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Browns Hollow - New Market Gap, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.7 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,395 ft
George Washington National Forest
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New Market Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
3D View of Route

Park at the old Welcome Center. 38.64278, -78.61138

The Browns Hollow hike is the big brother to the Emerald Pond circuit, adding 3.5 miles with the addition of the Browns Hollow and Roaring Run Trails. This 11.7 mile hike has 3 great features: 1. The climb through the gorge on Browns Run, with small pools and waterfalls. 2. Emerald Pond, with its spring fed swimming hole nestled in a small hollow off the Bird Knob Trail. The water has exceptional clarity, and in the summer months is surprisingly warm for a mountain pond. And 3. A spectacular vista to the west of New Market from the Massanutten South Trail.

There are several secluded campsites along Browns Run, including one just above a set of falls halfway up the gorge. On the west side of Big Mountain the best camping is right on the banks of Emerald Pond. Also, if you travel west homeward, make sure to stop at Pack's Custard Stand on US211 in New Market for some of the best frozen custard around!

  • Mile 0.0 - Start the hike near the front of the parking area on the white blazed Wildflower Trail, DO NOT go down the paved Nature Trail at the end of the parking area. Follow the white blazed Wildflower Trail downhill for 0.3 miles to the intersection of the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail.
  • Mile 0.3 - Stay straight continuing downhill on the now white and orange blazed Wildflower/Massanutten South Trail for 0.2 miles to a four way intersection at the old picnic ground. On the opposite side of the intersection is a shelter with multiple picnic tables.
  • Mile 0.6 - At the four way intersection turn right on the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail that now uses a section of the picnic ground loop road. In 375 feet stay on the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail by turning right off the loop road onto an old logging road. Follow the trail for 400 feet to an intersection where the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail turns left, and the pink blazed Browns Hollow Trail stays straight on the old logging road.
  • Mile 0.8 - Stay straight on the pink blazed Browns Hollow Trail to the next intersection in 0.5 miles
  • Mile 1.3 - Stay left on the now narrower pink blazed Browns Hollow Trail as the old logging road continues straight. Follow the trail as it winds around the ridge, then descends to Browns Run. Just before crossing Browns Run there is a campsite and small steam that falls of Big Mountain.
  • Mile 1.8 - Cross Browns Run and now start the ascent of the gorge. The trail gradually increases in incline and passes a small waterfall and several campsites. The last 1.2 miles to the saddle between Short Horse Mountain and Big Mountain becomes quite steep.
  • Mile 4.5 - At the saddle there is a campsite suitable for two tents on the right. The pink blazed Browns Hollow Trail now descends for 0.7 miles into Roaring Run Gap, then ends at the intersection of the Roaring Run Trail.
  • Mile 5.2 - Turn right uphill on the purple blazed Roaring Run Gap Trail. The trail steeply ascends to the ridge on Big Mountain with several switchbacks. At the ridge is a small campsite on the right. Descend Big Mountain for 0.4 miles where the Roaring Run trail ends at the Massanutten South Trail and Forestry Road.
  • Mile 6.2 - Turn right uphill on the orange blazed Forestry Road for 0.4 miles to a closed gate and the white blazed Bird Knob Trail.
  • Mile 6.7 - Turn left passing the gate onto the white blazed Bird Knob trail and follow it for 0.1 miles to a spilt in the old logging road. Take the unmarked road to the right for 0.1 miles then arrive at Emerald Pond. Pass along the left side of the pond following a small trail to a campsite on the opposite bank.
  • Mile 6.8 - Return to the white blazed Bird Knob Trail, turn right, and climb to a clearing near Bird Knob. Pass along the right side of the clearing where the Bird Knob Trail reenters the forest on the ridge of Massanutten Mountain. The Bird Knob Trail will gently climb, then descend past two unmaintained trails before ending at the intersection of the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail 1.8 miles from the clearing.
  • Mile 9.2 - Stay left on the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail for 0.8 miles to the panoramic vista west towards New Market.
  • Mile 10.0 - From the vista descend steeply for 0.4 miles where the trail passes through a rocky area on the west side of the mountain. From this point the trail is less steep, and turns back the east side of the mountain descending back to the intersection to the Wildflower Trail.
  • Mile 11.4 - Turn left upward on the white blazed Wildflower Trail for the reaming 0.3 miles back to the parking area.
  • Mile 11.7 - Arrive back at the old Visitor Center and parking area.
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Browns Hollow hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Browns Hollow Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Glenn Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 27, 2019
Great hike and you will cross a lot of day hikers. We ran across a 50K that was occurring and had to step to the side to give way to a few runners, no biggie.

NOTE* The pond is a favorite local water hole for the locals. We arrived with multiple families enjoying the pond on rafts etc. However, at 130am, a few drunk locals found their way to our campsite (on the opposite bank) and disregarding us (three tents) and continued to be obnoxious and loud. We did let them know we were trying to sleep. They finally left and once they hit the dirt road, they fired numerous 9mm shots in the middle of the night. *its the main reason why I carry when I hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 21, 2019
I did this hike on Easter Sunday with some friends. It was a great hike and there are still some winter time views. The waterfalls and pools on the Browns Hollow Trail were incredible. I am giving this hike four stars due to the motorcyclist, we encountered on the Roaring Run Trail as we were making the climb to the ridge line. He tore up the trail pretty badly. I have let the forest rangers and PATC know about this individual.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 25, 2018
Great Hike, especially in the first half (clockwise) for the waters you hike along and in the second half for the views in the last stretch before you head back down to the parking lots.

Regarding the Browns Hollow Trail: the maps I first reach for do not mark this trail. I was prepared for some bushwacking, but the trail is there and is well maintained. Like the preceding reviewer, I found it well marked and missed no turns.

An alternate starting point is on the Massanutten Trail (416), where it crosses US-211, slightly to the east of the Wildflower Trail TH. There's an ample parking lot on the south side of US-211 at that point that can't be missed (neither can the access to 416). From this starting point, I clocked 13.1 miles, so slightly longer than the route described above.

By: PGHTOM Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Great hike overall. We did this counterclockwise (opposite of write up) with a late start Saturday. Trail was in good shape all around, blazes were also in good shape. Trail description was plenty accurate and I can't recall any issues with missing turns, etc. The pond is pretty cool. I would not ever plan to go here in the summer months. I am certain it gets crowded and rowdy like others have mentioned below. We overnighted at one the spots and were frankly surprised to see 2 other groups (temp at night was 19).

Some words of advice for young college aged hikers. PLEASE learn about the outdoors and specifically winter hiking. Tight cotton jeans, small backpacks, loose blankets, etc have no business in the backcountry. You all really put yourselves in a precarious situation that could have turned into a rescue situation had the weather turned bad. Never have I seen people hike 5 miles with firewood tied around their necks. Never have I seen a group so inept at building a fire or collecting additional firewood (because 2 cut up 2x4s burn for 15 min like you all learned). The girl crying in the middle of the night about how cold she was is evidence enough that you all were ill prepared. I admire your desire to backpack and even more to do it in the winter months. But seriously, there are lots of ways to learn the skills, please take the time to do so.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 4, 2018
This hike was a last minute decision, and as a result I was armed only with a PATC map and without first finding Hiking Upward's hike description. As a result, I hiked it in a clockwise direction and started using the paved trail that the HU description specifically discourages. Fortunately, there was an unmarked trail that split off to the right and headed uphill, and then merged into the Massanutten South Trail. I guess I was lucky, because my map did not have sufficient detail to send me in the right direction from among several choices.

The highlight of this loop is the overlook that looks west towards New Market, and it comes early in the clockwise loop. Dropping into Browns Hollow was also beautiful.

Even hiking on an October Sunday, when there was a long line of cars at the entrance to Shenandoah National Park, this hike was virtually empty. Amazing!

    View all 33 reviews for the Browns Hollow hike
Emerald Pond Panorama
Vista on Massanutten South Trail
360° Vista on Massanutten South Trail
Mid June
Yellow Rock Cliff Video
Emerald Pond
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