The Whiteoak Canyon and Cedar Run circuit is an incredible hike located in the heart of Shenandoah National Park. This 8.2-mile loop is a strenuous hike with about a 2,300 feet of elevation gain. Those who explore the trail are rewarded with magnificent waterfalls, crystal clear swimming holes and a slick rock natural waterslide to help cool off on a hot summer day. Many hikers underestimate both the time and energy it takes to complete this circuit. Hikers should plan on spending most of their day on the trail and bring plenty of food and water.
The loop can be done in a variety of ways with two possible trailheads to start from: one off of Skyline Drive, and the other off of Weakley Hollow Road. The recommended way is to start from the lower trailhead, located on the boundary of Shenandoah National Park. Travel the loop clockwise, taking on the uphill Cedar Run section first, and ending with a descent into Whiteoak Canyon. The climb up Whiteoak Canyon can be brutal, with many switchbacks and steep inclines. Choosing to descend through the canyon instead can lessen the strain of the lengthy hike.
From the lower trailhead, head up the path and turn left at the first intersection onto Cedar Run Trail. The Cedar Run section of the hike follows a cascading stream through a canyon. Along the route, there is a popular stopping point where water runs down a long, smooth rock, creating a natural waterslide. At the top of Cedar Run Trail, turn right onto the Whiteoak Canyon link. This trail soon turns into a gravel fire road that leads hikers to the main Whiteoak Canyon Trail. On the descent, enjoy several large waterfalls (the tallest one reaching 86 feet) and several pools deep enough for swimming. The most popular spot this side of the circuit is the pool beneath the lower falls. This is a large pool with great opportunity for swimming and some small cliff jumping. Be careful of slippery rocks. From here, continue to follow Whiteoak Canyon Trail back to the trailhead and parking lot.
Both streams along this circuit are popular spots for trout anglers, and many hikers carry fly rods with them on the trail.
Whether starting the hike from inside the park or the boundary, hikers are required to purchase either a 7-day or yearly permit to Shenandoah National Park (The National Park’s Annual Pass is also valid). Both trails are dog friendly. Owners should heed to the parks pet policy of keeping all animals on a lead no longer than 6-feet while inside the park.