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Sugar Knob - Wardensville, West Virginia

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

6 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,070 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Park on the left before crossing Waites Run. 39.01598, -78.60527

The Sugar Knob hike up Pond Run Trail and down Racer Camp Hollow Trail has some of the best stream scenery in the George Washington National Forest. This is one of several great loops in the Great North Mountain Area with fantastic camp sites all along its route.

Just before the bridge over Waites Run start the hike up Pond Run Trail. Pond Run Trail is both blue and green blazed (green blazes designate deer study areas and can be found throughout the Great North Mountain region). It will cross the run a number of times as it winds its way up the valley. After 2.5 miles cross a wooden ford placed over wet land area and arrive at the ridge.

At the trail intersection you can make a quick side trip by going directly ahead on the white blazed lookout trail for 100 yards and a great view to the west. Return to the trail and turn right (left if you didn't go to the lookout).

In 0.5 miles the forestry road will turn right uphill, continue straight on the blue blazed trail as it winds around the mountain for 1.3 miles before reaching the intersection of the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail that continues straight ahead.

Turn left continuing on the blue blazed trail as it descends slightly on its way to Sugar Knob. In 0.6 miles arrive at the four way intersection of the Peer Trail, to your left, and the Stony Creek Trail, to your right.

Continue straight on the blue blazed trail for 0.9 miles as it passes over Sugar Knob then descends continuing to another four way intersection.

Turn left downhill on the orange blazed Racer Camp Hollow Trail as it passes several great camp spots and crosses the run several times before turning right uphill in 1.6 miles.

After climbing uphill for 100 yards the trail will turn left traversing the mountain for another 0.9 miles and reaching the junction of the pink blazed Old Mail Path and wildlife clearing.

Turn left downhill into the clearing and at the bottom of the clearing enter the pink blazed Old Mail Path as it winds downhill before arriving in 1.0 mile at a wooden foot bridge and crossing Waites Run. Continue downstream on the pink blazed trail for another 0.5 miles before arriving at the yellow blazed FS road.

Turn left downhill on the FS road and in 0.4 miles pass a closed gate. Continue downhill on the FS road with Waites Run now on your left for 1.0 mile and crossing a bridge arriving back at the parking area.

Early April
Sugar Knob Hike Comments
Archived Comments

By: Sassy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 5, 2019
I love this hike. I have done it in a day twice, though it is a long day. Stream crossings were easy, though rain has been in short supply lately. I could imagine in spring or after heavy rain, this could be a slog. Definitely take the detour to the lookout. If I were to do an overnight, I might hike this backwards and camp there to enjoy a quick hike back (and some nice breakfast afterwards). As others have mentioned, it is hard on the feet trying to step on and over the rocks and will require you to re-calibrate the time per mile you anticipate. Yes, this hike isn't easy as applesauce, but it is lovely. I enjoy the streams, both for the relaxing sound and because I can skip carrying heavy water and use my water filter to get hydration. Someday I would like to rent the PATC cabin for an overnight.

Some things: The bridge name initially confused me. My first time, I looked for a sign with the bridge name. There is no such sign. Parking is a pull-out to the left. There is a bridge just past it. The trail-head is just before the bridge. I recommend taking a photo with your phone of the trail map at the trail head.

By: C$ and the Bug Boyz Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 13, 2017
This hike was troubling to us for a couple reasons that may not bother others. I will start with those then get into the positives.

1- The stream crossings were all right, but there were countless 'mud crossings' that were not fun.
2- The trail is large rock 80% of the hike. This was brutal on the feet and very annoying.

Aside from the above, the hike was quite interesting. Starting off in the lower biome by the river we saw newts and turtles, with lush ferns and foliage. The view from the top of the ridge was quite outstanding- one of the best in the GW Forest. That alone made the rocks and mud worth it. The climb up was fairly difficult, we were wearing large (40 lb) packs.

The upper ridge on the second leg of the hike was a new biome, pretty shrubs and arid bushes typical of higher Shenandoah ridges.

We had no tick problems until we descended, and even then it was not terrible. Plenty of camping everywhere, although the lower reaches were muddy and probably has a lot of bugs. We camped on the old mail trail at an elevated pine knoll. Very nice. We did 9 miles the first day and the rest Sunday morning, we were greatly slowed by the crossings and rocks.

Overall I would not do this hike again but for a one time deal you can do worse, and the view was incredible.

By: Geomommaj Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 7, 2017
I went with a group of five women ages 25-52. We decided to do the hike in reverse due to the heavy rains during the week and concern about the multiple stream crossings. We had difficulty finding the start of the yellow blazed trail since we missed the fact that you have to go up the steep hill to the left to get to the parking area. But, after a bit of wandering, we finally found it as well as the beginning of the old mail trail (pink). We stayed at the first campsite we came to by the stream. It had a nice quadrangle of nice logs to sit on around the fire pit. It could easily have handled more than our three tents. The next morning, we finished the loop: orange to blue. We passed several other large campsites. I was glad we left the blue-blazed trail for the second day. There were at least 8 stream crossings--some more difficult than others and the blue-blazed path was very rocky, but pretty. A walking stick was very helpful. The leaves had not come out yet on the trees. It will be beautiful when the mountain laurel blooms (when do they bloom?). I loved the maps at the beginning and ending of the old mail trail and wished there had been more. The map showed all the trails in the area and how they connected to other peaks. I've been looking for a map like this for a long time. I took a picture which turned out to be a good reference during the hike. Too bad there weren't overlooks. I'd rate overlooks at "1" or "0", not "2". The faster hikers did the one mile hike (uphill) to retrieve the car from where we had started the hike.

By: Jon H. Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, January 26, 2017
I should have probably read the description before heading on this hike. With the recent rains and snow, Pond Run was flowing rather well and from the first one, there was no easy way at any crossings. Had it been warmer, it would have been no problem and very refreshing but I wasn't really interested in getting wet feet 1 mile into an 11 mile trek. But we managed by using fallen trees and lengthy jumps to stay dry, though none were ON the trail so we had some interesting excursions to find somewhere to cross. As expected, the higher we climbed, the smaller the run got so by the time we reached the top, it was no big deal.

On the way back down the crossings on that run were less numerous and we didn't have any problems at all.

We will definitely hit this hike again in the spring because it is very beautiful and isn't overly hard climbing. Would make for a great overnight trip.

By: KayJay Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 12, 2016
Went on a very hot and humid weekend in mid-August, which assured solitude, but also made for a steamy, buggy, slow-going hike. We had intentions of hiking in about four miles and setting up camp and finishing the loop early the next day, but mother nature had other plans. Early in the hike we encountered a timber rattler in a section of trail where we couldn't easily go around him safely and quickly. Waited a bit and eventually got him to move off the trail. Within minutes, a bear surprised us by sliding down out of a nearby tree, and loping off into the woods. It was AWESOME. Shortly thereafter, the heavens opened leaving us in a pretty intense thunderstorm. We decided to make camp early, dry out and not push it any further. Lots of great campsites near the overlook, and that's where we found ourselves. It was a beautiful sunset and beautiful early morning. As other reviewers mentioned, the rocks are very slick, especially after rain, and we fell a few times on the way out. The stream crossings were fun, and not too difficult. In all a nice hike that isn't heavily traveled, with the possibility of spotting animals. A real treat!

By: Heather W. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 26, 2015
My boyfriend and I did this hike as our first overnight backpacking trip and at first we were a little intimidated by the length of it since we weren't sure how well we would be able to handle the weight of our packs, but it ended up being the perfect length for us. The hike was relatively easy however it was fairly rocky and it had rained overnight so the rocks were slippery on day 2. There was a fair section of blue Pond Run trail that we weren't near a water source which made us nervous (since it was our first trip) but overall I think we spent a lot of the hike right next to the Run. The directions posted above were a fantastic help, the only part we tripped up on was where it mentioned the orange blaze trail straight ahead, and turning left to continue on to a four way intersection and that's because where the orange blaze trail went straight was a four way intersection so we ended up hiking up that for probably 15 minutes before we realized our mistake and turned back. Over all this was a fantastic hike and I can't wait to do it again with our kids next time!!

By: Mary Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Lots of downed trees made the Pond Run section of the hike very challenging, especially as we were carrying packs that made ducking under trees and limbs a little harder.

There were fewer campsites than expected, but we loved the site near the Sugar Shack (passthrough cabin) and enjoyed a nice fire with the couple staying there. Will be even nicer when all the leaves are out!

By: Matt Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 19, 2013
My buddy and I did a modified version of this hike as a 1 night backpacking trip. The comments below proved useful to us, especially the ones about finding the trail head off Waites Run (the google maps directions are misleading). Also useful was the observation that the pink-blazed Old Mail Path trail intersects the Racer Camp Hollow Trail not at the 1st clearing, but at the 5th or 6th clearing (kind of depends on what you consider a clearing -- there are several patches of open grass along that section of the trail). Instead of counting clearings, however, it's easiest to keep hiking along Racer Camp Hollow until you hit the convienient "Old Mail Path" sign on your right, then make a sharp left downhill into the correct clearing. Much more simple.

I highly recommend checking out White Rocks, a neighboring peak, while your in this area. You can add it on in a number of ways, but I think the most convienient would be to just stay on the blue-blazed trail when it interesects with the orange blazed Racer Camp Hollow trail (instead of turning left onto Racer Camp Hollow). Follow the blue blazed trail up the ridge, which runs right by White Rocks (http://www.hikingupward.com/gwnf/whiterocks/). You can take the blue blazed trail further along the ridge after checking out the overlook until it hits the pink blazed Old Mail Path trail, and turn left on it to descend back to Waites Run and your car.

Anyways, great hike. I highly recommend it for camping -- lots of great sites with easy access to water. Only issue we had on the whole trip was that a log fell across the access road on our way out, and we had to hike up the road 2 mi to find some locals who could help clear the road. A burly man with a chain saw cut the felled tree into pieces, and we were on our way. Had we been further into the back country, it would have taken us quite a while to get out of there!

By: Botrox Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 14, 2013
A comment on getting to the trail head ... from 81 take Route 55 West about 18 or 19 miles into Wardensville, WV. Two blocks after the Shell gas station, turn right onto Sanfield Road (if you get to the stop sign that marks the end of Rt. 55 ... you've got about a tenth of a mile too far). At the end of Sanfield Road, make a left onto North Mountain Road. Then make your first right onto Waites Run. From here, it's approximately 5 miles to the trail head (the last 1.5 or so is on a gravel road). Parking is on the left just before the bridge. The trail head is on your right, before the bridge.

By: Jim Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, December 22, 2011
  We decided to take this hike to celebrate the soltice. My wife and I have been avide hikers for years, mostly in the Monogahila National Forest. The GWNF is very close to our home so we took the dogs and headed out. Sugar Knob is very nice at the beginning but soon the trail was strewn with many fallen trees, probably from flooding. They had been sawed through so you could walk the trail, but blocked the view of the stream in many places.

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