Looking for a day hiking out in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with a ton of waterfalls? Not just waterfalls you can look at—waterfalls you can swim under, jump off of, and even slide down?
White Oak Canyon & Cedar Run Trail is a hike I’d never done or even heard of, which is quite surprising considering it’s right next door to Old Rag. I’ve hiked Old Rag numerous times and it’s definitely one of my favorite hikes in Virginia (when there aren’t many people on the trail). The views area amazing, there is lots of rock scrambling and it takes all day, which makes the almost two-hour drive from Richmond worth it.
White Oak Canyon & Cedar Run Trail on the other hand aren’t going to give you scenic views like you’ll get from Old Rag, but what you lose in scenery you gain in WATERFALLS! We stopped counting after 10. Some are small which I personally wouldn’t consider a waterfall, but there are plenty quite large ones with awesome emerald pools and even a rock slide. You can hear rushing water basically during the entire hike, and stop to cool off in them whenever you get hot—it’s great.
This hike can be considered more strenuous than Old Rag mountain despite them being right next door to each other—it’s pretty different in that there’s no crest section of the trail, and no peak. The longs ups and downs are where the meat of the hike are. It’s got some pretty long sections of steady incline and if you do a loop, you’ll get that impact coming back down. As far as timing, if you’re taking tons of pictures of the falls, swimming, or taking chill long lunch, plan on 6-7 hours for this hike. Took us about 6.5 and we didn’t feel rushed at all.
We went up Cedar Run (where the waterslide and other more private, smaller pools are) then down White Oak Canyon, which had more paved steps and bigger, more populated pools.
As far as timing, definitely try to go on a weekday, and start early—before 10am. If Old Rag gets congested, I bet a hike with swimming holes and a famous slide gets crazy busy. We went on a Friday and started at 9:30 am and felt like we had the place to ourself for most of the day, with plenty of pools we didn’t have to share.
Don’t forget your $20—there’s a ranger station at the trail head and you’ll need that to get your pass. However, it’s good for Old Rag and the Appalachian Trail for seven days.
For detailed info on this hike, tips on which side to go up first, and alternate ideas if you don’t want to do the full loop, visit the listing on Alltrails.com.
p.s. The Syria Mercantile at the start of Weakly Hollow Rd is an awesome place to grab sandwiches or a ham biscuit fresh out of the oven before you head out for the day—and they have wifi for last minute work emails if you’re playing hooky for the day because there is no service from Verizon. The lady who worked there could not have been nicer.
Don’t want the day to end?
On your way home why not finish with a drink. We decided to swing through Barboursville Vineyard and do a their basic tasting of 21 wines (8 white/rose, 9 red and 4 dessert) for $7.