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Emerald Pond - New Market Gap, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
8.0 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,690 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Park at the old Welcome Center. 38.64278, -78.61138

Emerald Pond is a beautiful 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. It practically begs you to jump in! But that's not the only feature on this circuit, just 1.5 miles into the hike on the Massanutten South Trail on Big Mountain is a spectacular vista to the west of the Harrisonburg Valley. Want to make this hike a little longer? Then try the Browns Hollow Hike that adds the Browns Hollow and Roaring Run Trails to make for a 11.5 mile circuit.

When backpacking there is a nice campsite right on the banks of Emerald Pond. Also if you travel west homeward towards I81, 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 - Turn right uphill on the orange blazed trail for the steepest section of the hike. Wind around the mountain and climb through a bolder field before arriving at the lower ridgeline in 1.0 miles. Continue uphill for 0.4 miles to the first of two great vistas. This section of the hike is where you are most likely to run into other hikers, as many hikers do not do the entire Emerald Pond circuit, but instead do the much shorter out/back to the overlook.
  • Mile 1.7 - Continue on the Massanutten South Trail for 0.8 miles to the intersection of the white blazed Bird Knob Trail.
  • Mile 1.5 - Veer right on the now white blazed Bird Knob Trail, then shortly pass an unmaintained trail on the left. In another 0.7 miles stay right as you pass another unblazed trail that connects from the left. From this point it is 0.8 miles to a large clearing near Bird Knob. Bird Knob does not have an overlook as you may expect by the name. Stay left downhill on the Bird Knob Trail as it descends through the hollow to the intersection of an old logging road.
  • Mile 3.3 - Turn left on the old logging road for 0.1 miles and arrive at Emerald Pond. Pass along the left side of the pond following a small trail to a campsite on the opposite bank.
  • Mile 3.5 - Return to the white blazed Bird Knob Trail, turn left, then in 0.5 miles pass a closed gate.
  • Mile 4.0 - Turn left onto a Forestry Service road that is also the orange blazed Massanutten south Trail for 0.4 miles to the point where the road makes a hairpin turn to the right.
  • Mile 4.4 - Stay straight passing a closed gate and continuing on the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail. In 0.6 miles from the Forestry Service road arrive at an unmarked intersection, stay right remaining on the orange blazed trail, then in 0.8 miles pass through a small clearing and arrive back at the Bird Knob Trail intersection.
  • Mile 5.8 - Turn right orange blazed Massanutten South Trail retracing your route back past the two vistas, then descending to the white blazed Wildflower Trail.
  • Mile 8.0 - Turn left on the white blazed Wildflower Trail for the remaining 0.3 miles back to the parking area and now closed Visitor Center.
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Emerald Pond hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Emerald Pond Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 7, 2018
This was an awesome hike! A bit muddy near the beginning and quite steep but we got through that without much trouble, and the two overlooks are really beautiful. There were hardly any other people out there at the same time as us (we started at ~10 AM on a Saturday and there were maybe 3 or 4 other cars in the parking lot). We stopped to eat lunch at the pond, it was the perfect break, picturesque and cool in the shade. We did the loop on the gravel road and the Massanutten trail, and did wonder a lot about the piles of sand - it was really cool to read the reviews here later saying that they were built by ants! I've never seen anything like it. I'd hike this again, maybe in the fall to see how it changes with the seasons. I'd also agree with an earlier reviewer who said they thought it was more like 10 miles - that's what both my friend's and my fitbits said. It took us about 5.5 hours with a 30 minute-ish stop for lunch.

By: Tater Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 8, 2017
Terrible. Complete waste of time. Nothing but an ugly dried up mud hole. I would recommend driving on up to Skyline Drive.

By: tmr Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 3, 2017
I enjoyed this hike a lot. I expected it to be very busy considering it looks beautiful. The beginning of the trail was the hard part and after that it was easy

By: Karl Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 21, 2016
I hiked this as described, starting at the creepy abandoned visitors center (would be good in a Stephen King movie). The first mile or so is a challenge as you can see from the elevation profile, but taking a few breaks I made it to the top. The trails vary from very rocky to smooth gravel road. The pond is nice and I sat there for a while. There is a tremendous amount of litter at and near a gate close to the pond, and broken beer bottles at the pond -- apparently roads near the pond are accessible to the public and it ends up being a sort of hillbilly retreat. I picked up some trash but it needs a more extensive cleanup. Along one stretch on the way back from the pond there are many mounds produced by the Allegheny mound ant, which is unusual. They can bite so keep your distance.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Parked at the gate near the pond. This took the majority of elevation gain out and made the hike a little over 6 miles. We went counter clock wise to the the view point and enjoyed a nice break there. We then hike to Bird Knob and over to the pond for a lunch break at the end of a 4 hour nice walk in the woods. The trail is reasonably flat except for the initial uphill on the road from our parking spot. The pond had washed out a bit of the berm at the road and required high stepping to keep our boots dry. A lot of trees have been cut down on the dam side of the pond making walking tricky to get to the rock area on the far side where there are rocks for sitting and just taking a break. A nice hike and not strenuous at all if you're not looking for a tough workout but want to enjoy the view and the pond of clear water at the end.

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Emerald Pond Panorama
Vista on Massanutten South Trail
360° Vista on Massanutten South Trail
Mid June
Early August
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