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Brandywine Recreation Area - Brandywine, West Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
High Knob Fire Tower
5.8 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.0 hrs plus a half hour for lunch
2,110 ft
Saw Mill Loop
3.7 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
2.0 hrs plus a half hour for lunch
650 ft
Brandywine Recreation Area
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If you are not camping, park at the day use area at Brandywine Lake. 38.60004, -79.20224

The Brandywine Recreation Area, on the border of Virginia and West Virginia, has two totally different hikes within its borders. The strenuous High Knob hike up to a spectacular 360° view at the fire tower, and the Saw Mill loop which is an easy 3.7 mile walk along two of the areas creeks.

The Brandywine Recreation area is a perfect spot to go for the weekend. With a man made beach on Brandywine Lake plus 32 campsites, clean bathrooms and hot showers, and potable water throughout the camping area. Also, if you come with a large group there is a group/overflow camping spot with picnic tables and fire rings at the back of the main camping facilities. Please Note: Both hikes are rated for camping because of the camping facilities at the Brandywine Recreation Area, not for campsites on the trails.

High Knob Fire Tower:
This hike is rated strenuous because of the steep grade of the trail. The trail does not make any switchbacks on its 2.9 mile climb to the fire tower.

The High Knob trail starts at the right front of the Group Campground. Start up the yellow blazed High Knob trail as it steeply climbs for the first 0.2 miles before becoming an easier grade along the ridge. The trail will again become very steep for the last 0.5 miles then reach the intersection of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail.

At the intersection of the Shenandoah Mountain Trail continue straight on the High Knob Trail for another 0.2 miles where the yellow blazed High Knob trail turns right and follows a fire road for 0.1 miles. The trail then leaves the fire road and turning left uphill. In 200 yards the trail will join another fire road for the remaining 0.2 miles to the ridge and fire tower.

Climb to the lookout platform on the fire tower for a spectacular 360° panorama into Virginia and West Virginia. To return retrace your route.

Saw Mill Loop:
The Saw Loop is an easy walk in the woods compared to the hard climb up to High Knob. There are several open wildlife clearings as well as two seasonal creeks.

From the back loop of the campground follow the yellow blazed Saw Mill Loop trail for 0.3 miles to the beginning of the loop portion of the hike. From here turn right and follow the loop 3.1 miles back to the same point. On the first part of the loop Hawes Creek is on your left, then cross a small ridge on the back side of the loop and follow a feeder stream back to the beginning of the loop before turning right for the 0.3 miles back to the hike start point.

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Hiker Reviews For The Brandywine Recreation Area Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Steve S. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 18, 2016
We did the High Knob Fire Tower. Really fun hike with very few people on it. Previous reviewers are right that this trail is steep - straight up the side of the mountain with no switchbacks. The fire tower at the top is a nice reward, with gorgeous views of the surrounding park area. In the summer there's also a nice benefit insofar as the Brandywine Recreation Area has a swimming pond and showers at the bottom, so if you're camping out in the area, you can get clean from what is inevitably going to be a sweaty endeavor.

By: Tim Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 18, 2014
I did the hike to the fire tower and it was brutal. No switchbacks, just straight up and straight down. Beautiful views at the top, but it is a killer going up and down.

By: Laurie Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 05, 2014
Hiked the High Knob Fire Tower Trail - Started from the Brandywine Recreation Area - the trailhead is off to far left in the back of the campground - enter the group camping area and there is a sign.

The first 3 miles are straight up hill!! No switchbacks-straight UP with a couple areas that level off and you can walk upright for a little while.

Very secluded and quiet trail-nobody else on this trail. It took us 2 hours to reach the fire tower. It was really windy on top but beautiful views!!

There were several people on the tower when we arrived and more showed up while we ate our lunch.

We decided against going back the way we came in & hiked out the easy trail to Rt 33 and walked 4.1 miles down the hairpin curved road back to the recreation area parking lot.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 20, 2014
Hiked the Saw Mill Loop and it was a beautiful day for a hike!

Campground area is closed with locked gate across but I assumed that we could park in the small parking lot off of drive.

We found the trailhead easily but NOTE that now the blazes are yellow which stumped me at first because the directions on this site said purple-there is actually a sign that says Saw Mill Loop with arrows. Easy hike, not much to look at -many creek crossings that could have been difficult if the water was higher but all have rocks placed in the right locations to step across :)) I Plan on coming back to do the Fire Tower Hike!

From HikingUpward: Thanks for the note on the blaze color changes. The map and directions have been updated with the new information.

By: Cheryl T Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Got a very late start, so I decided to take the trail from the parking lot off Hwy 33 instead of from the Brandywine Recreation Area where I was going to tent for the evening. The sign at the lot states it is a 1.3 mile hike from the parking area to the fire tower.  The trail was well marked with yellow blazes. The trail itself wasn't too bad...starting out mainly a soft dirt forest trail,  and as you climb along the ridge it becomes slightly rocky. Prior to getting to the top you are on an old  fire road.  Not a hard climb at all. I didn't see anyone on the way in, but when I was returning I met 2 guys going up. It took me about 30 minutes from the parking area to the summit. Plenty of signs marking the trails and private property is well marked with bug read paint and signs!  When I climbed the tower there were amazing 360 degree views. I had planned to eat up on the tower while admiring the views, but there were too many flies, wasps and other flying things. There is a big area to camp out in next to the tower with a fire ring. However, watch out for poison ivy, I managed to pick up some, probably while I was walking around the tower. In all I give it 4 stars, all for the view.

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