Gay Beach/Swimming Holes
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There are numerous swimming holes at the bottom of falls and elsewhere in rivers in the East Central region of the Shenandoah National Park, in the vicinity of Old Rag Mountain (a very popular climb), south of Sperryville. All of these swimming holes require hikes of varying length and strenuousness to reach. See the book, "Circuit Hikes in Shenandoah National Park", Hike #14, for more detailed hiking directions). This is on a trail (White Oak Canyon Trail) that has 5+ waterfalls in a total 5 mile round trip hike if you do the whole distance up and back. The trail is steep in places, but you can hike to a nice swimmable waterfall and back in much fewer that the whole 5 miles. Several falls are easy to get to off the trail and have a large pool at bottom for swimming. As you hike the trail, be on the lookout AND LISTEN for the roar of the falls (you can't always see them from the trail). To get there from Sperryville, take RT 522 south through town (a very short distance) then turn south (right) on RT 231. Go about 10 miles on RT 231 then turn west (right) on RT 643 for about 5 miles then make a right on RT 600. Continue to the parking area for Whiteoak Canyon (you may have to pay). Hike up Whiteoak Canyon Trail (past the left turn off for Cedar Run Trail). Keep hiking and listen for the falls. In less than 2 miles from the start, you will hear the first one (not visible from trail) that is just a short climb down from the trail that has a very large, swimmable pool at the bottom.At about 2 miles up, you will come to another falls with swimming at the bottom (fewer crowds here.) Just above that spot the man trail does a switchback and you leave the river then climb UP for about another mile. It's quite strenuous and eventually you come back to the river above what I call swimming hole 5 ( I count from the bottom up). The easiest and safest way to get to the best spots ( holes 4, then 3.) is to walk down the creek bed from that trail crossing. If you go all the way up the trail you eventually go to Skyline Drive near one of the big campgronds ( Big Meadows?) so you can walk down if you want . Once a person decides to walk down to holes 5, 4, and 3 you are in a pristine area where clothes are quite optional and you are secluded from all path traffic. I've seldom seen anyone there since it's hard to find and hard to get to. If you continue down past hole 3 there is a big cliff above hole 2 that you can walk down ( if it's dry) CAUTION- but there are a couple spots that are very dangerous. Even I get the heeby geebies in one spot. The safest way to get from 2 to 3 is actually to walk up the cliff face above spot 2 ( it's safer going uphill) . If you are brave and go for it..it really isn't too bad. Once you clear the first face it's paradise! from 3 to 4 there are realy about 5-6 places to swim and spot 3 is awesome. Spot 4 has a real nice place to swim and spot 5 has a great area to lay on the rocks and catch rays.