Halfmoon Mountain with spectacular views of Trout Run Valley, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob as well as a great stream hike up Halfmoon Run this is another hidden gem in the Great North Mountain area. The only real challenging section is the short but steep climb up the German Wilson Trail.
Start up the orange blazed forestry service (FS) road and begin your assent up the Bucktail Trail. Shortly veer left passing the pink blazed Bucktail Connector Trail on your right which you will be returning on later.
Remain on the orange blazed Bucktail Trail for 2.4 miles passing several side FS roads (marked on the map here as gray dots) before gently descending and arriving at a foot bridge and the junction of the purple blazed Capon Furnace Trail. DO NOT cross the bridge over Halfmoon Run but stay on the orange blazed Bucktail Trail for another 1.3 miles, crossing the run five times before reaching a closed gate, clearing and the end of the Bucktail Trail.
At the gate turn right immediately passing another closed gate and heading up the pink blazed FS road. There will be a side FS trail on the left in 150 yards, pass this, and in 0.1 miles cross a small stream before the FS Road/Trail splits; bear left then immediately turn left heading uphill staying on the pink blazed German Wilson Trail as it climbs the ravine. The trail becomes very rocky, makes two quick switchbacks and becomes very steep for the remaining climb to the ridge and intersection of the white blazed Halfmoon Lookout Spur Trail.
Turn right climbing the white blazed Halfmoon Lookout Spur Trail for 0.3 miles. Just before the summit the trail splits to two vantage points. Turn right where the trail becomes very steep for 100 yards before arriving at the summit and foundation of an old lookout tower with the best view of the hike.
Return down the white blazed trail passing the pink blazed German Wilson Trail you climbed earlier and arrive at the junction of the yellow blazed Halfmoon Trail in 0.9 miles from the top.
Turn right downhill on the yellow blazed Halfmoon Trail, descending the mountain for 1.1 miles until you reach a stream crossing and the intersection of the pink blazed Bucktail Connector Trail.
DO NOT cross the stream but turn right on the pink blazed Bucktail Connector Trail for 2.5 miles where the pink blazed trail ends at the orange blazed FS road you ascended at the beginning of the hike.
Turn left downhill on the orange blazed FS road and shortly arrive back at the parking area.
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Reviews For The Halfmoon Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Hiking to Halfmoon Lookout has now become one of my favorite hikes in the area, I have now done it about four times. But what I do is park at a different trailhead, about 2 miles further up on Trout Run. I then hike to Halfmoon and back, without doing a loop. Had a great day on the 9th, weather was beautiful. Trail looks better, it seems the PATC has been out, and they reprinted the blazes, too. Thanks!
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 24, 2012
A great hike, especially if you like to be the only one on the trail - we saw only two other people the entire day. The view from the top is also spectacular. This is a good hike for people who have some hiking experience, but are trying to work their way up to some of the more challenging hikes in the Shenandoah region - it has some nice strolling bits and some steep scrambling bits to practice on.
Two warnings: First, the trails are blazed with orange, yellow, pink, and white, all of which tend to start looking like the same color after a season of rain (especially the orange and yellow). We mistook the pale pink for a faded orange and ended up doing the hike backwards, which wasn't a disaster, but did leave us confused. Some fresh blazes, maybe in more distinct colors, would be helpful. In the meantime, just keep a careful eye out and make sure you're on the right trail.
Second, this hike was *full* of ticks. Definitely wear protective clothing and repellent, because you won't be able to avoid them.
Date of Hike: Friday, May 04, 2012
Halfmoon Lookout Backpack.
The directions on here to the trailhead are great. We - Lisa, Greg, Austin and myself, parked and headed up the trail at about 4:30pm on Friday, May 4. We wanted to set up camp before dark, so we went in the opposite direction from that described here since it is about a 1/2 mile shorter that way. It took us almost 3 hours to get there, but the trail was open, well marked and a long gradual climb that wasn't too difficult for our first backpack of the season. We found the very nice, grassy open campsite below the lookout, but still climbed up with packs on just in case there was a better site up higher. There was a very small site up there, but we went back to the large grassy site just below and set up. It was a wonderful site with it's own overlook, though the short climb to the lookout was well worth the effort and we climbed up a bunch of times.
The only negative is that there is no water anywhere close. You have to pack in enough for the first night. Saturday morning Austin and I headed off to re-supply. From the point where the white-blazed Halfmoon Lookout Spur Trail meets the yellow-blazed Halfmoon Lookout Trail we walked 1.7 miles staying on the white-blazed trail until we crossed two wooden bridges and found an active stream where we loaded up with enough water to last into the next morning.
We spent the day lounging at the campsite. Very lazy. The whole loop is fairly short, so we saw no point in moving on when we clearly had the most spectacular site to ourselves. Beware of snakes in the rocky overlook area. While everyone else lounged around napping on Saturday I headed up with my book and upon spotting the perfect reading rock I headed down only to find a nice rattlesnake basking in the sun. After making like Roadrunner and bashing my knee in the process I retreated to the campsite and napped. That area must be home to a whole bunch of whippoorwills because Friday night one started singing and kept appearing in various places around the camp. It was as curious about us as we were about it. Its eyes glowed in the light of our headlamps and it allowed us to approach as it sat on a rock about 2' off the ground. We got to within about ten feet to study it until it finally flew off. It hung around all night and others nearby answered its call frequently. It was a novelty at first and then we begged it to please go to sleep. It was very noisy and was still quite noisy Saturday night. There's cell service (AT&T, but no Verizon) up there, so (forgive us) we Googled and found that whippoorwills are active at night and eat insects. They also nest in the ground, so they are susceptible to predators and are not often seen.
We also happened to be at the site on the night of the "Super Moon" which was vivid when not shrouded in haze. We had rain Friday night, off an on on Saturday and some Saturday night. Regardless, it was a great relaxing trip. Very unlike our usual camp, move camp, camp, move camp marches.
On Saturday Lisa, Austin and I left Greg napping and headed down the German Wilson Trail to see what awaited us on the hike out the next morning. It's VERY steep. We hiked down a good way, saw no reason to keep going, turned around and climbed back to camp, headed back up on the overlook, said "hi" to the rattlesnake who was also napping (and Austin had to sneak down and get a picture of it) and that was that for exercise for the day. We had a fine dinner (packitgourmet pizza), slept great and then headed out early and wet the next morning returning the same way we went in so we didn't have to slide down the German Wilson Trail.
We didn't see anybody else up there the entire trip. We saw a tent on our departure hike next to the stream at the intersection of the Halfmoon Trail and the Bucktail Connector Trail, but no humans. The hike is like normal mountain woods. Not particularly exciting and no overlooks until you get to the top. But once you get to the top the view is glorious. The rain went away in time for us to get some beautiful sunset photos. It would be a great day hike and, as we found, a very relaxing backpack.
Date of Hike: Friday, April 27, 2012
Brought my lil bro on this one...what an awesome hike,great steep climb,amazing views what's not to love.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 21, 2012
Had a good hike, but made three mistakes that could have been avoided had I prepared better. First off, I started at the wrong trailhead, at the end of the Halfmoon Trail. The blazes on this trail are yellow, but since they are faded, I thought they were orange. Didn't finally sort out where I was until I got to the junction of the German Wilson and Halfmoon Lookout trails. Basically I was going in the opposite direction. Anyway, proceeded up to the Halfmoon Lookout. Spectacular views, well worth it!! Weather up to this point had been perfect, but now some clouds were looking ominous. Wind was picking up. I still thought we could complete the hike before it started raining. This was my second mistake. We headed down the trail and I had the you-no-what scared out of me by a rattlesnake on the trail, I almost stepped on it. It wouldn't leave the trail, was coiled up and rattling away, probably guarding a nest. First time I have ever encountered a rattlesnake in many years of hiking. We gave it a wide berth. Watch where you are walking!
We continued the hike, had an enjoyable time until it started raining when we got to Bucktail Trail. Third mistake: Not having my rain poncho with me. Stupid mistake, I always have it with me, but forgot it this time. The rain was pouring as we finally got to the trailhead. Rather than taking the Bucktail Cutoff, we walked two miles on the main road back to the Halfmoon Lookout trailhead where I had parked my car. Oh, add a fourth mistake, I had left my sunroof open!!! Doh! All in all a great hike, good views, lots of solitude, only encounter one couple on Bucktail. Lots of lessons learned, too!