White Oak Canyon and Cedar Run Trails

HARD 318 reviews
#2 of 144 trails in

White Oak Canyon and Cedar Run Trails is a 7.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Syria, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
7.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2,309 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

birding

fishing

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

The 1st section of the trail takes you to the right along about 30 big and small waterfalls! This is the strenuous section of the trip. There is a great rock wall for climbers on this section approximately 1-1.5 miles from the trailhead (road 643) parking lot (weakly hollow road) which also makes a great place for lunch. The yellow trail, marked by yellow markers, is the 2nd part of the loop, you will go over a steel bridge crossing the river where there is a fork. The yellow trail is to the LEFT, and the blue trail on the right goes 3 miles to skyline drive (which is not part of this loop). The yellow trail is a horse trail, but still climbs to approximately ~3200 feet gradually. There are no stair steps here, and you still may need to stop and catch your breath. You will encounter the next intersection which you should follow to the left (still yellow blazes). This leg of the loop ends at the skyline drive parking lot which can be your other entry point for this trail. At this intersection (4 way) you will take the blue blazed trail which returns in the direction that you came. The 3rd and final part of the trail is blue marked and starts from the skyline drive parking lot intersection. This leg has a very notable waterfall called "the slide" because it is a sheer gradually sloped face with lots of waterflow over it, kind of like a slide. Having reached the peak of the hike in the 2nd leg end, this leg of the hike is downhill all the way. BEWARE that there are 3 river crossings, and this can be dangerous because they are on logs if you don't want to get wet. You can safely scoot along on the logs and make all the crossing. The final crossing will have red blazes on the trees marking all the crossing (approximately 4 log crossings). Be careful as the rocks may be slippery and can result in serious injury. This hike can be considered more strenuous than old rag mountain which is right next door. If you are taking tons of pictures of the falls, swimming, or taking an extra long lunch, then you should plan on 6-7 hours for this hike. The trail has groups come through heading to big meadows etc and can be busy at times... so start early. Larger wildlife may be present, especially on days with fog.

hiking
2 days ago

This is beautiful trail. It is a half day hike so plan to bring lunch and plenty of water. It was wooded and wet with lots of waterfalls and swimming holes. We stopped at one swimming hole to hang out and eat lunch. It was beautiful. The elevation does get steep close to the summit so prepare for a strenuous climb.

hiking
4 days ago

Great hike! We went up the White Oak Canyon trail and took the horse trail across to Cedar Run trail. Saw some small wildlife: birds, squirrels, snakes, and a skink. We also got to see a small bear cub at the top by Skyline Drive. Coming down Cedar Run trail was a little difficult, the trail was washed out in places and terrain was rough near the rock slide into a water hole. Very refreshing to jump in the water and cool off!

hiking
7 days ago

Loved this trail so much! Hiked from the skyline entrance down to the natural waterfall water slide and had lunch at a swimming hole along the way, will be back!!

10 days ago

Beautiful on the way up and down. Lots of water falls and large rock formations.

hiking
11 days ago

Started off at the white oak canyon parking lot, suggest to get there early as the lot fills up quick, overflow parking is available for $10 a car, in addition to paying the park entrance fee. But if you are there early enough parking is free. We did the white oak to cedar run loop, the hike itself was challenging but also wonderful in so many ways. Took up 6 1/2 hours, we stopped for lunch and spent time in the water. Beautiful scenery, many over looks to enjoy the water falls. The rocks on the down hill was the hardest part in my opinion, difficult on the knees, feet and ankles. The water slide was all I hoped it to be, refreshingly freezing cold water. The trail was crowded today, never felt like we were alone which I don’t necessarily enjoy, I prefer the solitude of nature but that didn’t take away from my experience.

hiking
13 days ago

A great hike, but a rating of hard is, well, hard. Yes, I'm approaching 60, but in very good shape, and this was an exhausting and strenuous hike. Lots of rocks, a real work out on the ankles and knees. Pay close attention and bring a walking stick or two, as well as lots of water and something to eat. Our fitbits measured it at more like 9.5 miles. Be sure to stop and put your feet in the water at some point. Watch for snakes (big) and bears (sudden). In other words pay attention to your surroundings. Lots of swimming holes (ice cold clean water) and fairly well traveled. Trails are well marked but print the above or bring a print out so you know which path to take. Allow 5-7 hours. Parking lot was packed so get there early to get a spot, otherwise there's overflow parking at $10 a shot.

hiking
22 days ago

Did this hike today with my 15 year old nephew. Absolutely loved it. We started on the yellow blaze side at skyline drive, which is the oak canyon side, coming up cedar run at the end of the journey was a challenge but an enjoyable one. If you don’t want as much a challenge I would start on the blue blaze first, ending on a fire road for the last 2 miles would probably be pretty nice if you’re not an overly experienced hiker.
Currently there is A LOT of water. Be prepared to get wet, and cross water and be on very wet rocks.
The pools are all very deep and so good to swim in!!!

IMPORTANT
It’s NOT 7.3 miles. It’s more like 8.5.

24 days ago

Hiked this loop starting from Skyline Drive. We originally planned to start at the bottom, but the road was closed due to high water. We actually drove a bit past the sign and a van had been left abandoned in the middle of the road, and from a distance the road looked rough. We decided to turn back and start from Skyline Drive instead. I would definitely start from Skyline Drive if heavy rains occurred the day before, just to be on the safe side. From Skyline Drive, we descended the Cedar Run Trail, which had several nice little waterfalls and a steady, pretty stream. “The Slide” was very cool and the water was absolutely roaring today; one benefit of coming after a heavy rainfall. The first “official” waterfall on White Oak Canyon was breathtaking, and probably the highlight of the hike. Further up, there were some pretty great falls as well. All in all, “The Slide” on Cedar Run and the first big waterfall on White Oak Canyon stole the show...but there were plenty of other cool medium to small waterfalls to be seen. Would definitely come here again!

24 days ago

Road to the base is washed out about 2 miles from the trailhead as of 3/23. After rain, you may have to go around to Skyline Drive to access this hike unless it’s been dry the day before.

Great Hike, nice waterfalls. Wasn’t too strenuous or muddy, though can be difficult to keep your shoes dry if it’s rained recently. The area between high and low white oak falls is a little steep, but it’s not too bad. Plenty of spurs to go off the main trail and get up close to the water. Plenty of flat rocks to relax and have lunch on.

Love this trail. The scenery is SOOO beautiful. The waterfalls are breath taking. Take your time, make a day out of it and enjoy. The trail is difficult but there ia many stops along the way to cool off.

hiking
1 month ago

Tough hike but one of the best in Virginia. Lots of waterfalls and river crossings. Very steep and not recommended if wet.

hiking
1 month ago

tough yet awesome views of the waterfalls

hiking
1 month ago

I hiked up to the hawksbill summit before doing this and the combination was possibly my favorite hike I've done. I've hiked in the Grand Canyon and Zion in Utah and this hike is right up there with those, possibly better. Anyway like others have said there aren't really any photogenic overlooks but there are so many waterfalls! If you want a view do hawksbill but I thought the waterfalls were more enjoyable. It's nice because the air is about 20 degrees cooler by the falls so they're great to cool down and take a break. Definitely strenuous. As a fairly experienced hiker the combination of hawksbill into this trail totally wiped me out. Bring plenty of water, I'd recommend 2-4 liters per person depending on the temperature and how hydrated you are before the hike. It rained for a week straight before I hiked so there were a few downed trees and the water was moving pretty fast. You have to cross the streams a few times so your feet will definitely get wet.

There is a parking lot at the top on skyline drive where you can also find the summit for hawksbill. You can also park at the bottom but when I was here there was a stream over concrete that you had to cross to get from the parking lot to the trail. Like I said, be prepared to get your feet wet! If you like waterfalls this is the trail for you.

hiking
1 month ago

Nice hike. We went on a rainy day. Hiked up The Whiteoak Canyon trail which I strongly recommend because of the views. It was about 1.5 miles to the first waterfall. The trails were moderately crowded up to that point but most people seemed to fall off after that. When you reach the top and are crossing over to the horse trail, it will look like you have to ford the river....continue about 400 feet on the blue trail and you will see a bridge. The horse trail was a slight incline up the whole way....this was probably my least favorite part. The Cedar Run trail down is pretty cool and a little slippery in the rain but not bad. As others have mentioned, keep a close eye on the map. I can see how people might end up hiking in the wrong direction at a few different points. Completed this in 4 hours and 15 minutes.

hiking
1 month ago

This hike was amazing, and very challenging. For an experienced hiker and athlete this took me just under 4 hours. That being said, I didn’t stop and got lost for a mile. The hike definitely lives up to the “hard” rating. The park rangers give you a map of the trail when you pay the park fee, they’re extremely nice and helpful while they explain the trail. they have it as a 7.3 mile hike but it’s a about a mile to mile and half over that (my watch tracked it as an 8.8 mile loop). The majority of the hike is uphill and the last part is a steep downhill. We saw bears and snakes! Things to note while hiking the trail: have plenty of water and snacks. PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS ON TRAIL. There are white stone trail marker poles with silver plates engraved with small lettered trail directions, make sure you read them and keep and eye on the map they give you for the loop. It is very easy to go the wrong way. Additionally, be careful because you have to climb through some rivers and it can be slippery. All in all, an amazing hike. If you’re looking for huge open views, this isn’t the hike for you but if you enjoy a nice trek through some AMAZING waterfalls and forests definitely check it out.

hiking
1 month ago

Very nice trail and beautiful water falls. There are lots of tricky river crossings some of which I went barefoot for ease. Beautiful scenery and a great route.

hiking
2 months ago

One of Virginia's premier hikes. I'd say moderate difficulty for the experienced hiker. Definitely strenous at some points. We did cedar run route and down white oak. Very happy with that choice.

hiking
2 months ago

An absolutely beautiful day hike! We did it clockwise from the top, starting with whiteoak. Whiteoak has incredible waterfall views and lots of excellent swimming spots. Cedar run has fewer views and is rougher and steeper, but is less crowded and has wonderful opportunities to see wildlife. We liked spotting watersnakes around the riverbanks (no bear sightings unfortunately).

I see many people are doing this hike counterclockwise to avoid going uphill on steep cedar run. Cedar run gets slippery and I would not want to be trying to go down it in any weather - - it felt much safer to be going uphill. Yes, it's hard, but stop for breaks when you need it and plan to be sore the next day and you'll be fine.

There were water crossings but at the time we went the water level was low (no wet feet).

We were two people, reasonably fit but not used to hiking, and did it in six hours.

hiking
2 months ago

Was my hardest hike until now. Not impossible but the last mile or two (clockwise) were super hard, also run out of water at some point - would need 2l pp in retrospective. Some points were not super clearly signed and one had to climb some times over trees.

hiking
2 months ago

We had a group of 8 do this hike the 2nd weekend of April. Lucky for us it was 69-70 degrees that day, the hike was beautiful on the way down with plenty of areas to stop and take pictures and enjoy he waterfalls. Climbing back up the other side of the falls put everyone in the group to the test. With about a 45 minute lunch break and many gasping for air breaks we completed the loop in about 6 hours 45 minutes. Muscles cramping in places I didn’t know could cramp. It was awesome!

hiking
2 months ago

We planned this hike as a "rainy day option" for weather in which ridge-hikes would be fairly pointless, and on a grey, overcast day with an occasional drizzle and proper downpour toward the end, it was just about perfect.
We did the loop in a counterclockwise direction, starting from the Skyline Drive, down the Cedar Run Trail and up White Oak Canyon Trail and I definitely wouldn't consider it a hard hike, although it does get a bit tedious at the very end between the river crossing and the Skyline Drive.
All in all, a pleasant hike through the woods with some lovely waterfalls (small and large) along the way. Definitely worth it, especially on a cloudy day and when the foliage changes color.

2 months ago

The first half/two thirds is pretty cool and fun. The last third was uphill torture for me. One of the toughest hikes I’ve done (I usually stick to moderate trails). Bring lots of water and a jet pack if you have one.

3 months ago

Where do I start. This hike is absolutely beautiful. Breathtaking views of many waterfalls! You can even climb a few rocks to get right up close to a few of the falls. Unfortunately we were not prepared for what was to come. The hike up was pretty tough. Once we got up to where you take the fire road to Cedar Run trail we took the wrong path (both have yellow blazes) we ended up hiking about a mile or so in the wrong direction and that’s when the fog rolled in. Temps dropped about 20 degrees and it began to POUR down rain. Needless to say once we started our decent down Cedar Run everything was soaked and muddy and it’s VERY steep. We were slipping and sliding all over the place and much of the trail down is nearly impassable by fallen trees and things. We hiked the trail counterclockwise which under normal weather conditions would’ve been much easier. This loop is definitely not for beginners. You will absolutely be sore the next day and your feet will most definitely get wet because there are several river crossings. Most of the way UP is well.....UP....steep and you will need to take breaks to catch your breath. This loop is a beast. Can’t wait to tackle it again in better weather.

3 months ago

What an absolutely beautiful hike! I expected it to be hard but I had no idea how hard it was really going to be. I’m not sure about the mileage because my phone said 8.4 miles when all is said and done and my watch said 9.6 miles. This is not for a novice hiker! We took this hike counterclockwise. We had met some other people on the hike that said that clockwise disease year. But I believe there is no easy way to do this hike. I really had to keep pushing myself. We got down to the bottom of the canyon and I was starting to feel tired. The hike downhill was strenuous. But the hike up was a test! With an elevation gain of 2200 feet on the way up it really testing me. The fire road itself was difficult as we were exhausted by the time we got to the fire and the fire is completely uphill. But I’m happy to say that I finished it!

hiking
3 months ago

My son and I loved this hike. Absolutely lived up to its “hard” rating, this hike has a lot to offer. Waterfalls and elevation change abound on this test, but the rugged terrain was the biggest consistent challenge. If you hike it counterclockwise as most recommend, be sure to stop and look back from time to time to avoid missing all of the amazing views this hike offers.

hiking
3 months ago

Along with Old Rag, this is one of my favorite hikes in the region. Old Rag has the 360 views, this has great waterfall after waterfall. I recommend starting at the bottom, going up White Oak, and coming down Cedar Run (going counterclockwise from the bottom). You put your work in first, then relax on the way back down and get the slide waterfalls and waterholes to relax in if you wish. Clockwise from the bottom means you miss the water holes or end up wet or carrying wet clothes the rest of the way, plus your back is to all the great White Oak waterfalls and you would miss the approaches. I dislike starting at the top as it means you put the work at the end vice the start and have to fight the Skyline Drive traffic. The way up is strenuous, but doable if you are in shape and the constant waterfalls make the time fly by. Highly recommend this excellent day hike.

hiking
4 months ago

We hiked up the Cedar Run Trail which was strenuous for the entire way up (about 3 hours). This was a good trail to go up because there were a lot of smaller waterfalls and a steady stream. When we got to the top, we got a little turned around and accidentally went the wrong way. So make you’re reading your map carefully. We went down the White Oak Trail which was beautiful. The waterfalls were huge! Great photo opps. Trails were well kept even with the recent windstorm. The whole hike took us a little over 6 hours.

hiking
4 months ago

I hiked this loop counter clockwise, starting at the ranger station off of Weakley Hollow Rd, on 3/10/18. Due to the recent wind storm there are a couple of trees down across the trail on the White Oak Canyon side of the loop, a couple across the fire road, and around 6 across the Cedar Run portion. Overall though, this is a great hike with lots of beautiful waterfalls and ponds.

hiking
4 months ago

I did this hike in January after a bunch of rain\snow. The falls were flowing great! it was a nice hike! A few inches of snow on top of the mountain but none at the bottom. Cedar Run was not too spectacular in my opinion, but I loved white oak canyon so much I took my 5 year old daughter the next weekend to hike a small portion of it. only one view to speak of near the top of white oak canyon. It's gorgeous! not too strenuous if you're in decent shape, but will definitely leave you sore the next day.

hiking
5 months ago

This was definitely a strenuous hike. I hiked this loop counterclockwise. There are many waterfalls shown on the map with some not shown but most of them you cannot get to without trekking off of the trail. I logged 3.7 miles from parking area to the junction of the skyland - big meadows horse trail. From there I crossed the footbridge then continued onto the fire road - horse trail. Around 5.5 miles I continued onto the horse trail which leaves the fire road at this point and is fairly close and runs parallel to the Skyline Drive. Close to a parking area on the Skyline Drive, around my 6.2 miles logged, I turned left onto the Cedar Run Trail. This was the roughest trail between it and White Oak. Simular story, some of the waterfalls on this trail are not accessible without trekking off of the trail. Getting to some of the waterfalls looks extremely dangerous, so if you do decide to be real adventurous, be careful. I managed to trek to a few and decided that was enough and stayed on the trail after that. Both trails were muddy and ice covered in spots, I slipped a few times coming down Cedar Run. When I finally reached the car, I had logged a total of 9.8 miles with a GPS unit & Fitbit.

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