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Backpacker Magazine – June 2013

Top 3: National Park Hikes

Sample the best of our crown-jewel lands on these superlative trips.

by: Casey Flynn

Vernal Falls (David Giral)
Vernal Falls (David Giral)
Clay Hoodoos (Kirkendall-Spring)
Clay Hoodoos (Kirkendall-Spring)

Best Swimming Holes
Shenandoah National Park, VA
Whiteoak Canyon Loop

Nine waterfalls with ideal splash ponds and a natural slide await on this tough, 8.6-mile loop through two of Shenandoah’s steepest (and most beautiful) canyons. Whiteoak’s falls draw crowds, so plan an overnight to have the pools to yourself. Start from the Whiteoak Canyon trailhead on a weekday afternoon and set up camp in the first .7 mile (not allowed past this point). Wake up early, load a daypack, and alternate sweating and soaking on the Whiteoak Canyon Trail—you’ll soon enjoy dips beneath six waterfalls—as you work your way up 2,450 feet to the Whiteoak Fire Road. Then drop into Cedar Run basin, Whiteoak’s quieter sister canyon. Its three falls make for a grand finale— the final one has a natural slide carved in the rock. Take the link trail back to Whiteoak to grab your stashed pack on the way out. (540-999-3500; nps.gov/ shen) Trip ID 2207502
 
The way From Sperryville, take VA 231 S 10.2 miles. Turn right on SR 643. In 4.5 miles, bear right on Weakly Hollow Rd. to the trailhead.



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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Dec 12, 2013

Live to hike another day by staying found and knowing how to use a compass. Even skilled explorers can become lost or somehow end up spending the night hunkered down because of weather or injury. Many people never consider that they might end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors or waiting for medical help --and so they hike without the essentials. Day-hikes can be the most dangerous because hikers usually carry minimal supplies. Learn what to pack for a day-hike, what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors. Read "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon). Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. A compass doesn't need a signal, satellites, or batteries and works in all types of weather, day or night, but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Learn how to stay found by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. This book is for all ages. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart."

Star Star Star Star Star
Steve
Jul 28, 2013

I was in North Dakota for work and decided that this would be my first ever backpacking trip. Not only that, but nobody wanted to go with me and I decided to go solo...what could go wrong?

I ended up getting lost on all the beauty, spender, and solitude that this amazing place has to offer...and literally lost on the second day as I approached the second cross of the Little Missouri. You're going to want to check your map at every single marker to make sure you're still headed in the right direction. The game trails look more worn than the actual trail, and the markers look just like tree stumps. A light pair of binoculars would be well worth the extra weight to scout out the correct path.

In my case, once I was turned around there was no finding the right trail again...I had wandered too far off course. I ended up locating where the wildlife fence and the river met, then walked up the bank of the river for about 9 miles all the way back to the parking lot. It was the only sure-fire way I knew that I'd meet the trail head and not get turned around again. All that said, I cannot wait for the day when I can give this amazing trail a second go.

Star Star Star Star Star
AZ Hiker
Jul 28, 2013

Test your route-finding skills but don't become a missing hiker! Stay found by packing your own personal safety net; a copy of "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart" (Amazon) and a compass! Before you go, be sure to calibrate your compass for the declination at the location where you will be hiking. Go to: http://magnetic-declination.com. A compass doesn't need satellites, a signal, or batteries and works in all types of weather but you need to know how to use it and this book makes learning how to use a compass easy. Learn how to orient yourself using a compass, a compass and a map, a map and no compass, no compass and no map. Look for it on Amazon, "Felix the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart". The ability to know your way and know where you are is something we all need in any survival situation not just while hiking. Learn to stay found day or night by using a compass and paying attention to your surroundings. Learn what to pack for a day-hike, trail ethics, what to do if you get lost, how to get rescued, and survival packing (for the car and for the trail) just in case you end up unexpectedly spending the night outdoors.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mark
Jul 25, 2013

Do this hike in the spring when the falls are crankin' and I guarantee you that you will never forget it. Tough, but so worth it!

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