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Elliot Knob - Buffalo Gap, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.5 mls
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5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,425 ft
George Washington National Forest
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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park on VA42 at a small turn-in and closed gate. There will be a stop sign with '291' attached to it. 38.16125, -79.26927

Elliot Knob is the highest point in Augusta County, and one of the highest peaks in Virginia. Just west of Staunton and secluded in Buffalo Gap, this hike features two waterfalls, several great views to the west and east, and a grass covered summit. If you're lucky, this hidden treasure can be all yours for a day.

From the small parking area pass the closed gate and head up Falls Hollow Trail. The trail is marked with both yellow blazes and yellow plastic diamonds, and follows an old logging road for the first 1.5 miles.

At 0.4 miles pass a small logging road on your right, the first of four. In 0.6 miles from the parking area the trail makes a turn to the left before entering the first of three small clearings at 0.8 miles.

Pass through the clearings and arrive at Falls Hollow Run on your right in another 0.6 miles. Continue up the trail, cross the run, and in 50 yards reach the first of the two main falls. Cross the run again, where the trail becomes steep, then arrive at the largest set of falls in another 0.3 miles. There is a yellow diamond on a tree, and small pile of rocks marking the falls.

In another 0.1 miles the trail turns off the old FS road to the left. The turn is marked by three yellow diamonds. The old Falls Hollow Trail continues straight and is no longer navigable.

After turning left on the yellow blazed trail continue 0.8 miles, crossing two small spurs, and passing through a utility clear cut before arriving at an access road. Turn right uphill on the yellow blazed dirt access road for the steepest part of the hike before arriving at a spring and small pond in 1.0 miles.

Continue along the road as it passes a small stand of spruce, winds back to the right, then to the left, passes the yellow blazed North Mountain Trail and transmission station, then enters another stand of spruce and flatter area.

At this point the dirt road you have been following turns to the right towards the transmission station. Turn left onto the trail that climbs on the west side of the mountain and up to the grass covered summit in another 0.1 miles. The lookout tower was built in 1958 and hasn't been used since the early sixties. If you are doing this hike as a backpack there are two sheltered campsites under a stand of spruce at the summit.

To return retrace the route you took up. However, be alert for the left turn off the steep dirt access road onto the trail that leads back towards the run. There are three yellow diamonds making the intersection, take the immediate left onto he trail.

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Hiker Reviews For The Elliot Knob Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Elliot Knob hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Alice Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 30, 2014
The first part of the hike was fine. Nice scenery, lots of plants to identify. The summer has been dry and the stream was very low, so the crossings were not difficult.

The ascent to the top along the gravel road is unrelenting. If you need a challenge and don't care about the environment you are in, this hike is for you. I did this as a day hike, but carried 30 lbs for training. It was grueling.

I saw three groups and one solo hiker during my eight hours on this trail. They were younger and less encumbered so moved much faster. They all commented on how tough the climb on the road was. Some compared it to Old Rag, but without the crowds.

If I were to do this again, I would stop before the gravel road.

Parking--it is the PAVED pull off about 100 yards from the entrance and on the opposite side of the road. Do not pull off on the unpaved area--there is a big whole there that will swallow your tire.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 21, 2014
Attempted Elliot Knob for the first time on 6/9/14 when I was not in good shape. Barely made it to the start of the infamous Fire Gravel Road final ascent and had to quit in defeat. Came back on 7/21/14 when my endurance skill was closer to 100 and made it all the way to the top! Overall the first mile is very boring grassy access road, slightly uphill. Next mile is by far the best, a moderately challenging uphill hike along a beautiful stream with a couple small waterfalls. Next mile is a very tight little trail, also moderate uphill with heavy brush along both sides, keep an eye out for wildlife. I nearly stepped on a large snake, but most likely a harmless one. This portion of the trail is rather intimidating if you are hiking alone, as you feel extremely vulnerable and blind to what might be in the brush. I saw no other hikers during either of my trips, which is great if you are looking for solitude.

Then you get the the final mile plus to the peak, the Fire Gravel Road. It is pure evil. To put in context how insane this final climb is, the first 3 miles took me only 1 hour, then the Fire Gravel Road took another hour by itself. It is brutally slow going with only tiny flat spots every few hundred feet where you can catch your breath. The peak is beautiful, the highest point in August County VA, but it feels rather sketchy with all the man-made structures including the fire watch tower. You can climb this to the top to achieve the perfect sniper position in the event of a zombie apocalypse!

Access to Elliot Knob is decent and free, only about 15 miles SW of Staunton, VA. Keep a sharp eye out for the marker on the right side of the road as shown in the photo on this site. The parking is non-existent off the road, and it really feels like you are not supposed to be parking there. Both visits I breathed a sigh of relief that my truck was not ticketed, towed, or stolen sitting in plain view just off the road. Overall this hike is only worth it if you are looking for the extreme challenge of the Fire Gravel Road. This last ascent easily earns this hike the 4 rating, maybe even a 4.5 in my opinion.

Ben


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 03, 2014
Disappointing hike.  The first section was nice along the stream with a couple of small waterfalls.  After that it turns into a crushed rock road that just goes nearly straight up the mountain a dull trudge.  At the top are too many man-made distractions along with trash everywhere.  Nothing is worse than coming upon old beer bottles and trash strewn all around a summit.  When I returned to my car, I found a parking ticket for $125!  The notation said I was blocking the gate (I clearly wasn't).  I had parked in the same spot as the vehicle pictured on this site, and well to the right side of the gravel forest road and gate.  Very annoying.  Suggest passing on this one.  If you do this hike, don't park in the location suggested.

By: Linda Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 24, 2014
Wow, what a disappointment this hike was! I am an experienced backpacker and did this as an overnight with five others new to backpacking...definitely not a good introduction. While the first part of the hike along Falls Hollow was lovely, the majority of our time and effort was spent ascending the grueling gravel fire road. It went on and on. Finally, we reached our "reward" - an array of cell phone and transmission towers! There is a small pond near these where we re-filled our Nalgenes, then endured the final stretch of road. The grassy knob itself is beautiful, but what could be a spectacular view is quite marred by the communication towers. The saving grace for this hike is the grove of spruce trees and cozy campsite. While you will have the place to yourself, the sense of "solitude" for me was diminished by all of the man-made structures. One other big negative was the long trek back down to the pond--the only water source. And footwear with good traction is essential for the steep gravel road. This "hike" taught me to read the reviews more carefully.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 15, 2014
I tackled this as a day hike today with a group from Central Virginia Trailblazers.  The streams were flowing pretty fast due to the recent rain and snow, making the crossings a little tricky but doable.  The views of the waterfalls on the right of the trail were such a nice distraction that none of us noticed the three diamonds marking the sharp left turn, and we continued up the old Falls Hollow Trail.  The HU description says this trail is "no longer navigable"...but we just followed the stream and rock bed and did some bushwhacking until we made it to the top.  I wouldn't want to go through that again, but it was interesting to hike off trail for a change.  The towers at the top didn't detract from the outstanding views, and we never saw a soul the whole day despite the weather being perfect.  All in all a great hike!

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