your hands and knees through vegetation like this.
Looking south in the valley.
Pool at the top of the first falls.
Unless stated otherwise, this article was authored by Steve Moore