Elliott Knob is the highest point in Augusta County, and one of the highest peaks in Virginia. Just west of Staunton and secluded in Buffalo Gap, this hike features two waterfalls, several great views to the west and east, and a grass covered summit. If you're lucky, this hidden treasure can be all yours for a day.
At 0.4 miles pass a small logging road on your right, the first of four. In 0.6 miles from the parking area the trail makes a turn to the left before entering the first of three small clearings at 0.8 miles.
After turning left on the yellow blazed trail continue 0.8 miles, crossing two small spurs, and passing through a utility clear cut before arriving at an access road. Turn right uphill on the yellow blazed dirt access road for the steepest part of the hike before arriving at a spring and small pond in 1.0 miles.
Continue along the road as it passes a small stand of spruce, winds back to the right, then to the left, passes the yellow blazed North Mountain Trail and transmission station, then enters another stand of spruce and flatter area.
At this point the dirt road you have been following turns to the right towards the transmission station. Turn left onto the trail that climbs on the west side of the mountain and up to the grass covered summit in another 0.1 miles. The lookout tower was built in 1958 and hasn't been used since the early sixties. If you are doing this hike as a backpack there are two sheltered campsites under a stand of spruce at the summit.
The first couple miles walking through the woods were lovely! Waterfalls, nice spots to sit by the stream, pleasant trail. But when you hit the gravel access road, the hike gets BRUTAL. The road is incredibly steep, and if you go on a hot sunny day, you will be extra sad as there is no shade at all. The meadow at the top is pretty, and the tower is neat with nice views, but not sure the views are worth walking that access road. Consider making this a 5ish-mile hike and only doing the first part of the hike, turning around at the access road.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 8, 2018
The first half of the hike is somewhat pleasant along a forest road, although the creek is nothing to write home about. Unless the water is really up, none of those small waterfalls look impressive. The upper two also have steep scramble trails to the bottom with deadfall, nettle, and mud to deal with. For most people I'd recommend skipping them. The connector trail is an actual trail, and although narrow had good tread. The final climb on the gravel forest road lives up to its reputation. The gradient is easily 1000 ft/mi, and completely exposed to the sun. Fortunately I chose to do this hike on a low humidity day after recent storms, and the temperatures were in the low 70s with a nice breeze at the summit. With the low humidity the visibility was excellent for mid-summer, you can pick out almost every significant peak from central Shenandoah to Lynchburg. Highly recommend checking out Elliott Knob when the skies are clear, and plus there are 4 approaches to the summit so you can mix it up on repeat visits.
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 30, 2018
Elliot Knob is actually one of the only hikes in the MD-DC-VA area that I have found to be remotely strenuous. I'm from the Southern California area and am used to hiking mountains with moderately intense inclines. I've visited many trails out here because local people have assured me that these will deliver a "tough" trek but I have always been left feeling unsatisfied because these trails always seem more like a stroll through a park. This trail is pretty pleasant through the first 3 miles as you walk along a stream most of the time and are shaded by the tree canopy. If you camp out overnight, make sure you fill up during this part. (There is also another pond near the camping area towards the summit but it was filled with fish and I didn't like the idea of pumping my drinking water out of here.) The last portion, which is a little over a mile, is the difficult, much steeper part of the trail and you are pretty much exposed to the sun until you reach the top. This is what makes Elliot Knob a semi-rigorous hike but in my opinion, is well worth the effort. FYI-we came across a rattlesnake that rattled at us but as long as you're observant and steer clear, you'll be fine. We decided to camp out at the top where there are a few fire pits and lots of shade provided by the trees. There is a satellite station near the campground which is quite noisy but if you ignore that, the area is just beautiful and it is so much cooler than the base of the mountain (when we were there, it was about 91F a the base, and it was roughly 75F at the top and breezy). We had a wonderful time and especially loved that there wasn't much traffic on the trail -- we only saw 2 other hikers the 2 days we were there. There are also a ton of insects and tics but we kept a campfire going all day to keep them away from us.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 22, 2018
If you are interested in getting out into the woods, then turn around when you hit the gravel road. The first part is lovely and climbs steadily through the forest trail that follows a creek with several small waterfalls. Great for a hike with a dog. Then it switches back to wind up along a mountainside on a trail surrounded by shrubby mountain laurel. Also pretty nice and a good workout. I would go back and do the first two legs of the hike again to get outside and enjoy a nice day (constant gunshots from the nearby shooting range even fade in time as you get back in there.)
Then it takes a turn for the worse. The road is downright punishing- steep without reprieve, no tree cover, and you are essentially walking under powerlines the entire way. The good feeling of communing with nature is stripped away almost instantly. It never ends. Wound up turning around with the power stations in site and the way back down to the mountain trail was almost worst. Take care not to break an ankle as my feet were constantly rolling on loose gravel. Terrible end to a pleasant hike! First hike of the season and so perhaps a bit ambitious. I'm not in terrible shape but I could always be better. But even in the best shape, I still would never do that again to myself, I don't care how nice the view is from the top. They should have cut the trail across the road and switched-back to the knob that way.That was not hiking.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 14, 2017
I rarely write reviews of hikes, but this one was almost exceptionally bad, which surprised me based on the reviews I read before heading out. The very first bit is nice, through the woods with a pleasant incline, and the trail is well-kept. But then after about 45 minutes or so you take a right turn onto a fire road that is extremely steep, with no tree cover, for the entire rest of the way up. On a hot sunny day and my feet pounding the hard gravel I wondered why this seems to be such a popular hike. But I thought the view must make up for it. I was disappointed to find that after hours of struggling up this unrelentingly steep and decidedly un-scenic road (it follows along under a power line), the top is just a small pasture with the view of the surrounding mountains entirely obscured by trees. I regret having made the trip. I can find stuff like this at home.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 12, 2017
During July 2017, a hiking partner and I completed a round trip hike from Shenandoah Boy Scout Camp to the top of Elliot Knob and back. The 18 mile trek took about 8.5 hours and it was definitely worth every step, including the last 2 miles of the grueling, rocky and rutted service road (where Falls Hollow trail intersects, upward). We started at 1700 feet and summited the knob at 4400 feet – somewhere just over 50,000 steps and almost 4000 feet in elevation gain!! The view from the fire tower is absolutely amazing and the cold breeze was extremely nice. Bring lots of water or prepare to filter water from the creeks along the way if you hike during the summer. I left with 4 liters in my backpack and used every drop!
Date of Hike: Monday, May 29, 2017
The creek was up and covered part of the trail. We unblocked a log jam that was helping it overflow the trail. There are a couple of trees that are down over the "cross mountain" part. The temperature was pleasant and only saw a couple of other people. Nice hike with flowering bushes in the forest to look at.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 8, 2017
We split the hike into two days and camped at the top, which was a little chilly this time of year but gorgeous.
Day one was ROUGH for us. Hiking along the waterfalls was refreshing and shady, but we missed the nearly 360-degree turn off of the old Falls Hollow Road onto the yellow blazed trail. On the website, it shows three yellow diamonds on your right indicating to turn left but those diamonds are either no longer there or no longer visible. We hiked straight on the old trail for about half a mile before the trail got too strenuous and we realized we hadn't seen any yellow diamonds. So we turned around and retraced our steps. Luckily, it is easier to see the crazy turn when you are headed back down the hill. The next part of the trail after the turn was shaded and less sloped.
But things change drastically once you hit the dirt access road. I'll be quite honest - I felt incredibly defeated climbing the steep 25% grade. The only thing you can really do is take it in short bursts. The view from the top of that mountain is well worth it though! Including short breaks and our little detour, it took us about 4-4.5 hours to get to the top of the mountain. Also when it comes to water, keep in mind that the only source once you break away from the waterfalls and creek is the pond near the top. Even after filtering it, the water still has a dirty pond water taste and we much preferred the cold creek water. You just have to decide if you are willing to carry all that extra weight up the hardest part of the hike.
There are plenty of places to set up camp and start a fire if you want to. We slept great in our tent and sleeping bags even though the temp dropped to 30 degrees. The top of the mountain is an amazing place to watch the sun rise and set though. Day 2 was much easier and all downhill even though it is the same distance. We were down and to the car in just about 1.5-2 hours.
Overall a beautiful hike, but you have to brace yourself for the end of the climb up.
Date of Hike: Saturday, February 4, 2017
Did this hike as described in the guide. Beautiful hike and the falls were really nice with plenty of water in winter. A couple of spots near the top of the Falls Hollow have washed out and you have to pick your way through a section of the stream, but it wasn't too hard. I thought the switchback trail would be hard but it was relatively easy and a very nice trail. Then, we got to the access road and it kicked my butt. I routinely hike Humpback Rock without stopping to catch my breath, but this is significantly tougher. Expect a real workout and I can only imagine how hot this must be in summer. That said, getting to the top was all worth it. A really nice view and great open area that appears to be used (but not abused) for camping. Coming down, expect the access road to be a knee crusher, with loose gravel and grades steeper than 15% making it be hard on your knees. I'll do it again, but I won't do it in summer.
Date of Hike: Thursday, January 19, 2017
After reading the "less than stellar" reviews of hiking to Elliott Knob from VA42, we decided to approach the summit from the south on North Mountain trail which can be accessed via Hite Hollow Road. The trailhead was at coordinates 38.132985, -79.362688 (roughly). The trail appears on the "MyTrails" map if downloaded to ones GPS unit. But it is easy to stay on the trail without a GPS.
Our group of 7 hikers really enjoyed the hike. It was a 4.2 mi hike to the summit ascending approx 1,300 feet (8.5 mi RT - we are tired). The ascent was consistent but not overwhelming. The trail was in good shape although it was single file for a bit due to overgrowth.
Very interesting rock formations along the way.
The tower is located on a bald at the top of the mountain. Nice places to sit and have lunch and the view from the tower was excellent in all directions.
Being the highest point in Augusta Co. (and the 3rd highest peak in Virginia), this is a must-do hike.
Go the way we went - you won't be dissapointed.