White Oak Canyon and Cedar Run Trails

HARD 288 reviews
#2 of 140 trails in

White Oak Canyon and Cedar Run Trails is a 8.2 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.

DISTANCE
8.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2349 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dog friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

forest

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

rocky

scramble

If you like water this is a great hike. If you want a great view at the top, pick another trail. You can go clockwise or the reverse. The Whiteoak Canyon trail is a much better trail so if you prefer coming down on the best footing trail, go clockwise. That is go up Cedar Run. If you do this just remember to look back a lot while coming down the White Oak Trail because it has most of the waterfalls. Cedar Run has some beautiful emerald green pools. Both trails stay very close to the streams. The connection at the top is partly by fire road and partly by a trail that parallels the scenic highway on top of the range. If you come up Cedar Run the trail will go off to the right just before a parking lot. It will take you to the fire road where you turn right. At the end of the fire road you will be at White Oak Canyon. There is a trail that heads up on the South side but you want to cross over the foot bridge and then head down along the stream on the north side. There are two parking lots that intersect this trail, one on skyline drive south of big meadows, and one that needs to be accessed off road 643 in the lowlands. You will come to an intersection starting at the off-skyline 643 parking lot, suggest you go right and run the loop counterclockwise. The trail markers are blue on the trees, then theres a short yellow section, then blue again for the return. make sure you double check your GPS at the intersections to stay on the right trail. The 1st section of trail takes you to the right along about 30 big and small waterfalls! WATERFALLS galore! 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. A short way past the falls section you will encounter a map on the trail and you can decide if you want to turn back and call it quits for the day. If you would like to continue on the loop for a total of 8 miles, you can take the yellow trail section. The yellow trail is the 2nd leg 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. No views here, and no waterfalls here. 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 leg 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 stair stepping 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. The rest of the way after the last crossing is a mostly rockless path back to the starting (road 643) parking lot (weakly hollow road). 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
12 days 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
13 days 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
15 days 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
15 days 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
23 days 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.

28 days 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.

1 month 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.

1 month 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
1 month 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
1 month 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
2 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
2 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
2 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
3 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.

4 months ago

Great horse trail.

hiking
4 months ago

The trail was kind of wet from rain but was still very navigable. I went counterclockwise and decided to take a detour and go to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain which had spectacular views. The few people I ran into were very friendly! I would definitely recommend this hike although it can be quite challenging at times. Got a little wet at one of the river crossings as there isn’t really a way to hop across the last 10 feet when the water is as high as it was. Thankfully I was almost done with the hike at that point.

hiking
4 months ago

long but worth the pain went counter clock wise(it rained so it was harder and slippery) great hike!!

hiking
5 months ago

Amazing hike! It's hard in some places but is overall fun.

hiking
5 months ago

Great day hike. DO BRING a headlamp, especially if hiking in the winter as it gets dark quick. Awesome views and friendly people on the trail. Coming back down Cedar Run, we ran into a very large black bear... wonderful contact...we kind of surprised him as we were downwind and right by the noisy falls... late in the season, they will be sleeping soon :)

5 months ago

Really beautiful hike along creek w/ a wide variety of waterfalls, pools, and views of impressive rocks and ‘east coast’ canyon walls. Super steep and rocky so anticipate sore muscles at the end. The trail happened to be populated w/ warm, friendly people too so bonus there! Well worth the drive from DC on a low-traffic day!

6 months ago

Beautiful scenery, but don’t go in the fall the day after a heavy rain - so slippery!

6 months ago

Amazing trail. Hiked it counter but will hike again in spring clockwise

hiking
6 months ago

Finished this in about 6 hours. The ground was covered in leaves since it had just rained and the combination of wet ground and the layer of leaves meant that this was a very slippery hike. We did not see the first crossing of the river during the last leg of the hike on the Cedar Run Trail. The White Oak Canyon portion was easy enough and very well marked, but we felt the Cedar Run Trail could have been marked better. Also, be wary of this hike if it has just rained and/or if you plan on going in Autumn after a majority of the leaves have fallen. I would definitely recommend hiking boots with a grippy traction and high ankle support since you will be primarily stepping up and down.

hiking
6 months ago

Just beautiful !!!

6 months ago

Hiked this today, took me 4hrs 45min. One of my favorites so far!

hiking
6 months ago

Pretty good hike and great waterfalls!

hiking
7 months ago

We followed the description and it was 98% on point but if you pay attention and read the signs you'll be fine. The only part that wasn't correct was the final leg where it talks about 3 river crossings, I don't recall three or the log scoot part. We didn't see any red trail markings either but we followed trail marker that said parking lot, about .06 miles and found our way back just fine. The hike according to my Fitbit was more like 10.5 miles total...it was difficult so be prepared. Great challenging trail if you're looking for that. Nice waterfalls! Also saw 3 black bears (2 cubs for sure) towards the end of the 2nd leg. Which was pretty amazing ❤️

hiking
7 months ago

We started out by going up Cedar Run & down White Oak Canyon. I would say it’s a MUCH better hike if you go UP White Oak Canyon & DOWN Cedar Run... but I recon it’s based on preference. We loved the lower falls on both sides of the trails....past that, it wasn’t much to see & we could have forgone the entire circuit. We simply did the circuit to just say “WE DID IT” since it’s the 2nd toughest in the park. Next time, we shall just hike to the lower falls & RELAX for the day!

7 months ago

I completed the loop in just over 4 hours. If you're only doing one, definitely do the Whiteoaks Canyon trail (go counterclockwise) - it's much more scenic and the waterfalls are gorgeous.

hiking
7 months ago

This was fun. You hike to the top and go down the natural water slide. My kids had a blast. It is HARD! If you have knee issues or are out of shape be cautious. It follows the river and you can relax on a rock and enjoy nature.

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