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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
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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)
Review the Browns Hollow hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 15, 2018
I was looking for a solo overnight hike that had a little of everything and the Browns Hollow/Bird Knob delivered. First of all, thank you to whomever did the writeup of this hike because they got me where I was going unambiguously (though there is one trail intersection on the descent from the vista that was unnoted... turn right at the survey marker and stay on the orange blazed trail). But I digress...

I arrived to find one other car in the parking lot but no one else around. Someone had been on the trail ahead of me since the last time it rained, as evidenced by the big footprints straight through every mud hole on the trail, but the spider webs indicated that it hadn't been but so recently. One thing to note: this is overall a pretty rocky hike, punctuated by patches of mud. You get a sense of this right away for the first few miles are just that, with some little creek crossings and water seeping out of the ground. As you climb out of the gorge, it gets increasingly steeper and rockier and it may have you questioning whether or not you actually needed all 21 pounds of the stuff that's strapped to your back. Then you reach the trail intersection and there is even more, steeper climbing through rocky switchbacks until you reach the saddle, at which time you begin a rocky descent. An interesting note: right past the saddle when you begin the downhill portion hanging over the trail is a live American Chestnut tree producing chestnuts, which is a rare thing, indeed. When I finally reached the fire road, I was grateful to give my knees a rest and ponder the purchase of some hiking poles. It's pretty easy going the rest of the way to Emerald Pond, which I arrived to find deserted. I set up camp right by the pond on the far side and collected firewood sawing off logs from fallen trees in the forest to find that they, too, were chestnut but had been claimed by the blight. You will have to work for your firewood here, as it is pretty well picked over for the easy pickings.

I had the pond all to myself all day and night and it is hard to overstate how beautiful the pond is (despite the broken glass and human feces/TP... come the F on, people). The spring comes out of the ground and goes directly into the pond. I went through the trouble of going to the headwaters of the stream to get the freshest water but after sampling that and the water from the pond I found the water from the pond to be just as good (after filtering, of course). Since I had the whole hollow and surrounding mountains to myself, I enjoyed a swim in the clear, green water as nature intended and kept my clothes dry. Night time brought with it clear skies, stars, and nothing but the sound of whipoorwills to lull me to sleep in my hammock. I didn't even have to use my bug net as there were surprisingly few of them given the time of year, most notably zero mosquitoes.

After cleaning up camp, the next day started with some brief uphill to the meadow before reaching the ridge and some welcome level-ish ground. Again, lots of rocks but now encompassed by a lush mountaintop forest with vistas poking through the trees. The cliffs overlooking New Market are a great place to stretch for a bit while taking in the view in preparation for some serious downhill. The rock scramble down the first half mile requires strong ankles and balance and while it does get easier after a bit, the entirety of the descent to the terminus of the trail is tough, especially when it has recently rained.

TL/DR: Rocky, somewhat challenging trail, best done on a weekday to avoid people as I saw not another soul, camp at emerald pond, consider investing in hiking poles if you're carrying a pack.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 11, 2018
I tackled this hike on a steamy August Saturday with a group of 13 from Central Virginia Trailblazers (www.cvatrailblazers.org).† We had done the shorter Emerald Pond circuit two years ago and returned to do this longer version.† Not many other hikers on the trail, except for a few friendly hillbillies with hunting dogs near the pond. Disappointed to see there is still broken glass near the stacked stone "diving board".††† The downhill portion on Massanutten South following the overlook was indeed steep and downright treacherous at times, as a brief rain shower and made the rocks wet and slippery.† One note to future hikers:† Somewhere between mile 10.0 and mile 11.4 there was an unexpected fork in the trail that was not mentioned in the description.† Both appeared to be orange blazed.† We debated for a while an ultimately went to the right, which fortunately was the correct choice.† It took us about six hours to complete the hike including a break at the pond and overlook.† Then we headed into town for dinner at Southern Kitchen Restaurant followed by frozen custard at Pack's.† It was truly a step back in time!† All in all a great day to be on the trail.

By: Yerboy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 04, 2018
We took the fire road short cut to the pond due to a late start. The views are great. The ant hills were cool. Donít stop too long to take a picture. Youíll see why!! Unfortunately a great time walking in the woods with friends and a nice night by the pond were all ruined. The weather was fantastic. The water was cool and clean and great to swim in. However, the pondís proximity to road access allows for this to be a more popular spot. In our case, an awesome group of generator and cooler toting 20somethings with a sharing problem. After assisting them (before sundown) with a severely burned hand we were rewarded with skinny dipping to horrible music, inter-crowd fighting settled with gun fire. No one was hurt, but after the police left at 3:30am most did not get to enjoy any of their hammocks or the sounds of the GWNF. Getting up the fire road to cell signal to call the police was an adventure in and of itself. VERY IMPORTANT: If you need assistance and call 911 to help you there. The local police know this as PITTSVILLE SPRINGS POND. it is in Page county. The police were awesome. However our pond guests were not.

By: DDL Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 16, 2018
Took the suggested route and made a long (~5 hrs) day hike out of it. Trail is well-marked and traverses mostly through lush green forests. Only saw a few people on the trail which makes it a nice, less crowded alternative to some of the Shenandoah hikes.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 27, 2018
Did this hike as a 3 day 2 night hike - our first trip of the season and our first through Hiking Upward! We really appreciated the excellent direction and map. We arrived Friday afternoon and hiked to the 2nd campsite - not so much of a "waterfall" as the junction of Browns Run and another small stream cascading downward. There is great water access at the first 2 sites (after recent heavy rain), but not as much once you head upward from the stream to the saddle and ridge and over to the pond. Once you get to the Roaring Run trail it is steep with lots of switchbacks. The ridge campsite has a fire ring and a place for one small tent but no water. The descent to the fire road is steep with a lot of loose rocks - watch your step! Once you get to the pond there are three campsites -the one described adjacent to the pond near the rock tower, one before that on the left is small but you can squeeze two tents there, and a large site on the right. There is room for at least 2 tents here. Behind that site there is a rocky area with a fire ring that didn't have a spot for tent but was a good site for hammock camping.

Between the pond and the meadow there is one site on Bird Knob trail (essentially ON the trail) with a fire ring. At the meadow, there is one site on the far side to the left, and one site as the trail enters the forest again. At this point the trail narrows, and is pretty well marked, though there is one rocky area that wasn't as well blazed on the Bird Knob trail, but just keep going straight across and it picks up again. It's pretty easy going over the ridge until the vista, but no water or campsites along that portion of the trail. Great views at the overlook! The trail from the visit descends steeply as advertised and was a little muddy in places.

    View all 26 reviews for the Browns Hollow hike
Emerald Pond Panorama
Vista on Massanutten South Trail
360° Vista on Massanutten South Trail
Mid June
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