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White Oak Canyon / Cedar Run - SNP, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.9 mls
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5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,450 ft
N38 32.356 W78 20.961
Shenandoah National Park
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Park at the 20 car White Oak Trail parking area on Weakley Hollow Rd.
38.53927, -78.34935

This hike has some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the Shenandoah National Park. Combining two out-and-back hikes, White Oak Canyon & Cedar Run, this loop starts at the bottom of the valley and cuts over near the top of the ridge. With five major falls, numerous smaller cascades and pools, this circuit hike is one of the best.

Begin up the blue blazed White Oak Canyon (WOC) Trail, at the top of the upper parking area next to the SNP ranger station. Shortly cross a steel footbridge, then arrive at the intersection of the Cedar Run Trail that will be your return route. Stay straight on the WOC Trail as it winds to the right, then crosses another steel footbridge over WOC Run.

Follow the blue blazed trail on the right side of WOC Run reaching the WOC/Cedar Run Connector Trail in 0.6 miles. Stay straight on the right side of WOC Run for another 0.7 miles, cross a small stream, then arrive the base of the first set of major falls.

The trail will now make several switchbacks as the grade gets steeper, then reaches the second set of falls in 0.6 miles. Again, the trail will switchback several times, then become less steep, and arrive at a concrete marker for the base of the main WOC falls. To see the falls from the base, follow the side trail straight for 100 yards. Continue uphill on the WOC Trail as it steeply climbs the last 0.1 miles to the main WOC falls overlook.

Continuing uphill from the main overlook, and shortly arrive at the yellow blazed Bridge Path Trail that comes in from the right. Stay straight, then cross WOC Run in another 40 yards at the horse rail. If WOC Run is high, continue up the right side of WOC Run and cross a footbridge in 120 yards.

After crossing the run follow the wide yellow blazed WOC Fire Road/Horse Trail. In 1.6 miles the WOC Fire Road/Horse Trail will veer right. Stay left on the narrower yellow blazed trail, marked on a concrete post as "Horse Tr To Big Meadows". In 0.6 miles the horse trail intersects the blue blazed Cedar Run Trail.

Turn left downhill on the blue blazed Cedar Run Trail, then in 1.3 miles cross Cedar Run. In 0.2 miles after crossing Cedar Run reach the top set of main falls at Halfmile Cliff known as "The Slide". 60 yards below the main falls is a pool where Cedar Run passes through a narrow gorge.

Continue downward on the Cedar Run Trail for 0.5 miles where the blue blazed trail makes a sharp left to cross Cedar Run for the last time. After crossing Cedar Run follow the trail for 0.3 miles to the intersection of the WOC/Cedar Run Connector Trail. Turn right downhill on the Cedar Run Trail towards RT600, and in 0.4 miles arrive back at the WOC Trail intersection. Turn right, re-cross the steal footbridge, and arrive back at the parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The White Oak/Cedar Run Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the White Oak/Cedar Run hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 18, 2016
The scenery is stunning and it is really fun to play in the water, both reasons why this is one of the most popular hikes in SNP. Solitude is non-existent on this hike.

We have hiked this trail twice this summer, once in June and once again in September, both times starting from the bottom and hiking up the mountain. I highly recommend starting from the bottom (as opposed to Skyline Drive) so that you get the climb out of the way while you are fresh, leaving the downhill (which is also tough on tired legs) for the final leg. I would avoid starting from Skyline Drive and then finishing with a pretty beastly climb back up.

In June, we made the loop counterclockwise. In September, we did it in reverse, clockwise. Regardless of which direction you hike, this is one of the more strenuous hikes in the area. You should be in decent shape before attempting this circuit. Either way, you have to climb 2200+ feet to Skyline Drive. We hike every weekend and this is one of the toughest trails in the area. Don't overcommit yourself. You can always bail out by turning around. Do not underestimate how hard descending is either.

I have a slight preference for traveling clockwise going up Cedar Run and coming down Whiteoak Canyon. Both sides are necessarily steep to have great waterfalls, the terrain has to be steep. There is more solitude on the Cedar Run side and there are more water features on the Whiteoak side.

When starting from the bottom, if you need more mileage, you can always cross Skyline Drive and climb to the summit of Hawksbill before heading back down. This hike alone is enough to kick my butt. I do not need to be a hero any longer now that I am in my 50s.

There are far fewer people on the Cedar Run side and the waterslide on that creek is a really cool feature and a lot of fun to slide down. Up top near Skyline Drive, you can find some solitude. People making the circuit seem to be only a tiny fraction of the visitors to the area and consequently, there's a fair amount of peace on the bridle trail/fire road connecting the two trails. Though walking fire road isn't usually my cup of tea, smooth fire road after a tough climb through rocky terrain is a welcome respite. The crowds start to mount on the Whiteoak side and can be very large especially at the bottom pool which is easily accessible from the parking lot. It seems to be the local swimming hole in the summer and is often packed with kids and young adults playing and horsing around. It is what it is.

Crowds were significantly smaller in September than in June and the water levels were a lot lower. I would estimate 18" less water was coming across the ford just above the upper fall on the Whiteoak Canyon side. The falls were a lot less spectacular as a result, but with a lot of leaves already off the trees, we could actually see a lot more of the waterfalls. If you are uncomfortable crossing at the ford where the fire road meets the Whiteoak Canyon Trail, there is a foot bridge just a few yards upstream.

The trails are well-blazed and there are hardly any places where you could get confused, to the point where a map is not wholly necessary. But it is always a good idea to carry one with you. You can get a small map at the ranger shed in the lower parking lot. If you get confused, wait but a couple of minutes and another hiker will come by.

Trekking poles will really help you especially with the steep downhills. This walk is always a beast on my knees. Ibuprofen and beer after the hike are de rigueur.

Also, no matter how much breeze is blowing, when you are in the woods in either of the canyons along the water, the local humidity is going to be high and the breeze minimal. You are going to sweat a lot especially going up hill. I used every bit of 2.5 liters of water. Do not attempt this hike without ample water.

Be safe, leave yourself plenty of daylight to make the hike, work up to this hike by doing progressively more strenuous hikes, bring trekking poles if you have them for the downhills, pack plenty of water, and expect the loop with stops to play in the water to take about 6 hours, 5 hours if you don't dillydally, but this place was made for dillydallying.


By: Melanie B. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 18, 2016
We have hiked this before and it's a good circuit. BIG problem with hornets this time. From bottom parking lot, headed up the White Oak hike side, the first large watering hole is great to view, but stay on the path! Near a large rock shortcut back to the path, one of our hikers was attacked 15 to 20 stings. People that helped were also stung. No other problems with the hike but that. Thank goodness no one was allergic. Stay on the path.

By: Melanie B. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 18, 2016
We have hiked this before and it's a good circuit. BIG problem with hornets this time. From bottom parking lot, headed up the White Oak hike side, the first large watering hole is great to view, but stay on the path! Near a large rock shortcut back to the path, one of our hikers was attacked 15 to 20 stings. People that helped were also stung. No other problems with the hike but that. Thank goodness no one was allergic. Stay on the path.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 04, 2016
Hiked from the canyon parking area to the upper White Oak falls, something we have done several times. Another good hike today, despite the large Labor Crowd on the lower trail. Significant problem today, however, was the presence of hornet nests in at least three places in the lower half of the hike. Multiple people, including several children, were stung multiple times. There was no indication of threat, and the hives were in the ground, so groups just kept walking into the problem. We left the trail at one point to go around the problem but not everyone is able to do that. If the source problem cannot be addressed, then at least there should be a warning to hikers - particularly those accompanied by young children.

By: WH Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 04, 2016
Great hike but really tough, it is important to know the trail and where you are going, we ended up taking a wrong turn and hiked 12.6 miles instead of the specified 7.6. We drove to the trails the day before and chatted with the Rangers at the trailhead but they clearly did not direct us properly on the intensity of the hike. The map provided did not properly show the options available for this trail, I will be sure to get my own maps moving forward

    View all 191 reviews for the White Oak/Cedar Run hike
Early November
Courtesy Jennifer Carr Photography        
Late September

Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls! This has to be the most spectacular waterfall hike in Shenandoah National Park. With three sets of falls on the way up White Oak Canyon and three smaller falls heading down Cedar Run, this circuit is among the mid-Atlantic's most popular. Lots of company on the trail.

Usually, the ideal time for this hike is in early spring, but with the rain we've had in the last month, all the falls were near their best. The wildlife was also out; we came across several black snakes, this guy (vid) was a local celebrity with hikers on Saturday, and we also saw a juvenile black bear on the trail.

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