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Three Top Mountain - Front Royal, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.6 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4 hours plus a half hour for lunch
780 ft 
George Washington National Forest
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3D View of Route

From VA678/Fort Valley Rd, Turn right on VA771/Boyer Rd. and in 1.0 miles 771 veers left, Stay right towards Powell Fort, In 0.6 miles the road splits stay right, In another 1.8 miles the parking area will be on the right just before a gate closes the FS road. 38.92083, 78.38083
The fire road where VA771/Boyer Rd splits left intermittently closes in the winter to traffic due to road deterioration. Check with the GWNF for gate status at 540-984-4101.

Part of the Signal Knob area in the George Washington National Forest, Three Top Mountain with its 3.5 mile stretch along the ridge line is one of the least traveled trails in the area.

The blue blazed Tuscarora Trail has been cleared and re-blazed by a PATC volunteer group, and is in much better shape than pictured here. On the return down the orange blazed FS road, which is part of the Massanutten Trail, the hiking is almost a gentle walk.

To begin backtrack down the orange blazed FS road you just drove up passing the purple blazed Mudhole Gap Trail in 100 yards where it enters from the left, then in 0.4 miles the orange blazed Massanutten Trail will turn right off the FS road and begin its ascent up Three Top Mountain.

Follow the orange blazed trail as it ascends the mountain and in 0.5 miles reach the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail that enters from the right. The orange blazed Massanutten Trail and blue blazed Tuscarora Trail will join and continue straight.

Turn right on the blue blazed trail as it ascends slightly to reach the ridge. For the next 3.5 miles follow the blue blazed trail and ridge line before it begins to descend the mountain to the east/right side.

The blue blazed trail will reach the valley floor and intersection of the orange blazed Massanutten Trail (FS road). Here the blue blazed trail you have been following crosses Little Passage Creek and begins to ascend Green Mountain.

At this intersection turn right to follow the orange blazed FS road (you follow it the entire way back to the parking are) . In 0.5 miles the orange blazed trail will veer off the road to the right.

You can either follow the trail and pass the reservoir on its right or continue on the FS road and pass the reservoir to the left. Either way the FS road and orange blazed Massanutten Trail will rejoin on the other side of the reservoir in 0.3 miles.

Continue on the orange blazed FS road as it follows the valley before crossing Little Passage Creek in 0.2 miles and in another 1.2 miles arrives at a closed gate. 50 yards further the parking lot is on your left.

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Three Top Mountain hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Three Top Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Sean Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, April 12, 2017
I'd been on the Little Passage Creek hike (also nice) which shares the same parking area and fire road segment as this hike. As the description says, this feels like a less-traveled hike, especially the ridge-line segment. It is an interesting hike and I liked it overall. The first mile had me quite winded but then it levels out on the ridge. I had good views from the ridge on both sides but as foliage fills in the views won't be so good. I lost my footing on the ridge more than on any other hike I can recall, I think because it is less traveled leaves cover many holes on the trial and between rocks. I recommend a hiking pole for the ridge -- and be careful. The ridge is quite rocky in parts, especially as you near its end. After 3.5 miles of the ridge, I was glad to hike down to the smooth Forest Service road. The road has many puddles on it -- only one challenging stream crossing near the reservoir. The description gives you the option of the fire road or trail for getting around the reservoir -- if you take the trail you will avoid that stream crossing. I noticed a lizard but no other wildlife. A morel mushroom in the middle of the ridge trail, which seemed an odd place for one. Spots on the ridge have an abundance of mint plants -- I have never seen so many on any other trail. Calling about the gate at the intersection of Boyer Road and Forest Service road 66 is good advice but if you go in or near summer when weather has been fair it should be open. I went once in March and the gate was locked. I called this time and got voice mail, and just went and lucked out. You might have an alternate hike in mind in case the gate is locked.

By: Dan Ratcliffe Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 19, 2016
This was a good hike for solitude. I only saw a couple of horseback riders on the fire road, otherwise complete solitude. The 3-4 miles along the spine of the mountain was fun, but can be tough on the feet at times.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 17, 2016
It was a good hike but it took use a lot longer than 4 hrs. Our small group hikes 200-250 miles a year with hike speed of 1.0-2.1 mph. On this trail we, our speed was only 1.3  The views were ok. The trail was in good condition, apparently the result of volunteers who went to a lot of trouble to clean it up and apply fresh blaze along the trail. Thanks to those who did the work!  No snakes, though I expected we would see some with the temperatures in the low 80s. On a return visit I would definitely hike the trail in a counter-clockwise direction to get the road hike out of the way first. Road and pasture hiking is not on my list of great hikes. Saw one other hiker on the mountain part of the hike. On the road, we saw 12.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, January 21, 2016
Second time on this hike and I liked it much better in the winter. Even though the leaves are all down, the views are not spectacular, so don't expect more than one or two decent vistas. The best part of this hike is the solitude. The FS road part is actually really nice, too, as it follows a stream and it's a peaceful walk. When you reach the reservoir, take the orange trail for a bit, then turn left going downhill to walk over the short connector trail by the reservoir back to the FS road (then go right). One easy stream crossing with rocks placed to assist you across. Nice hike, with many campsites around the reservoir and along the road out.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 30, 2014
Hiked this one on a warm muggy day, so that took a little away from it. That being said, the 3.5 mile stretch along the ridge line, with rock outcroppings and a few scenic views made this hike fun. We hiked it counter-clockwise as we wanted to put all the 'road walking' at the front rather than at the end. The ridge part of the trail is well marked, but, as is typical with the Tuscarora Trail, not real well maintained. Expect high grass, stickers, and occasional trail blocking large trees to climb over. That being said, the trail along the ridge whimsically meanders across, over, and between the rock outcroppings typical of mountain ridges in this area. A good doable hike for an afternoon of fun. While we saw the occasional bear scat on the trail, no bears were in evidence at the time we hiked this. In fact, while the rocky terrain made us constantly on the alert for snakes, we did not encounter any.

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Late May
Strasburg Reservoir
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