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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: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 18, 2015
Started the hike at 8:00 am and did not see a single soul. This was nice for solitude but not great when you are breaking all of the cobwebs with your face! This time of day the hike was mostly shaded. My GPS clocked it at 10.26. I found the points to be mostly accurate but the pink trail was at mile 8.0 vs the 7.1 listed on the guide. Not sure if this was my GPS error or if the trail has just changed over the years. It was not an exceptionally hard trail overall but the long stretches of boulders made it technically more challenging than some other trails. Lots of flowers and wildlife to be seen today!

By: G Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Decent hike - though I think there are many better options at this mileage in this area.

The middle 2/3rd of this hike is VERY rocky. I usually ignore rocky trail warnings and comfortably hike in trail runners, but this hike really requires more support. Very draining with low-hikers.

The view is nice, though be aware it is primarily a city view. Hiking in late fall/winter/early spring provides nice views all the way up. Hike down (then up, then down) from Signal Knob is a bit tedious. Boring stretch down a gravel road that would likely be fully exposed to the sun even in summer. Final note: some guidebooks and websites suggest taking the opposite route around the circuit. I do not recommend this. It would be a long slog to the ridge, followed by a steep rocky descent, followed by a relatively steep trudge up the gravel road, followed by a descent down the rockiest portion of the trail.

By: TessaK Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 08, 2015
On this particular day, this hike would get a 1 for solitude, as i ran into more then 30 people. Most of those were a group of boy scouts training for Philmont and things quieted down once I passed them. I also found it jarring to see a transformer station and cell tower on the top. There were some nice views nearby though. There were icy stretches here and there, and the gravel road was decidedly soggy, but nothing too bad.

By: Grey-Beard Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 31, 2015
First time doing this hike. Really enjoyed it. Challenging, with great views enhanced by the sunshine and snow. Took about 2.5 hours to the Signal Knob going counter clockwise direction. Returned via the same route in just under 2 hours. Will go again in the Spring to see how it is then. I highly recommend this hike.

By: Amy Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, December 31, 2014
If you are looking for a workout or challenge, this is not the hike for you. This is more like 4 tedious hours of strolling through the woods. This is not a "hike". I'd give it a 2 on the difficulty rating, not sure who is giving it a 4 or why?! Wish I hadn't wasted my time.

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