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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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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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: jd Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 29, 2015
Did an overnight with 4 children age 5-12. Was good hike overall not alot of scenery to look at. Would probably be a better fall hike. Very rocky. . All streams were dried up so no place to refill water. Overlooks were grown up so the views were a bit limited. Second ascent was steep but rewarding when we got to the top. Really had to push ourselves.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 08, 2015
Such many rocks. Wow.

By: the wandering fools Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 18, 2015
out for an early morning hike before the heat wave rolled in. this has been on our list for awhile but the less than stellar reviews pushed it to the bottom of the list. we got to the trail head around 7am just as the rain started to fall. the first few miles were uneventful. the coolest part was the random stone cabin that you encounter within the first mile. the first push uphill is pretty easy. there are a few views that can be seen between the trees but nothing spectacular. we arrived at the transmission tower. what a weird place for a radio broadcasting building. there is an ok view to be had from the back side of the building but it is obstructed by wires. signal knob is about a 1/4 mile from the tower. i was definitely disappointed by the overlook. maybe i have been spoiled by some incredible overlooks this year...this one wasn't even in the top 5. this marks the halfway point of the circuit. the next 5 miles is boring and includes a tough ascent that gives you no reward once you reach the top.

i am glad we did this hike but it will most likely not be on the repeat list unless we are looking for a fun overnight trip. there were some decent campsites scattered throughout.

ps - it is blueberry season! this was the best part of the hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 01, 2015
The blueberries are ripe - watch out for bears!

I was hiking alone up to buzzard overlook around noon, clapping and calling out "hey bear!" every so often. I was 3/4 of the way to the overlook, when out of nowhere, I heard thumping foot steps and a loud crashing coming toward me in the steep bank of rhododendrons above and behind me - it stopped within about 10 -12 feet. I never saw the bear through the brush but I'm certain that's what it was.

It could be that I just happened to be there as it was barreling down the steep bank. But it seemed more like it was watching me, didn't like me there and was charging me on purpose. Either way it definitely scared me!

I stood tall and faced it and yelled at it, waving my arms. There was another, quieter rustle. Then I backed away, picked up a rock, yelled at it and waived my arms some more. I continued up the path and scolded it some more as I left.

I waited 30 minutes at the overlook before venturing back down, banging rocks and singing out loud along the way. There was a nice long scat on the path halfway down the mountain that wasn't there before, and that was the last sign I saw of the bear.

I honestly can't remember what I was doing the exact moment it charged, but there were several things that could have provoked it: 1. I was moving slowly through the area - paused a lot to catch my breath, take in the view and yes, pick blueberries, even crouching down to get the low ones! 2. The bank was steep, the path was narrow, and there was no "polite way" for a bear to pass around me unnoticed. 3. I was using a stick to swat at horse flies - making a swishing sound 4. I had an apple in my backpack.

Moral of the story - go with a friend, smell proof your food, keep moving with no sudden movements and don't eat the bear's blueberries! Or wait a few weeks until blueberry season is over!

By: Steve F. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 28, 2015
Great views for modest effort. Be sure to continue past the transmitter, following the orange blazes to the nice overlook. Nice time I will hike back to the white-blazed Meneka Peak Trail and take that to the blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail, rather than go down the gravel road and then hike back up to Meneka Peak.

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