There are two options for enjoying the fantastic views and camping on Halfmoon Mountain:
Follow our directions for the two day 10.5 mile backpack or as a long day hike.
Don't have time for the standard route? Park at the Halfmoon Mountain trailhead off VA23/10 Trout Run Road 38.98936, -78.65707. This will make for a shorter 6.5 mile hike up the Halfmoon Mountain Trail to the ridge and intersection of the Halfmoon Mountain Overlook Trail, then to the overlook, and back down the same way.
Mile 0.2 - Continue along the orange Bucktail Trail as it starts to winds around the mountain and gradually ascends to a saddle with intermittent views of the ridge to the west. After the saddle descend towards the run arriving at a footbridge and intersection with the Cacpon Trail.
Mile 4.3 - Turn left uphill on the now narrower purple blazed German Wilson Trail. The trail is 1.0 miles long and becomes increasingly steeper passing through a small gorge before cresting the saddle and ending at the intersection with the white blazed Halfmoon Mountain Overlook Trail.
Mile 5.7 - From the main summit continue to the saddle campsite just beyond, then follow the faint trail another 75 yards to the less know northwesterly vista point with expansive views and large rock outcropping.
Mile 5.8 - From the second overlook pass back through the campsite in the saddle and down the white blazed trail back to the intersection with the German Wilson Trail. From the German Wilson Trail intersection it is 0.4 miles to the intersection with the yellow blazed Halfmoon Mountain Trail. 30 yards before arriving at the intersection there is a large campsite on the left.
Mile 6.2 - Turn right downhill on the yellow blazed Halfmoon Mountain Trail. There is one large switchback on its descent to a large campsite and intersection with the pink blazed Bucktail Cutoff Trail. There are additional campsites just upstream, and the Halfmoon Mountain Trail veers left here crossing Halfmoon Mountain Run then following a forestry road.
We hiked this as an overnight (but would be easily feasible as a day hike.) The area has received considerable amounts of rain and so the trail was WET. Saturday the trail was wet, stream crossings were possible but we all had wet feet (rocks set up for crossings were covered with water.) Sunday the trails were running streams, and the streams were flood stage. Some of the campsites located along streams and in the low-lying areas were flooded. Beautiful trail, the mountain laurels were blooming, we'd love to come back during drier conditions.
Date of Hike: Friday, May 25, 2018
Hiked this Friday-Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The lookout was amazing, and the mountain laurel were starting to bloom, so this hike got an A+ for having those two incredible moments. Hiked it clockwise as directed.
Difficulty: We've had a lot of rain lately but only one crossing required boots-off instead of careful rock hopping, and that should get better... the mud wasn't too bad. The uphill on German Wilson trail was a bit taxing, especially since so much of it is rocky (dry) creek bed. Note that we almost missed a hard left while going up.. keep your eyes peeled as it would definitely suck to have climbed higher on that than necessary. We also missed the last turn to loop back to the proper parking area and ended up at the lower area and had to take the road back to the car. I realize now I just read the directions wrong, but read that last part carefully.
Solitude: It was a holiday weekend and we saw only 1 other person... perfect
Views: With the mountain laurel in bloom, the corridor of it is breathtaking. Plus Halfmoon lookout is just gorgeous! The rest is some varied scenery and streams, but not the vista-after-vista of some other hikes in the area.
Other: Bugs were 'meh' (granted we didn't have bug spray on)... no biting flies but lots of annoying ones. The dogs were covered in ticks but we only found 2 on ourselves (but we hiked in pants). We did see a snake practically on the trail on the Halfmoon section, so definitely keep an eye out for that.
Date of Hike: Friday, March 30, 2018
SIGHTS: The hike was lovely, and very relaxing. The halfmoon overlook was very nice and we got a very good view since most of the foliage was down. DIFFICULTIY: This was a fairly easy and relaxing hike myself and my boyfriend did it as a overnight trip. We hiked it in reverse order and I would definitely recommend to do it that way. In reverse you go on Bucktail (pink) and do a lot of uphill then get to the halfmoon lookout trail. The rest of the way on Bucktail (orange) is downhill and but not super steep this way you get the easy hike the next day. There are some rocky patches on Bucktail orange but nothing too difficult should be fine for older folk or even very young children. Do not recommend going after a excessive rain, the Bucktail orange trail follows a stream and the stream was overflowing in some areas. The trail was completely underwater for approximately 100 feet or so. It is not a big deal if you don't mind getting wet but it can get slippery. CAMPING: There are several camp areas on the half moon trail. We camped up on the halfmoon lookout itself and that was very very nice. Note that if you do this during the winter it is VERY windy up there it was 30F overnight when we camped but with wind chill it sure felt colder. Wildlife: We did not encounter any large mammals on our hike. But we did get to see some birds and other small critters. SOLITUDE: We saw one group of hikers when we were setting camp they appeared to be day-hikers. On our last mile before getting to the car on the following day we saw a couple backpacking in. This seems like a fairly quiet hiking area. WILDLIFE: We saw a few human tracks but did not encounter as many people as we expected likely this place gets some local day-hikers regularly. SUMMARY: Recommended hike of anyone who wants an easy relaxing walk in the forest. Specially good for beginners, older folk, or people with children
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 16, 2017
Did this as an overnight with my brother. Easy to find, great and plentiful parking. We did the route counter clockwise, primarily due to fears that there would be no camping sites closer to the parking at the end of the route if we did this the normal way. Our fears were justified as there was zero camping availability until the yellow and pink trail intersection. The summit was incredible, great views all around and not a horribly hard climb the way we went (we had 40 lb packs so it was a bit difficult). Water is also a concern on that end of the hike. The other side by the bridge has plenty of water and camping. We only saw one person all day, a bear hunter waiting at a crossing fire road for his dogs to come back. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and cold. It got down to 23 degrees when the sun set. The trail is very smooth, only one rocky section on the German Wilson trail. Also my GPS topped it out at 11.15, I think this is a little over 10.6. Would definitely do it again, one of the better 10+ mile circuits in the GW in my opinion.
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 02, 2017
Sounds of Nature/Pink Trails/Gun Shots. Worth the 1hr and 40mins drive.
I said "Directions to Bucktail parking West Virginia" and it worked perfectly. Parking is marked by a brown “Bucktail Trail” sign off Trout Run rd. The parking is good/no fee. Parking is off to the side of a gravel loop road that can hold about 30 cars. The first part of hike was total silence with just bird and squirrel sounds. I hiked the forestry road to the pink trail which goes up a gorge and crosses over some streams. I was able to cross on rocks without getting my feet wet. The pink trail then gets steep near the overlook. You’ll feel the burn but nothing that requires the use of hands. The overlook view is spectacular and includes Big Schloss. In fact you can follow the orange trail by the overlook a couple of miles to Big Schloss. There are many hiking trails connected up in that area (take a picture of trail map at the trailhead.) Also plenty of camp sites with water/streams. As I followed the pink trail back to the parking lot I heard LOUD black powder gun shots near the trail. I switched over to my fluorescent yellow shirt to be safe. I think the shots were from a small house\cabin in the woods. To be safe I increased my speed and made lots of noise even banged a stick against a tree. Somebody blew a whistle at one point. I returned to my car to find more cars. I only saw two groups of 4 backpackers the entire day. Nobody at any campsites. I imagine because it was 30 degrees in the evenings. I have a video of the hike here - https://youtu.be/StRx-TQ-IHs The video is quick snippets of the trails including the overlook.