Emerald Pond is a beautiful spring fed swimming hole nestled in a small hollow off the Bird Knob Trail. The water has exceptional clarity, and in the summer months is surprisingly warm for a mountain pond. It practically begs you to jump in! But that's not the only feature on this circuit, just 1.5 miles into the hike on the Massanutten South Trail on Big Mountain is a spectacular vista to the west of the Harrisonburg Valley. Want to make this hike a little longer? Then try the Browns Hollow Hike that adds the Browns Hollow and Roaring Run Trails to make for a 11.5 mile circuit.
When backpacking there is a nice campsite right on the banks of Emerald Pond. Also if you travel west homeward towards I81, make sure to stop at Pack's Custard Stand on US211 in New Market for some of the best frozen custard around!
Mile 0.0 - Start the hike near the front of the parking area on the white blazed Wildflower Trail, DO NOT go down the paved Nature Trail at the end of the parking area. Follow the white blazed Wildflower Trail downhill for 0.3 miles to the intersection of the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail.
Mile 0.3 - Turn right uphill on the orange blazed trail for the steepest section of the hike. Wind around the mountain and climb through a bolder field before arriving at the lower ridgeline in 1.0 miles. Continue uphill for 0.4 miles to the first of two great vistas. This section of the hike is where you are most likely to run into other hikers, as many hikers do not do the entire Emerald Pond circuit, but instead do the much shorter out/back to the overlook.
Mile 1.7 - Continue on the Massanutten South Trail for 0.8 miles to the intersection of the white blazed Bird Knob Trail.
Mile 1.5 - Veer right on the now white blazed Bird Knob Trail, then shortly pass an unmaintained trail on the left. In another 0.7 miles stay right as you pass another unblazed trail that connects from the left. From this point it is 0.8 miles to a large clearing near Bird Knob. Bird Knob does not have an overlook as you may expect by the name. Stay left downhill on the Bird Knob Trail as it descends through the hollow to the intersection of an old logging road.
Mile 3.3 - Turn left on the old logging road for 0.1 miles and arrive at Emerald Pond. Pass along the left side of the pond following a small trail to a campsite on the opposite bank.
Mile 3.5 - Return to the white blazed Bird Knob Trail, turn left, then in 0.5 miles pass a closed gate.
Mile 4.0 - Turn left onto a Forestry Service road that is also the orange blazed Massanutten south Trail for 0.4 miles to the point where the road makes a hairpin turn to the right.
Mile 4.4 - Stay straight passing a closed gate and continuing on the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail. In 0.6 miles from the Forestry Service road arrive at an unmarked intersection, stay right remaining on the orange blazed trail, then in 0.8 miles pass through a small clearing and arrive back at the Bird Knob Trail intersection.
Mile 5.8 - Turn right orange blazed Massanutten South Trail retracing your route back past the two vistas, then descending to the white blazed Wildflower Trail.
Mile 8.0 - Turn left on the white blazed Wildflower Trail for the remaining 0.3 miles back to the parking area and now closed Visitor Center.
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Reviews For The Emerald Pond Hike (5 Most Recent)
I hiked this as described, starting at the creepy abandoned visitors center (would be good in a Stephen King movie). The first mile or so is a challenge as you can see from the elevation profile, but taking a few breaks I made it to the top. The trails vary from very rocky to smooth gravel road. The pond is nice and I sat there for a while. There is a tremendous amount of litter at and near a gate close to the pond, and broken beer bottles at the pond -- apparently roads near the pond are accessible to the public and it ends up being a sort of hillbilly retreat. I picked up some trash but it needs a more extensive cleanup. Along one stretch on the way back from the pond there are many mounds produced by the Allegheny mound ant, which is unusual. They can bite so keep your distance.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Parked at the gate near the pond. This took the majority of elevation gain out and made the hike a little over 6 miles. We went counter clock wise to the the view point and enjoyed a nice break there. We then hike to Bird Knob and over to the pond for a lunch break at the end of a 4 hour nice walk in the woods. The trail is reasonably flat except for the initial uphill on the road from our parking spot. The pond had washed out a bit of the berm at the road and required high stepping to keep our boots dry. A lot of trees have been cut down on the dam side of the pond making walking tricky to get to the rock area on the far side where there are rocks for sitting and just taking a break. A nice hike and not strenuous at all if you're not looking for a tough workout but want to enjoy the view and the pond of clear water at the end.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 12, 2015
Park at he Massanutten Visitor Center, which looks a lot like someone's run down house that they stopped caring for in the 90s but there is a parking lot and two trail heads. The initial trail can be kind of swampy, so bug spray may be desired for the first mile or so. After that you enter the rock zone of this hike... Not quite a scramble, but lots of rocks to step on, over, and around. The entire rock section was just awesome and reminiscent of Frodo climbing Weathertop, lots of fun. The rock field ends just at the first vista which was crazy good. Totally worth the up hill slog.
After the vista things are mostly easy. When you reach the meadow, cross it along the left and follow the road out. stay on the road until you get another road to the left and follow that to the pond. Was beautiful with the fall colors and completely deserted. We had a lovely lunch at the campsite, just us and the dragonflies.
The return trip from the pond up the Massanutten South Trail was far less interesting than the way in. A lot of it is gravel road with little shade and not much excitement. Consider going back the way you came in. If you do take the Massanutten South Trail back make sure to stop and notice the giant ant hills that pop up every so often. Some of the largest I have ever seen in my life. Otherwise completely forgettable.
Finally you will retrace all that uphill work through the rock section, so take your time and be careful with your footing.
Distances described in here are misleading and don't match the posted signs. I would estimate this more at ten miles than eight, but that is just my personal guess.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 10, 2015
We missed the parking lot at the Old Visitor Center and parked about 2 miles up the road past Dan's Steak House. Hiked 2 miles before we got to the intended start point. We've done a good bit of hiking and there was some impressive climbing to this one. It was steep and rocky for over a mile and we were getting a little winded until we got to the first of two vistas. It made it all worth it. We continued on not knowing how far the pond was and came up on several bear hunters (very friendly). Found out that the pond was at least another 1 1/2 miles and we were concerned about light and whether or not to turn back. Seeing a rather large pile of bear poop on the trail sealed the deal and we made the decision to turn back and got back to the parking lot before 6. Hate we missed the pond but there is always next time! p.s. the Old Visitor Center is marked with a Civil War marker and is beside the Park Rangers house. If you get to Dan's Steak House you've gone too far.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Started about 8:30 after driving by the parking area which has no signs that I could see. The climb after the wildflower trail is a good workout with rocky sections. The views are great looking west and the rest of the Bird Knob trail is a nice hike. The pond is very nice and so unexpected in a high location. The camping area is limited and the area is very rocky. The return trail goes from a walk on the road to a nice soft bed of pine. There are many large ant mounds along this section so be careful where you stop. The downhill at the end is a knee buster and made more difficult by being at the end of the hike. I think it would be good to try it starting from the road near the pond and end with a swim and the views more at the halfway point.