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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: 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 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.

By: Brad Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 11, 2016
This was our first time on this hike. Loved it! 26* but still very comfortable, as long as we kept moving. Great views. Great variety of terrain and features. Particularly liked that the grading of the trails was very consistent. Trails are well marked. Also liked that there are several significant landmarks to navigate from and confirm your location compared to the map. Highly recommend.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 23, 2016
I've done this on a mountain bike in the reverse direction a bunch of times but this was my first "hike" on the trails. The accent up is steady but not overly steep. We went to Signal Knob but instead of going down the fire road, we backtracked to the White trail and took it back to the truck. Only one stream crossing and it was fairly dry. So if you're hiking with a canine companion, I'd recommend carrying extra water for both of you. Views at the top were great but there was only one or two unrestricted views. Still a great hike to burn off some calories!!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 10, 2016
This hike was a great technical challenge for me. I have a shattered ankle and ACL. It tested my abilities and I was able to unearth my limitations. If you are following the directions on this website you will start with an accent that keeps going until the summit. The trail is well kept and is almost 98 percent rocky. There are no large scrambles but the soft and flat ground is rarely seen. If there are no rocks then there are roots. Previously I did Billy Goat and was using it as a gauge of time. Big mistake. This is nothing like Billy Goat. Signal Knob is the real deal. I found the blazes marked well. I brought a print out of the directions and they came in handy. There are a few off shoots but I wanted to concentrate on the main loop trail. I found the docents much more difficult to traverse than the accents. I woke up muscles that have been dormant during the descents. Definitely recommend trekking poles although we passed a few hikers without. Got to the trailhead about 9am and back to the parking lot by 3:30pm. I highly recommend this trail for those who want to test their bodies and others that just want to have a good time

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Early October
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