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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: 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

By: Giker (Girl Hiker) Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 01, 2016
I picked the best day to hike! I know - drizzling, cold, wet, gloomy...but not for me! I hike alone and love the rains! It was all misty (due to the low hanging clouds) through and through. I got zero views, but still this was one of my best hikes because, c'mon! how often do you get to walk in clouds? That too all by yourself??? Sooo lucky! I didn't read Douglas's reviews before I went, and of course forgot to pack a harmonica (lol) but I was walking in heaven, so no bears, no rattlesnakes, heck no hoomans :) Awesome!!!

I would give this trail a 3 star in terms of severity (I would have given 2.5 but ok, hiking on rocks can be tough)- except for a few rocky patches, this trail is pretty smooth and not steep at all! Make sure you take sturdy hiking boots (so glad I bought new ones). I started my hike at exact 9 am and finished it at exactly 1:40 pm. I had packed a lunch, but didn't stop to eat. Again, who's hungry in heaven? not this chick ) I did pause to eat a banana (yep, they serve fruits in heaven). All my mini breaks would add up to 10 minutes. So the hike took me about 4.75 hours. Mind you, I'm not fast...In fact, I have an average pace (if not below average).

Oh, and for the parking lot, I did submit the exact coordinates, but like Doug mentioned, you have to keep going for about 0.1 miles to find the parking lot. Luckily I parked to the right, where the trail begins (that's not a coincidence, I'm pretty & smart) so I was able to get on the trail right away.

All in all, amazing experience! Wouldn't change a thing about my day, but would definitely be back to catch up on my views.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 25, 2016
We hiked this trail on a nice Sunday afternoon. We started around noon and ended at 5:30 pm. As an FYI, if you are heading south on 678 (Fort Valley Road) make sure to go far enough until you see the correct signage (Signal Knob Parking) on the right. The reason I mention this is because there is an empty lot about 0.1 miles to the north of the correct lot with no signage and a trail that leads off up the mountain similar to the correct one. We started hiking it and realized it was not the correct one.

This is a long gentle hike that is not too strenuous with some good views of Buzzards rocks, 1 good view of Fort Valley and great views of Strasburg.

At the top of the ridge (after the white trail splits off of the orange) and heading towards signal knob, we came across 3 black bears (2 cubs and the mom). They were booking it through the foliage which was just starting to turn to fall colors. The mom stopped on the trail and looked at us for about 2 or 3 seconds then followed her cubs. She didn't want to have anything to do with us and was making sure we didn't want anything to do with them. After I saw them, I did notice some blueberries on the sides of the trail. If you are hiking alone, I recommend you bring a harmonica, whistle or put some rocks in a bottle and act like you are a big rattlesnake. You are in bear country so heed the warnings. Who hikes with a harmonica?!?

My GPS recorded 10.25 miles at exactly 5.5 hours. Saw 2 mountain bikers and about 10 other hikers in 2 groups. We did stop for about 45 minutes throughout the hike. Seeing the bears was a great experience!

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!

    View all 135 reviews for the Signal Knob hike
Early October
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