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.
I hiked up from Little Stony Creek trailhead this added a few more miles but was a much gentler climb with a ~30-pound pack. It's about 7.5 miles and I arrived at the summit in 3 hrs and 50 mins. Take the yellow Little Stony Creek trail up ~4 miles, past Sugar Knob Cabin turn left on blue Tuscarora Trail for 2 miles then stay straight on yellow Halfmoon Trail (there is a sign) for 0.7 mile then stay straight on white Halfmoon Lookout Trail for 0.8 mile to the summit.
I camped at the large site down the side trail just below the summit. Gorgeous spot! I hiked up on a Friday and did not see one other person the entire time on the trail or the summit. It was so lovely to watch the sunset from the second overlook in solitude.
I originally planned to loop back to the Little Stony Creek parking lot via Mill Mountain and Big Schloss however, the whip-poor-will clan at the campsite kept me up most of the night. Not a complaint they were just doing their thing! But feeling extra groggy, I just went back the way I came. I saw 10 hikers (all overnighters) and 1 mountain biker coming up Little Stony Creek trail, so it does get popular on the weekends, of course.
I did see one rattlesnake basking in the sunshine right on Little Stony Creek trail, so look out for them everywhere (lots of notes below report rattlers on the summit, but I didn't see any there.) Felt bad going off trail to get around it, but it was not going to give up that spot in the sun.
Mountain laurels just starting to pop in some spots, so this area will be gorgeous in another week or so!
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 20, 2019
I hiked this counter-clockwise and was glad to do it that way. The first half of the hike including the spectacular overlook ranked 5 stars. This is an amazing overlook! Taking the German Wilson and then the Bucktail Trail brought the overall hike down to 3 stars. The Bucktail was a swamp in late April - I probably would have turned around if I started on that trail. I think I will explore other routes to the top in the future.
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 17, 2019
A friend and I did this hike as a day hike in the direction specified here. The scenery is less than spectacular for most of the hike at lower elevations. The climb up German Wilson is tough, but short. The reason for the 3 star rating lies in the tedious nature of the Bucktail Cutoff trail, which winds for 3 miles up and down.
I think it would be a better choice to do this as an overnight hike, camping at one of the many high elevation spots. The sunset view from Halfmoon peak is awesome. There are plenty of large sites along the ridge crest, along with a great site below the peak of Halfmoon.
I would suggest if you wanted to do a day hike to take in Halfmoon that you start at the Halfmoon parking and come up the west side of the mountain, avoiding both the Bucktail cutoff and German Wilson trails. You will get the prize with a lot less effort.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 22, 2018
Great hike! We did the trail just as it's laid out here and I'm glad we followed the trail as written on the website. We did it as an overnight and the German Wilson trail section was quite taxing, but it rained the second day and would have been treacherous trying to go down the steep incline with our packs. Following the Halfmoon trail on the way out made it much easier.
We snagged the campsite at the top of the mountain, just around to the right of the fire tower, which made for great views. Another hiker came a little behind us and knew of another campsite just to the right of the rocky outcrop lookout point. For a larger group, I'd recommend the large campsite below the fire tower or the one at the intersection of the Halfmoon and Bucktail trails. The two campsites at the intersection of yellow and white trails are fairly large as well, but don't have water or a very good view.
The trail was wet and muddy pretty much the whole time, especially with the numerous river crossings, so definitely bring a change of shoes and socks.
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 10, 2018
Was a nice overnight backpack. Started around 10:30 a.m made it to the summit around 2. No water so make sure you pack it in! Lots of wildlife! Several deer, a bear, and a timber rattler. I will not do this hike in the summer due to the snakes. Several local horseback riders warned me of a snake den at the top. Never saw more than one, however the one I did see was inches from the trail, and my ankle. I was unnerved to say the least.