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High Peak - Front Royal, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.0 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

4 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,650 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Turn into Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area (past group camping sign) Parking is on your right over a small bridge. 38.92917, -78.32929

The main attraction of the High Peak hike, located in the George Washington National Forest, is the unbelievable picnic area at Elizabeth Furnace. It is huge! Although there aren't many views and the trail is somewhat rocky it's a great hike to take with a group in the morning and then picnic afterwards.

Start on the right of the main parking area where a forestry service bulletin board marks the hikes beginning. Follow the white trail markers through the picnic grounds for 0.3 miles until the trail intersects Passage Creek and turns left uphill following the creek.

After 0.7 miles the white blazed connector trail intersects the pink blazed Sherman Gap Trail. Turn left uphill on the pink blazed trail for 2.5 miles for the steepest portion of the hike as it traverses the mountain then ascends steeply before reaching the ridge line intersention of the blue/orange Tuscarora/Massanutten Trail.

Side hike: If you like views and don't mind a little more hiking go right/south on the old Massanutten East trail from it's intersection with Sherman's Gap Trail (Pink) for maybe 1/2 mile tops. To the left there is a small rock ledge on a sharp point that juts out into the valley with some stunted pine trees ... great view of the Valley and River at the area of the river known as " The Point" for obvious reasons. Just before this is a bit of a saddle. If you find yourself hiking there in June you catch the sweet scent of Fringe Tree (AKA Old Man's Beard). There is a thicket of them to your left as you head south.

If you did not take the side hike above turn left/north and follow the orange/blue blazed trail along the ridge for 2.3 miles, traversing High Peak, before passing one of the only campsites and arriving at a four way intersection where the blue/orange trail now turns left downhill.

Either turn left downhill on the blue/orange blazed trail or take the yellow blazed Shawl Gap Trail (opposite the camping area you passed 15 yards back) that is more direct, however this trail is no longer maintained and has many blow downs. Either trail brings you back to the picnic area. Continue straight through the picnic area, arriving back at the car park.

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the High Peak hike:

Hiker Reviews For The High Peak Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the High Peak hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
I overdid it taking on this level of hike after being idle for quite a while. I ran out of water, too. (Took one quart, could have used two.) Though I didn't have a great day, that was mainly me -- it's a good, rocky, hike. Good views as there were no leaves -- there won't be many views when the leaves are filled in. Some interesting rock outcroppings. I did not take the side hike given the reviews of others.

Turning downhill back toward the Elizabeth Furnace area you are given two choices -- a straight yellow-blazed trail and a longer, curving orange/blue-blazed trail. I recommend the orange/blue blazed trail. The yellow blazes are no longer present on the shorter trail. You can make out the trailhead opposite of the campsite mentioned in the description, but there are two tree trunks laid down. The feeling is "keep out." Maybe they are trying to prevent erosion as it is a steep, straight shot. I started with the orange/blue trail which intersects the formerly-yellow trail several times. At the first intersection, I was really tired and thirsty and thus started down what remained of the shorter "yellow" trail. Soon, on the left, I found a trickle of a spring (the only one I saw in the hike) to my great relief. I continued down the "yellow" trail to near the end, where I lost it when it intersected an Elizabeth Furnace interpretive trail -- I got on that and it was a short downhill walk back to the parking area. My shortcut wasn't that bad. There were about 10 fallen trees, but the fallen leaves weren't being packed down by hikers and the trail is so steep the leaves are slippery -- I had one fall. Thus, the shorter trail is not recommended but if you are desperate for water you may find some on it about a third of the way down if the spring is flowing that day. The main picnic area parking lot was closed and signs say it is closed roughly October through April. You can park in an earlier, smaller lot near the road. The trailhead bulletin board referred to in the description is hidden behind trees and brush near the end of the larger parking lot. There are "vault" toilets, one of which is open in the offseason.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 12, 2017
We set out to hike the Little Crease hike as documented here on this site and the hike we took is the combination of that one and this one. This is a hike that is best done in winter because the absence of leaves leads to much nicer views. Alas for us, Sunday started rainy and the low clouds over all the valleys obscured the views, especially of the river, and left us with blazing sun and wearing shorts above the clouds at elevation and sweating under rain gear in the clouds.

When I looked at the Little Crease hike on the map, I couldn't figure why it would be an out-and-back when you could just as easily go back to Elizabeth Furnace via the Massanutten/Tuscarora to Shawl Gap and then down the hill to the parking lot. So we made a loop of it, roughly 10.5 miles on the day, and I come to discover that this is the hike documented here as the High Peak Hike.

The white-blazed trail along the creek was pretty muddy but the initial climb up after joining the pink-blazed Sherman Gap trail was steady and easy. Then the trail takes a hard left east and starts to really climb. And it's not a level 3 difficulty climb. It's a hard climb more in line with a level 4 difficulty, but not so hard as say the climb up Cedar Run in SNP. Still, even though I hike constantly, it was a heart-pumping climb.

There's a lot of rock too. Along the ridgeline from Sherman Gap to Shawl Gap, the rocks start to remind me more and more of Buzzard Rocks just a bit further north and because of all the rock, it is hard to make time on this trail. And certainly impossible on a rainy day when everything is slippery. I'm not a fast hiker and I'm not a slow hiker, but the four hour estimate listed here is certainly unrealistic. I think you should plan on 5 hours plus a half hour for lunch, and even more time if the weather is wet. Note that this includes time to climb Little Crease and walk the half mile to the Shenandoah River overlook.

The views on top of Little Crease were really nice (but you wouldn't see much of anything in the summer) especially looking back at High Peak and Buzzard Rocks sticking up out of the clouds. Ditto over at the rock overlook: we couldn't see the river, but the peaks of SNP sticking up out of the clouds were cool. A nice spot for lunch before doing a 180 and heading back.

Coming back via Shawl Gap, the switchbacks on the official trail coming out of the gap are a long, long pain in the butt. You can save a half an hour by heading straight down the jeep road. If I ever hike this again, I won't do the pointless, pointless, long, and endlessly meandering switchbacks.

By: Diego S Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 2, 2016
As others have said, there is no real view as is suggested if you head south when you get to the top of the ridge. Don't even bother with it.

This hike didn't have much to offer once we got away from the Elizabeth Furnace recreation area and Little Passage Creek. The last half mile or so on the Sherman Gap (pink) Trail was easily the most strenuous park of the hike. Once upon the ridge line, views of the valley to the east are obscured by the forest. For the last portion back down the mountain, we started out on the blue/orange trail. The Shawl Gap (yellow) trail was not visible, or maybe I didn't look hard enough. At the first crossing of the yellow and blue/orange trails, we switched to the yellow trail. It is no longer maintained and I didn't see any yellow blazes, but it is a clear trail, and a straight shot downhill. We ran into a few blowdowns which were not difficult to get over. Taking this trail instead of the blue/orange definitely saves time.

I would rate the views as a 2 for this time of year. While there are only two campsites (I think) on the trail, there is abundant camping on Fort Valley Road (SR 678).

Our hike was about 7.85 miles if you start the count right from the parking lot.

By: Windy Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 3, 2015
Rocky path and a long climb up, this is a quite unexpectedly strenuous hike to me.

I attempted to do the side hike but even after having walked more than additional 0.5 miles (one way) I could not find what described in website as 'a small rock ledge on a sharp point that juts out into the valley with some stunted pine trees' so I turned around and continued to the main path.

Also, at the last part of the hike there are two options, turn right to the orange/blue trail which is more maintained but not straight forward, and the yellow trail which is less maintained but more straightforward. I took the orange/blue trail only to find myself regret my choice.. the route was indeed clear but it was a long switch backs. I was already tired and wanted to get back to the parking area so bad, it was frustrating to see the track in my gps that I was almost getting into the starting point direction but then turned away to other directions again and again, basically zigzag-ing down the hill. Luckily, at one point I saw on path 'cutting' the zigzag and instinctively I turned left and follow that path. This path took me to the parking area quickly - so I guess that was the yellow path (no yellow markings though). This path was not bad at all in terms of maintenance, I should have taken it the first time to save energy and time.

I finished the whole trail in 4 hours and 47 minutes, plus some additional breaks in between the climb up. Not so much view, and only met one couple on my way down. There were only 3 cars at the main parking area when I got back.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 12, 2014
It was a rainy, cool day but turned out to be nice for hiking. I really look for solitude and views most of all when choosing a hike, and this one delivered on the solitude and somewhat on the views. During the winter the views would be beautiful, and now that the leaves are dropping there are definitely more opportunities for views than in summer.

Finding the trail head was easy, as there's very clear white blazes on the trees next to the bulletin board. If you're facing the bathrooms, go to your right to the end of the parking lot.

The fog rolled in as I reached the ridge, so I didn't see much, but the mist mixed with the colors on the trees was gorgeous. Most of the trails are covered in leaves now and as mentioned, it's rocky, so it was slippery in spots.

The climb up the pink/Sherman Gap trail was a a great workout… it would be a good workout clockwise, too! I ran into two people fishing at the beginning along the water and two trail runners on the ridge. I can see this being a crowded trail on a sunny fall day, though. I did the Veach Gap hike last weekend, so it was neat to see the sign at the intersection of Sherman Gap and Tuscarora/Massanutten trails pointing in that direction. I did not take the side hike.

The yellow blazed trail is right across from the campsite and very obvious, taking you straight down the mountain. Though the blazes are visible but very faded, the trail itself is obviously very used, wide, and easy to stay on. If I had time, I would've take the longer blue/orange trail, but it intersects with the yellow trail three times, so the choice is yours all the way down, actually! Once you reach the flatter part of the yellow trail, there's a few trees down across the trail, but easy to get over. Then, there are a couple of trails with historical signs along them, as this area once was used for the production of pig iron. Stop to read the signs on the way back. Any of these trails will take you back to the parking lot.

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