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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)
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By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 25, 2016
Great weekday hike without another soul in sight the entire time. I did this in about 4 hours with only one brief water stop. Climbs were a nice challenge and trail is very well marked and maintained. One note is that after the TV tower, you can remain on the gravel road or take the orange trail to a lookout and then that will loop you back to the same gravel road-- I found the above written instructions just a bit confusing in that area.

Oh yeah and I saw a bear cub! About 1.5 miles in I heard some rustling about 15 yards ahead and saw a small black bear lift its head and run down the hill. I waited about 10 minutes to ensure mom was not around, made some loud noises and slowly proceeded on down the trail and did not see any more after that.

By: Nolan McD Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 25, 2016
The first half of the trail is pretty good, when hiking counterclockwise. There are a lot of switchbacks and it is very easy to miss the trail if you're not actively looking for the orange markings on the trees. The summit itself offers a very nice view and a relaxing atmosphere to hang out for a few moments and catch your breath. However, after that, I didn't think the trail was that great. I actually ended up missing the switchback and stayed on the access road for several miles before realizing that I had missed the trail. Again, if you are a first timer on this trail, it is very easy to miss the correct route if you're not actively looking for the tree markings, so definitely pay attention especially if you're not using a handheld GPS or anything. The hike ended up alright because two very attractive women who had been out horseback riding stopped and offered me a ride back to the parking lot, which by that time was 7 or 8 miles away, so that made up for the poor second half experience of the hike. If you're from out of town, the people in the Signal Knob area are very friendly and hospitable, so don't worry if you get lost like I did. To the two women who gave me the lift, thanks again!

By: John S Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 07, 2016
Overall, a pretty nice hike. It's fairly strenuous if you do the 10 mile loop. I'd suggest you take a picture of the at parking lot before setting off or take a printed map with you. There trailheads do switch a couple times. I would give the hike full stars for solitude. We saw 5 hikers or so during the 5 hours we did the hike. My biggest complaint is that most of the hike does not have clear view or any grand Vistas. There are roughly 2 to 3 points at which you can see through the trees to catch a glimpse of the valley. The hiking goes from dirt, to firm rock to loose rock in many parts. Wear good shows with ample ankle support. This is a fairly strenuous hike if you do the entire loop. Overall, a nice hike if you're looking for a challenge and don't want to drive too far from DC to have some fun in this area.

By: Terri V Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 05, 2016
I did this hike exactly as advertised. The hike up to the Signal Knob Overlook was one of my favorite hikes that I have done this summer. Virtually the entire way up you get peeks through the trees of the beautiful views. The incline was steady, but not overly taxing. There was a very rocky section, but I enjoy traversing from rock to rock. The blazing on this trail was some of the best I have ever seen - you are almost never at a point where you don't see a blaze. I also liked how the couple of blazes before a trail junction you got double blazes - both the Orange of the Massanutten Trail and the color of the upcoming junction trail.

I didn't enjoy the return route anywhere near as much. The fire road was pretty boring, although there were lots of butterflies flitting about. There were stretches of the Tuscarora Trail that were nice, but there were long stretches with very narrow, overgrown trail and no real views. And the blazing was nowhere near as good as the Massanutten Trail.

It seems that berry season is over, as I didn't see any. No bears, either, and just a couple of backpackers - no other day hikers.

Overall, a fantastic hike! I hope to return in the fall to see the autumn colors and get even better views with the thinner foliage. But I will likely make it an out and back on the Massanutten Trail.

By: Old Man Dunn Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 30, 2016
Very good hike. Harder than I anticipated. Lots of scree on front end, and on the return some good uphill. Definitely bring more water than you think you should. One important note: I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND BRINGING DOGS ON THIS HIKE. We had two, and both of them, 2 days later, are limping with torn pads. The rocks on the front end are tough for them to navigate.

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