This iconic out-and-back hike from Skyline Drive descends past cliffs, surrealistic boulders, and tall hardwoods as it merges with Whiteoak Run. The reward for this hike lies at the turning point in the form of the Upper Whiteoak Falls.
Similar to many of the waterfall hikes that start from Skyline Drive, this hike begins as an easy downhill, while the majority of the exercise is found during the hike back up, returning to the starting point.
The trail begins gradually downhill, bending first to the right and then to the left around a wetland. Head across a stream and then continue across the Old Rag Road - West
. Continue for another quarter-mile, heading across the Limberlost Trail
Head straight from here, and after a couple hundred yards, a small stream trickles in from the right and flows parallel to the trail. This is the Whiteoak Run that will continue down toward the upper falls. The flow levels of this stream vary drastically depending on precipitation and time of year.
Continue down the trail, passing small cascades and pools as they begin to grow the lower you get. Then, after approximately 1.3 miles from the Limberlost Trail
, you come to another trail junction with Whiteoak Canyon Access Trail (at Bridge 3)
. Follow the trail to the left, crossing the stream on a bridge, and then continuing downstream on the left bank to where the trail widens. The top of the falls is ahead on the right.
The Skyland-Big Meadows Horse Trail
Road comes in on the left, around thirty yards down the trail. Continue straight ahead another 400 feet, to another widening in the trail. There are two rocky ledges toward the run that provide good spots to see the complete falls, which have a total drop of 86 feet.
Continuing past the upper falls, the canyon begins to narrow, and the trail is steep and rough. In order to reach the sixth falls, continue along White Oak Canyon, adding 2.7 miles and 1,110 feet of climbing to your hike.
A longer and more strenuous alternative loop hike that sees all of the falls is the White Oak Canyon to Cedar Run Loop.
Thanks to Larry W. Brown, for sharing this description. If you’re interested in learning more details about great hikes, weather, camping / lodging, wildlife, and scenic drives, check out the comprehensive Guide to Shenandoah National Park
In early spring, the green shoots in the swamp are false hellebore, Veratrum viride. Keep your eyes open for the disintegrating basalt boulder near where Whiteoak Run begins to flow next to the trail that provides a good example of columnar jointing.