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Whiteoak Canyon to Upper Falls

Intermediate
 4.5 (13) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A must-do hike in Shenandoah National Park with views of the upper waterfalls of Whiteoak Run.


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Map Key

4.7

Miles

7.5

KM

Out and Back

3,521' 1,073 m

High

2,579' 786 m

Low

941' 287 m

Up

942' 287 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (4°)

22%

Max Grade (13°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife

Family Friendly Though this one might be too long for younger kids, older kids will enjoy picking their way past cascades, pools and enchanted forests.

Overview

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.

Need to Know

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.

Description

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/Whiteoak Canyon 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.

Flora & Fauna

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

Larry W. Brown

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 13 votes

#990

Overall
  4.5 from 13 votes
5 Star
54%
4 Star
38%
3 Star
8%
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Recommended Route Rankings

#35

in Virginia

#990

Overall
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4,797 Since Apr 14, 2016
Intermediate

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Photos

Looking back across the bridge connecting Whiteoak Canyon trail to the fire road.
Jan 17, 2016 near Stanley, VA
White Oak Canyon Trail.  Photo on Sep 25, 2016
Sep 25, 2016 near Stanley, VA
Whiteoak Falls.
Jul 15, 2016 near Stanley, VA
Whiteoak Canyon.
Jan 20, 2016 near Stanley, VA
Pools below the trees.
Jul 15, 2016 near Stanley, VA
The view through the trees.
Jul 15, 2016 near Stanley, VA

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Check-Ins

Sep 14, 2019
Debbie Yum
Slippery in some places from overnight rain and fog. Views were obscured due to fog/low cloud cover. 4.5mi — 3h 34m
Sep 7, 2019
Michael Ray
Sep 5, 2019
Jordan Conville
Sep 1, 2019
Geraud Pinchart
Sep 1, 2019
Mark Yelich
Dec 2, 2018
Joe Danz
Went a little over the featured hike to the lower falls and then went back. Worth it! 5.7mi
Oct 23, 2018
Angel Batkins
Oct 9, 2018
Amanda Houbre