Shenandoah National Park: Cedar Run – White Oak Canyon Loop Trail Part 1

In early October my husband and I went on a 7.9-mile hike that features some of the best (and definitely the most plentiful) waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park: Cedar Run – White Oak Canyon Loop Trail. The week before, the area had received rain every day and we new it would be a great opportunity to see the waterfalls.

We’ve been to White Oak Canyon three times and completed the loop with Cedar Run once before. In the summer months, when there is less rain, these waterfalls looks completely different. In fact, we discovered new waterfalls that didn’t exist at those times coming off some cliffs!

White Oak Canyon Trail must be one of the most popular trails in Shenandoah National Park, besides Old Rag Mountain. The foot traffic is constant and the parking lot is large. At the entrance you will find Park Rangers checking to see if you have a pass for the park. If not, I think you have to pay an entrance fee to the park.

Note: The lovely long-exposure photos in this post were shot by my husband. You can see his Flickr page for more wide-angle nature photography.

The path starts out flat and you cross a sturdy metallic bridge that spans Robinson River with many cascades.

Robinson River

Robinson River

Robinson River

Last time we did the loop counter-clockwise, traversing up White Oak Canyon Trail and then down Cedar Run Trail, so this time we went the other way around. I would recommend going clockwise, as we did this time, climbing up Cedar Run Trail first. This is a better way to observe the over 30 waterfalls and cascades of Cedar Run that flow beside the 2.4-mile path.

Cedar Run

Cedar Run

Here is one of the many waterfalls of Cedar Run River.

You have to cross the river twice as you continue on the trail. Now, this is where it gets tricky. On a normal day, when the water flows are low, this would not be a problem at all. There are stepping stones and crossing is straightforward. This is not the case when it’s been raining all week. What makes for gorgeous, powerful waterfalls, also makes for full rivers.

The rocks, which were just barely peeking out of the river and covered in slippery wetness and moss, were not an option for us, as both of us were carrying cameras. So we decided to walk through the river. Never having done this before, and seeing lots of sharp rocks on the bottom, we kept our hiking boots and socks on.

The water went up to our knees. It was cold, but not freezing. Squishing out of the river, our boots leaking water all over, we sat down and tried to dry out the shoes and socks. We probably sat there for ten minutes attempting this. It was no good. This is why it is a good idea to either take off your shoes or to have an extra pair of socks or Crocs.

Proceeding along, water continued to well up from the inner soles of our boots and soak our socks. It was uncomfortable, but luckily it wasn’t too cold that day, so it was fine. Presently, we came another crossing. The second river bed also had sharp rocks, so the second time we took off the boots, but kept the socks on. This method was better, but still led to us sitting down for about 10 minutes as we wrung out our socks repeatedly and put our boots on again.

Crooked-stem Aster

Crooked-stem Aster

Crooked-stem Aster

Crooked-stem Aster, Zigzag Aster, or Aster prenanthoides, is a member of the Aster family (Asteraceae) and blooms August to October. It is a native plant that grows through most of northeastern North America. It favors wood edges, stream banks, moist meadows, and damp thickets. A tea made from the roots of the Crooked-stem Aster has been used to treat fevers and colds.We found a bunch in a rocky area next to the river.

Continue to Part 2

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