There are two options for enjoying the fantastic views and camping on Halfmoon Mountain:
Follow our directions for the two day 10.5 mile backpack or as a long day hike.
Don't have time for the standard route? Park at the Halfmoon Mountain trailhead off VA23/10 Trout Run Road 38.98936, -78.65707. This will make for a shorter 6.5 mile hike up the Halfmoon Mountain Trail to the ridge and intersection of the Halfmoon Mountain Overlook Trail, then to the overlook, and back down the same way.
Mile 0.2 - Continue along the orange Bucktail Trail as it starts to winds around the mountain and gradually ascends to a saddle with intermittent views of the ridge to the west. After the saddle descend towards the run arriving at a footbridge and intersection with the Cacpon Trail.
Mile 4.3 - Turn left uphill on the now narrower purple blazed German Wilson Trail. The trail is 1.0 miles long and becomes increasingly steeper passing through a small gorge before cresting the saddle and ending at the intersection with the white blazed Halfmoon Mountain Overlook Trail.
Mile 5.7 - From the main summit continue to the saddle campsite just beyond, then follow the faint trail another 75 yards to the less know northwesterly vista point with expansive views and large rock outcropping.
Mile 5.8 - From the second overlook pass back through the campsite in the saddle and down the white blazed trail back to the intersection with the German Wilson Trail. From the German Wilson Trail intersection it is 0.4 miles to the intersection with the yellow blazed Halfmoon Mountain Trail. 30 yards before arriving at the intersection there is a large campsite on the left.
Mile 6.2 - Turn right downhill on the yellow blazed German Wilson Trail. There is one large switchback on its descent to a large campsite and intersection with the pink blazed Bucktail Cutoff Trail. There are additional campsites just upstream, and the Halfmoon Mountain Trail veers left here crossing Halfmoon Mountain Run then following a forestry road.
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Reviews For The Halfmoon Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Wow! We did an overnight backpack trip here, following Hiking Upward's route exactly. Didn't see anyone for two days and camped up at the top. This was the trail my wife broke her arm on in September (we had to abort then and self-rescue, driver to ER in Winchester, and thousands of dollars were spent on hospital bills). A titanium plate now holds her bones together. I mention this because our successful completion of this hike was an achievement for her in overcoming that fear and getting back out on the trail. The hike was a victory for her and for us because we didn't let the trail beat us. When failure occurs, it's important to learn from it and get back out there...And once we got past the "Bone Crushing" tree at mile 2.8 we had the rest of the trail to explore with fresh eyes and spirits. We love that this is a circuit hike with a big payoff at the top. The German-Wilson portion of this hike is intense. Very steep. We camped at the large site right below the summit. The saddle camp at the summit was open but it was just too windy for our liking. Great trip, great night. One note on the Hiking Upward directions - at mile 6.2 it says to turn at the German Wilson trail. This is actually the Halfmoon Mountain trail. Be careful down by the river area. Don't let the big tree across the trail get you. Oh, and take plenty of water to the top if you camp up there. Last chance for water is at mile 3.3. We have a full video on our trip, including showing how the accident happened. Check out our video on YouTube at our channel called Ott Mountain. We also have photos on that video of our failed attempt last year with "bone breaking" results. Thanks to Hiking Upward for the great trail data. Big help.
Date of Hike: Friday, February 10, 2017
I just did this as an overnight and it was beautiful. I camped down by halfmoon run because the wind at the summit was pretty strong. A beautiful full moon and 19 degrees made for a relaxing winter evening. I will definitely do this again in the spring.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 12, 2016
Great hike. Just did this with a group of six. Trails are in great shape, however, markings are fading. You must pay close attention.
Plan on carrying your water during this hike. The only water was at the stream Mile 2.5. The Buckhead site has a stream but it is dry. Definitely recommend this hike to anyone looking for a great overnight trip.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 23, 2016
Hiked on a Sunday with great weather and still saw only a few other groups. This is a fairly easy hike, with the notable exception of mile 4.3 - 5.8. You'll want to bring supportive shoes and trekking poles. The blazes are also difficult to see in some spots, particularly the purple-blazed trail.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 23, 2016
The trailhead on Trout Run Rd was easy to find, something that you should not take for granted on a lot of hikes. We made the circuit just as it is described here. The trails are sometimes not well marked on this hike and you should have your wits about you. You can't get lost here because you are bounded by creeks to the north and south, Mill Mountain to the east, and Trout Run to the west, but you can get disoriented especially in the deep leaves with faint to almost non-existent blazes in places.
We missed the intersection of the pink-blazed Bucktail Cutoff Trail with the orange-blazed Bucktail Trail (which is a fire road at this point). It didn't matter as we were not turning but it was a good reminder to keep our eyes open. I generally dislike walking fire road, but this wasn't bad. We finally left it just before reaching Halfmoon Run and turning east up the hill along that creek. At many points, it was not clear where the trail was, but it hardly matters as you are following the creek up the hill.
Once you hang a right off the orange-blazed trail onto the purple- (lavender- really) blazed wide forest road/German Wilson trail, you must pay attention. I don't think the directions above stress that enough. In a couple of tenths, you are leaving the forest road and turning left up the fairly steep purple-blazed single-track German Wilson trail. If I were not scanning the trailside for photography opportunities, I would have missed the little trail marker up in the bushes 10-15 yards off the road to the left.
As you follow the German Wilson trail, it will come to a gully/dry creek bed between two hills and you are going to make a steep climb up the creek bed. Blazes here are few and far between and often exceedingly faint, but you just keeping climbing up until you reach the saddle and the intersection with the white-blazed summit trail.
As you turn right on the summit trail, it really becomes a sweet hike as you ascend, with increasingly better and better views of Mill Mountain, Big Schloss, and Tibbet Knob on the other side of Wolf Gap. There's a great rock outcrop at the top just below the ruins of an old tower, but even better rocks if you keep pushing another few yards through a swale/campsite and up and over the top. This affords great views to the south down Trout Run Valley and to the west out into West Virginia. I like the views from here better than just across the way on Mill Mountain or Big Schloss: they are spectacular and well worth the visit.
From here, it's downhill pretty much all the way back to the parking lot. You should keep your eyes open near the intersection of the yellow and pink trails: it may not be obvious where the pink trail leaves the yellow trail. Stay on the north (right-hand) side of the creek. Just as your natural inclination is to cross the creek on the yellow-blazed trail, the pink trail takes off on the right bank, but we didn't find a blaze until about 75 yards down that trail, so it's not super well marked. Also, in the deep newly fallen leaves, parts of the pink trail were very obscure, but a quick search always yielded a blaze.
This mileage (10.6) is pretty much spot on. We had it right at 11 with a couple of short side excursions for views. We were right at 5 hours and 30 minutes for the hike including a long 30 minutes for lunch at the top.
We had the trail to ourselves: we saw 6 people all day and not a soul near the summit for a good two-hour window. Contrast that with 50 people at the top of Big Schloss the weekend before. Solitude is really pretty good so not a good idea to solo this: help would be a long time coming if you needed assistance.
Definitely a favorite hike.