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Signal Knob - Front Royal, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.9 mls
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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: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 28, 2017
For those about to rock.............haha. So yeah, this is a rocky trail. I would probably never do this one again, but glad we checked it off the list. My wife and I did this as a one night backpacking trip. The trail is well marked, really nice start meandering along the stream (which was flowing very nicely). Not even 15 mins in and there are several campsite on your left, great for late day/night arrivers looking to camp. The blooming flowers on the ascent were so pretty, but the views are less than desirable this time of year on most of the trail. So much foliage. Might be better in the late fall, but I'd give the scenic views a 1. Pros: incredible campsites. I think we counted around 15? Ours was well off the trail with a very nice fire ring. If you are going counter-clockwise, pack in tons of water, especially if you are camping before the Signal Knob overlook. Once you leave the initial stream, there was no more water sources for us for the rest of the day. Once we descended the fire road, the stream starts running again. Plan water very carefully. Cons: rocks (not trying to sound like a baby, but this was brutal/boring), green tunnel, less than stellar overlooks. We spent more time looking down at the trail than on our other surroundings, mainly due to rocks. It started to rain while we were finishing up our hike looking for a site, and I fell with my full pack on, and slashed my wrist and both knees open. Be careful, you never know what could happen. Saw a ton of dayhikers out (Memorial Day weekend), a few mountain bikers, and a handful of trail runners. Once we got to camp, we didn't see another soul until 10am the next day. For something close to DC, this is an attractive hike. But the views during full foliage don't make the payoff worth it for us. Give it a shot though!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 07, 2017
Wonderful hike!  Just a perfect day for this hike today. Cool, but sunny. Incredible wild flowers all along the route.  I did the circuit as described above, and it took about 5 hours, with stops to enjoy the views, take pictures, have some snacks, etc.

I would recommend good hiking shoes, as the path is very rocky. Water proof are a must because there are several stream crossings, and at times the path was very muddy. It is a challenge, particularly after getting on the blue blazed trail. The ascent feels as though it will never end. But when it does, it's all down hill after that. 

I saw maybe 12 other hikers and maybe 6 bikers. Just enough that one doesn't feel completely alone on the mountain.

Challenging, fun, exhilarating views, beautiful scenery. Can't ask for much more than that for a fantastic hike!


By: Hobo Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 30, 2017
The best FREE hike in Northern VA. The views from Signal Knob are real and spectacular! You can look down the Shenandoah valley all the way to PA. One quick highlight before I go into detail- Bees. The spring April flowers along the top portion of the trail are loaded with bees pollinating. I stopped 4 times on the top of the ridge to sit on a rock and take a breather. Every time, consistently, after 5 minutes I was attacked by one or two bees. I did have a white t-shirt, bright colors and deodorant with scent. Possible bees thought maybe I needed to be pollinated. (I am allergic to bees and I did not need to be pollinated LOL) Maybe not the best clothing colors for this hike.

Ample parking both times. There is a clearly view-able brown sign "Signal Knob Parking" from Fort Valley road. The parking lot holds about 100 cars. Maybe 20 cars parked in the lot each time. I encountered only about 10 hikers each time. Parking lot sign says "No overnight parking, No camping, No night visitation." Surprisingly there are a lot of campsites along the trail with current fire pits so don't how that can be with the "No camping" sign.

I've hiked this gem twice now. Once in January in 20 degrees and last weekend on Sunday in 82 degrees. The views are better in winter because of less foliage. I do a lot of hiking and this was a little challenging when you do the blue trail. The blue trail is a quick up once you leave the road.

The first hike I did the circuit as shown(orange to blue), give yourself plenty of time... 7 HOURS.... 7 HOURS. The climb from the parking lot on the orange trail is a slow continuous climb for 1.5 miles to Buzzard overlook. Sounds from the rippling stream are your first encounter shortly after leaving the parking lot. A couple of quick views of the mountains from the trails as you ascend will have you saying "cool!" Buzzard overlook in the summer with leaves is OK. The trail then turns into short sections of all ROCKS. Lots of large rocks. Not rock scrambling, but stepping over large fallen rock areas. The next overlook is .7 which is a nice view of Fort Valley(the bowl/valley area.) Then a long ridge trail with no views until Signal Knob/Antenna. My suggestion is come back on the orange trail. There is really nothing to see on the blue trail except some sunken civil war fort holes. If you're into the civil war then do the blue trail. In the circuit you leave Signal Knob and go down hill on a gravel fire type road. I'm not a fan of hiking on gravel fire roads. The blue trail off the bottom of the fire road is a quick steep up back over the mountain. No views back to the parking lot. The last part of the blue trail near the civil war fort on this circuit also has been turned into some type of a mountain bike course, or there were attempts to add cool ramps, etc... Several park authority signs on the last portion of the blue trail "Do Not Build Ramps or Alter the trail. People like the trail in it's natural state." It appears mountain bikers and the park authority maybe in a little battle over the trail. I only encountered two mountain bikers and both were extremely courteous, slowed down and said thank you to me for leaving them pass. Help this review helps HYOH.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 11, 2017
Wow! Although really tough, this hike should be on everyone's "to do" list. The big elevation gains will leave you gasping for air, but the views will leave you gasping with awe. (haha, yeah that was a cheezy line, but I'm quite proud of it, lol) But seriously, at various points along the hike you'll see aerial views of Fort Valley, SNP, The Shenandoah Valley, both ridges of the Massanutten Mountains, West Virginia and more. The trail is very rocky, pretty much the whole way so be sure to bring sturdy shoes and plenty of water. We went counter-clockwise like HU recommends. The first 3 miles is all uphill but beware! After you reach Signal Knob don't get too comfortable...you still have plenty of climb ahead of you. At the intersection of the Tuscarora Trail and the forest road you'll start on a never-ending climb up and over Green Mountain. We thought this climb was the hardest part of the hike - maybe because we were tired by then.

Throughout the day we only saw maybe 15 other people on the trail which is not a lot, considering we were out there about 7 hours. Yes, we took our time which we recommend. Lots of good campsites along the way to stop and rest or possibly make an overnighter out of it. We definitely recommend this hike - but you'll have to earn the views!

We have a video of this hike on our YouTube channel "Ott Mountain". It follows Hiking Upward's route exactly so it may help you preview trail conditions and the correct way to turn at each trail intersection so you don't get lost. We actually lost one of our hikers for a short while on this trip because she took a wrong turn at Signal Knob. She was halfway down the forest road before one of our runners caught her.

Have fun out there! We'll see you on the trail.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 04, 2017
Did a overnight on this trail. Beautiful clear sunny day in the 40s, overnight lows in the 20s. Since leaves had fallen, got some great views. Saw a few day hikers, another backpacker, and two mountain bikers. Other than birds, saw no wildlife.

From the parking lot to Buzzard Rock Overlook, expect a fairly easy hike that is mainly uphill but nothing too steep. There are rocky areas to navigate over but nothing too bad. There is small camping site about .25 miles after starting and the stream was running. At Buzzard rock, there are two small campsite, one is on the trail right after you make the sharp left turn to the east. To find the other, don't make the left and stay straight.

From Buzzard Rock to the White trail junction, expect the same uphill travel and there are two spots, each about 50 feet, where the trail is just rocks. Definitely manageable but you want to take your time. Two campsites, as illustrated on the map, both looked very nice. I hiked to Signal Knob and then backtracked to the White train to crossover Meneka Peak. Fairly easy trail up. Took a break at the peak and noticed I had good cell service. Headed back down on the Blue trail and while there are a few rocks, it's nothing like you just went through. It's all mainly downhill and I made really good time. Right around mile 8 was a stream with excellent water flow and about 100 yards past that was a decent sized campsite about 25 feet off the trail to the left. Spent a quiet night here. Remainder of the trail was very easy, smooth, flat or downhill. I enjoyed this trail. Was on the trail about five and a half hours overall.


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Early October
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