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Signal Knob - Front Royal, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,680 ft with two different ascents
George Washington National Forest
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Signal Knob parking area on 678/Fort Valley Rd. 38.93503, -78.31956

The Signal Knob hike in the George Washington National Forest has spectacular views of Strausburg VA. in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as Buzzard Rock in Fort Valley to the east. Signal Knob, at 2,106ft, gets its name as both Confederate and Union troops used it as a lookout during the Civil War. The Confederate Signal Corps controlled the outlook from 1862 until August 14, 1864, when Union troops defeated the 61st Georgia Volunteer Infantry and took control of the peak.

  • Mile 0.0 - Start the hike from the right side of the Signal Knob parking area. The trail is blazed orange which designates it as part of the Massanutten Trail. Start uphill on the orange blazed trail then shortly pass an old stone house on your left, cross a small stream, then follow the trail around the eastern section of the mountain.
  • Mile 1.5 - Arrive at the Buzzard Rock Overlook. The trail will take a hairpin turn back to the south and becomes significantly more rocky. In 0.9 miles from the Buzzard rock overlook the trail turns back to the north passing another nice vista of Fort Valley. Continue to follow the orange blazed trail as it becomes less steep, then passes several nice camp spots just before arriving at the intersection of the Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 3.4 - Pass the Meneka Peak Trail on the left, continuing on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail as it winds around the ridge to your right and passes a transmission tower in another 0.8 miles.
  • Mile 4.3 - Arrive at the Signal Knob lookout area. The lookout has some nice views north of the Shenandoah Valley and Strausburg VA. The Massanutten Trail continues as a orange blazed gravel road now descending the mountain to the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail the crosses the road.
  • Mile 5.5 - Turn left on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail crossing Little Passage Creek, then ascend Green Mountain/Meneka Peak where you arrive at the ridge line, and white blazed Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 6.3 - Cross over the ridge and proceed downhill remaining on the blue blazed trail as it winds back and forth through the Bear Wallow area.
  • Mile 7.1 - Pass the pink blazed Sidewinder Trail on your right.
  • Mile 8.2 - Pass a white blazed connector trail for Elizabeth Furnace. Continue straight on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail as it winds around the mountain then arrives at a flatter area close to the valley, and an intersection where the blue blazed trail turns right downhill towards Fort Valley Rd./VA678
  • Mile 9.3 - Continue straight on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail (this section was formerly the the Tuscarora Spur Trail and was reblazed in 2002) as it descends slightly, then parallels Fort Valley Rd./VA678.
  • Mile 9.9 - Arrive back on the left side of the Signal Knob parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Signal Knob Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Signal Knob hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Ed Matthews Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 26, 2016
With about four different microclimates, this was a very interesting hike to take in both flora and fauna. We started north from the parking lot on the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail to Signal Knob Overlook, backtracked to the white-blazed Meneka Peak Trail to skip the fire road, followed the ridgeline to the junction with the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail and followed that east down the hill back to the southern end of the parking lot. The choice to skip the boring fire road on the way back was brilliant walking the ridgeline on the white-blazed trail was the best part of the trail for me.

Everything was well signposted and well blazed. We had no problems finding the trail at any point. A bonus is that we had the trail nearly to ourselves on a summer Sunday. In a seven-hour day of walking and photography, we encountered perhaps 8 other people. There were fresh horse tracks on the Meneka Peak Trail and on the Tuscarora, so keep an eye out for equestrians. We also encountered a lone mountain biker on the Tuscarora.

Bear sign was everywhere and the blueberry crop is heavy this year. We feasted on blueberries and black raspberries as I am sure the bears are as well. We scared one poor bear when we popped around the corner to find him ambling down the trail towards us. He hightailed it for the underbrush.

A lot of reviews make note of the rocks and from the tone, I thought it would be something akin to walking barefoot on dragonglass shards. Not so. Yes, the trail is rocky in parts and yes, my feet were done with rocks by the time we returned. But the big rocks were easy enough to negotiate. It was the sections full of small rocks that were the worst because we couldn't bounce from rock to rock. Still, it's nothing to freak about. Sure it's rocky but a good pair of shoes will get you through. Don't let the rocks deter you from a wonderful walk.

There is nothing tough about the trail really. The ascents are for the most part long and gentle the descents ditto. Yet, if you are not in shape, you would be advised to hike something easier. This isn't a route for beginners. The Knob is about five miles in and at that point you have no choice but to walk the five miles back.

All in all, a very enjoyable day in the woods.

By: Grey-Beard Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 18, 2016
Hiked from the parking lot counter clockwise to the Signal Knob overlook and then back along the ridge trail via Meneka Peak to the Tuscarora Trail. Great weather. Approximately 5 hours. Good hike. Better in the Winter when you can see more.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 30, 2016
Vigorous hike up the mountain.  It was Memorial Day but there was plenty of parking and the lot was well signed.  If you don't have a map, take a long look at the map at the start of the trail.  The first part of the trip rounded the side of the mountain.  The white oaks, pines, sassafras and blooming mountain laurel was beautiful. Further up the trail was extremely rocky.  The path itself consisted of medium size pieces of granite (that are probably slippery when the leaves fall).  You'll want to have real hiking boots that support your ankles.  The views of both Fort Valley and the Shenandoah Valley were beautiful.  The TV transmission tower at the top near Signal Knob was a noisy surprise. Take plenty of water.

By: CStepp80 Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 03, 2016
Arrived at the parking lot just before 1:30pm Sunday, April 3. The forecast was calling for wind, so I planned the trip in hope to dodge the wind as it died down late in the afternoon.

My route was the Orange Blazed Massanutten Trail up to Buzzard Rocks, and onward to Signal Knob, back to the Meneka Peak Trail, and finally taking the Tuscarora Trail to the parking lot. My GPS measured 11.05 miles this route and it took me 5.5 hours (including breaks) with a total elevation gain of 2,035ft. Word of caution, it is extremely rocky this way – I highly recommend boots. It is a solid 1 mile of navigating rocks from just before Buzzard Rocks all the way to the Shenandoah Valley Overlook, as if you’re walking on an old creek bed. Second word of caution – beware of snakes sunbathing on the rocks, especially in the afternoon on these sunny spring days. I saw quite a few on my hike. I hiked Old Rag last week and I thought this trail was much more difficult, mainly because my feet were done in from the rocks on the way up- I did not expect it to be that rocky. The views from Signal Knob were very nice and clear and I met a few trailblazers at the top working the trails. I only passed 10 people the entire length of the trail and had the overlook to myself for 30 minutes, so you will definitely not hit many crowds on this trail. I would recommend taking the reverse way to avoid the rocks - Massanutten South, to Tuscarora, to Meneka Peak, to Signal Knob, and back- it will end up being about a 12 mile round trip hike that way, same elevation gain, although more gradual.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 13, 2016
Leaves were still down so we got some decent views before the rains came down on us. Socked in from then on . Lots of excellent camping spots up top (bring water.) Beautiful down in the bottom area. You can take the cutoff trail if you want to avoid climbing back up Meneka Peak. It is a well maintained trail but rocky. Enjoy.

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