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Signal Knob - Front Royal, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.9 mls
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5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,680 ft with two different ascents
George Washington National Forest
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Signal Knob parking area on 678/Fort Valley Rd. 38.93498, -78.31996

The Signal Knob hike in the George Washington National Forest has spectacular views of Strausburg VA. in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as Buzzard Rock in Fort Valley to the east. Signal Knob, at 2,106ft, gets its name as both Confederate and Union troops used it as a lookout during the Civil War. The Confederate Signal Corps controlled the outlook from 1862 until August 14, 1864, when Union troops defeated the 61st Georgia Volunteer Infantry and took control of the peak.

  • Mile 0.0 - Start the hike from the right side of the Signal Knob parking area. The trail is blazed orange which designates it as part of the Massanutten Trail. Start uphill on the orange blazed trail then shortly pass an old stone house on your left, cross a small stream, then follow the trail around the eastern section of the mountain.
  • Mile 1.5 - Arrive at the Buzzard Rock Overlook. The trail will take a hairpin turn back to the south and becomes significantly more rocky. In 0.9 miles from the Buzzard Rock Overlook the trail turns back to the north passing another nice vista of Fort Valley. Continue to follow the orange blazed trail as it becomes less steep, then passes several nice camp spots just before arriving at the intersection of the Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 3.4 - Pass the Meneka Peak Trail on the left, continuing on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail as it winds around the ridge to your right and passing a transmission tower in another 0.8 miles.
  • Mile 4.3 - Arrive at the Signal Knob lookout area. The lookout has some nice views north of the Shenandoah Valley and Strausburg VA. The Massanutten Trail continues as a orange blazed gravel road now descending the mountain to the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail the crosses the road.
  • Mile 5.5 - Turn left on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail crossing Little Passage Creek, then ascend Green Mountain/Meneka Peak where you arrive at the ridge line, and white blazed Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 6.3 - Cross over the ridge and proceed downhill remaining on the blue blazed trail as it winds back and forth through the Bear Wallow area.
  • Mile 7.1 - Pass the pink blazed Sidewinder Trail on your right.
  • Mile 8.2 - Pass a white blazed connector trail for Elizabeth Furnace. Continue straight on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail as it winds around the mountain then arrives at a flatter area close to the valley, and an intersection where the blue blazed trail turns right downhill towards Fort Valley Rd./VA678
  • Mile 9.3 - Continue straight on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail (this section was formerly the the Tuscarora Spur Trail and was reblazed in 2002) as it descends slightly, then parallels Fort Valley Rd./VA678.
  • Mile 9.9 - Arrive back on the left side of the Signal Knob parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Signal Knob Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Signal Knob hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Sam S. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Don't bother going on this hike. There's nothing but rocks under your feet the entire time which means your ankles will be killing you by the time you're done. Even if you persevere through the rocky terrain your given a mediocre view that its right next to a loud power station and has a pole with power lines right at the overlook. The hike itself took my friends and I about 7 hours to do the entire loop and I honestly cannot think of a section of it that I enjoyed. Genuinely a bad hike I would not recommend to anyone. I'm not sure why the ratings are so high.

By: Ennuienthusiast Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 10, 2017
It was a beautiful day for a hike, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. I passed 7 other hikes out there, from a solo trail runner to a large group eating lunch near the summit. Everyone was in a good mood and enjoying themselves.

I set out to do a shakedown hike with a new pack load before heading out for a few days next month and I wanted something reasonably challenging but not terribly difficult in case the pack was a failure and I had to bail.

I found the hike to be pretty much as advertised. It took me 3:38 with no stops, but I was moving at a brisk pace. 5 hours plus stop time seems like a good estimate, maybe a large group would be a little slower. The first third of the hike is probably the most difficult. There are a few rocky stretches where you will want to watch your footing, but overall it's not technically challenging.

As for the rest... I didn't think the views were all that great, but maybe I just hurried through them. Looked like a lot of great campsites with well-built stone fire rings up at elevation. Plenty of flat ground and well-spaced trees for the hammockers. Bring water, because you won't find anything near the campsites (and precious little anywhere else on this hike - at least this time of year).

Even on a busy day there was plenty of parking, but be aware that there's another (smaller) parking lot about a quarter mile to the north. The parking lot with the trail head has a sign. Guess which one I went to first...


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 16, 2017
Enjoyable day for a lovely hike. I started out around 7:00 AM and only came across two humans the entire time I was on the trail. I came ran into them toward the end of the hike. They had just come across a black bear cub and her mother. They were waiting for momma and her baby to leave the area.

During the hike, I came across two bear cubs, but never saw any sign of momma bear. I just stayed where I was, took a few pictures, and talked to the cubs in a soft voice, letting know I was there. No drama it was an amazing experience and the second bear encounter I have had in less than a month, the first being on the back side of Old Rag on the Solstice.

As with many of the hikes this time of year, the tree canopy was pretty thick there wasn’t much sun during the hike. If it weren’t for all the loose rocks, the first half of the hike would have been simple and quick. The loose rocks slowed the hike down a little. If you have balance issues, it might be a good thing to have walking sticks and thick sole shoes. Once I reached the radio station tower, there was a hour long decent before the next climb, which was simpler because there weren’t a lot of rocks to climb over. This climb was more strenuous though, gaining about 500 ft. in altitude, over a distance of a quarter mile.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 28, 2017
For those about to rock.............haha. So yeah, this is a rocky trail. I would probably never do this one again, but glad we checked it off the list. My wife and I did this as a one night backpacking trip. The trail is well marked, really nice start meandering along the stream (which was flowing very nicely). Not even 15 mins in and there are several campsite on your left, great for late day/night arrivers looking to camp. The blooming flowers on the ascent were so pretty, but the views are less than desirable this time of year on most of the trail. So much foliage. Might be better in the late fall, but I'd give the scenic views a 1. Pros: incredible campsites. I think we counted around 15? Ours was well off the trail with a very nice fire ring. If you are going counter-clockwise, pack in tons of water, especially if you are camping before the Signal Knob overlook. Once you leave the initial stream, there was no more water sources for us for the rest of the day. Once we descended the fire road, the stream starts running again. Plan water very carefully. Cons: rocks (not trying to sound like a baby, but this was brutal/boring), green tunnel, less than stellar overlooks. We spent more time looking down at the trail than on our other surroundings, mainly due to rocks. It started to rain while we were finishing up our hike looking for a site, and I fell with my full pack on, and slashed my wrist and both knees open. Be careful, you never know what could happen. Saw a ton of dayhikers out (Memorial Day weekend), a few mountain bikers, and a handful of trail runners. Once we got to camp, we didn't see another soul until 10am the next day. For something close to DC, this is an attractive hike. But the views during full foliage don't make the payoff worth it for us. Give it a shot though!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 07, 2017
Wonderful hike!  Just a perfect day for this hike today. Cool, but sunny. Incredible wild flowers all along the route.  I did the circuit as described above, and it took about 5 hours, with stops to enjoy the views, take pictures, have some snacks, etc.

I would recommend good hiking shoes, as the path is very rocky. Water proof are a must because there are several stream crossings, and at times the path was very muddy. It is a challenge, particularly after getting on the blue blazed trail. The ascent feels as though it will never end. But when it does, it's all down hill after that. 

I saw maybe 12 other hikers and maybe 6 bikers. Just enough that one doesn't feel completely alone on the mountain.

Challenging, fun, exhilarating views, beautiful scenery. Can't ask for much more than that for a fantastic hike!


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