Hike Whiteoak Canyon

Falls cascading down rock formations
Fall colors in Whiteoak Canyon.

NPS Photo

There are six waterfalls ranging from 35 to 86 feet and many smaller cascades along the Whiteoak Canyon Trail, making this trail one of the most popular places to hike in Shenandoah National Park. During the warmer months, the swimming holes along the way are great places to cool off, but expect lots of company. The Whitoak Canyon Trail extends from mile 42.6 of Skyline Drive to the park boundary off Rt. 600. Listed below are three options for hiking to waterfalls in Whiteoak.

Hike to the Lower Falls from the Boundary

Difficulty rating: Easiest
Distance: 2 mi/3.21 km
Elevation gain: 500 ft/152 m
Trail features: Hike through the forest next to a stream leading to a 60-foot waterfall.

From the parking area at the Park boundary, begin at Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Keep right on Whiteoak Canyon Trail at the intersection with Cedar Run Trail. Cross a small stream and continue to the base of the lower falls. Return by the same route.

Hike to the Upper Falls from Skyline Drive

Difficulty rating: Moderate
Distance: 4.6 mi/7.4 km
Elevation gain: 1,040 ft/317 m
Trail features: Hike through the forest next to a stream leading to an 86-foot waterfall.

From the Whiteoak Canyon parking area at mile 42.6 of Skyline Drive, take the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Pass the junctions for the Old Rag Fire Road and the Limberlost Trail. About 2.3 miles from the start you will come to a rocky ledge with a view of the upper falls. Retrace your steps to return to the parking lot. The return trip will be very steep! Hiking to the other five falls adds a strenuous 2.7 miles

Hike the full Whiteoak - Cedar Run Circuit

Difficulty rating: Very strenuous
Distance: 7.3 mi/11.7 km
Elevation gain: 2794 ft/852 m
Trail features: Hike to eight waterfalls along a trail surrounded by forest.

This hike forms a loop where you will see all the falls at Whiteoak, plus two smaller falls at Cedar Run. From Hawksbill Gap parking at mile 45.6 of Skyline Drive, take Cedar Run Trail until the intersection for the Whiteoak-Cedar Run Link Trail. Go left on the Link Trail, and left when you intersect with the Whiteoak Canyon Trail. Just after the upper falls, go left on the Whiteoak Canyon Fire Road/ Horse Trail. If the water is high, use the pedestrian bridge above the falls.

Map: Whiteoak Canyon Area

There are multiple options for hiking Whiteoak, from the easier 2 mi/3.21 km hike to the lower falls from the boundary, to the very strenuous 7.3 mi/11.7 km Whiteoak - Cedar Run Circuit. 

An average pace is:
1.5 mph for easiest trails.
1.4 mph for moderate trails.
1.3 mph for moderately strenuous trails.
1.2 mph for strenuous and very strenuous trails.
Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times. 
The park entrance fee is required. If you are entering at the boundary parking is free, but you will still need to pay an entrance fee. Landowners with property adjacent to the Park are charging a fee for parking on their property. Paying a private citizen does not affect the entrance fee. Check the Shenandoah lot for availability before paying to park.
Whitoak Canyon can be reached from mile 42.6 of Skyline Drive, from the park boundary at Rt. 600, or from mile 45.6 of Skyline Drive for the Cedar Run - Whiteoak Circuit hike. 

Directions to the boundary from Sperryville: Follow Route 211 to Route 522 south for 0.8 mile. Turn right on Route 231, follow 10.2 miles to Etlan, turn right on Route 643. Follow for 4.5 miles and turn right onto Route 600. Proceed 3.5 miles to the parking area.

Directions to the boundary from Madison: Route 29 Business, take 231 north for 5.6 miles to Route 670 at Banco. Continue 3.6 miles to Route 643 in Syria. Follow 0.8 mile on Route 643 to Route 600. Continue on Route 600 to the parking area.
Waterflow is typically best from spring to summer. 

Last updated: July 9, 2018