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Hiker Comments for the Browns Hollow Hike - 1 to 33 of 33   
Average Rating:

By: Glenn Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 27, 2019
Great hike and you will cross a lot of day hikers. We ran across a 50K that was occurring and had to step to the side to give way to a few runners, no biggie.

NOTE* The pond is a favorite local water hole for the locals. We arrived with multiple families enjoying the pond on rafts etc. However, at 130am, a few drunk locals found their way to our campsite (on the opposite bank) and disregarding us (three tents) and continued to be obnoxious and loud. We did let them know we were trying to sleep. They finally left and once they hit the dirt road, they fired numerous 9mm shots in the middle of the night. *its the main reason why I carry when I hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 21, 2019
I did this hike on Easter Sunday with some friends. It was a great hike and there are still some winter time views. The waterfalls and pools on the Browns Hollow Trail were incredible. I am giving this hike four stars due to the motorcyclist, we encountered on the Roaring Run Trail as we were making the climb to the ridge line. He tore up the trail pretty badly. I have let the forest rangers and PATC know about this individual.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 25, 2018
Great Hike, especially in the first half (clockwise) for the waters you hike along and in the second half for the views in the last stretch before you head back down to the parking lots.

Regarding the Browns Hollow Trail: the maps I first reach for do not mark this trail. I was prepared for some bushwacking, but the trail is there and is well maintained. Like the preceding reviewer, I found it well marked and missed no turns.

An alternate starting point is on the Massanutten Trail (416), where it crosses US-211, slightly to the east of the Wildflower Trail TH. There's an ample parking lot on the south side of US-211 at that point that can't be missed (neither can the access to 416). From this starting point, I clocked 13.1 miles, so slightly longer than the route described above.

By: PGHTOM Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Great hike overall. We did this counterclockwise (opposite of write up) with a late start Saturday. Trail was in good shape all around, blazes were also in good shape. Trail description was plenty accurate and I can't recall any issues with missing turns, etc. The pond is pretty cool. I would not ever plan to go here in the summer months. I am certain it gets crowded and rowdy like others have mentioned below. We overnighted at one the spots and were frankly surprised to see 2 other groups (temp at night was 19°).

Some words of advice for young college aged hikers. PLEASE learn about the outdoors and specifically winter hiking. Tight cotton jeans, small backpacks, loose blankets, etc have no business in the backcountry. You all really put yourselves in a precarious situation that could have turned into a rescue situation had the weather turned bad. Never have I seen people hike 5 miles with firewood tied around their necks. Never have I seen a group so inept at building a fire or collecting additional firewood (because 2 cut up 2x4s burn for 15 min like you all learned). The girl crying in the middle of the night about how cold she was is evidence enough that you all were ill prepared. I admire your desire to backpack and even more to do it in the winter months. But seriously, there are lots of ways to learn the skills, please take the time to do so.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 4, 2018
This hike was a last minute decision, and as a result I was armed only with a PATC map and without first finding Hiking Upward's hike description. As a result, I hiked it in a clockwise direction and started using the paved trail that the HU description specifically discourages. Fortunately, there was an unmarked trail that split off to the right and headed uphill, and then merged into the Massanutten South Trail. I guess I was lucky, because my map did not have sufficient detail to send me in the right direction from among several choices.

The highlight of this loop is the overlook that looks west towards New Market, and it comes early in the clockwise loop. Dropping into Browns Hollow was also beautiful.

Even hiking on an October Sunday, when there was a long line of cars at the entrance to Shenandoah National Park, this hike was virtually empty. Amazing!

By: Mike s Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 21, 2018
Not a whole lot to add drove four hours to hit this trail with my pup lil cold and windy today but definitely quite and challenging couple more signs threw out the trail would be amazing but all and all clean good real world hiking and this site and maps where spot on no information located near the trails and definitely finally didn’t run into a bunch of newbie about to keel over with all the wrong gear and no water wtf anyway highly recommend if a good five hours hiking is in ur plans with about 3 hours of it a great rewarding challenge

By: Adam R. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 25, 2018
A buddy and I did the clockwise route as our first overnight backpacking trip and, while it was a challenge (especially the first day), it was a great experience. We decided to make Emerald Pond our halfway point for camping, which was a great spot and we had it all to ourselves once the daytrip swimmers left. First day started out with an easy downhill through the Hollow, but about halfway through it turned uphill drastically and really tested our cardio endurance. Second day was an easy hike along the ridge and ended with a beautiful overlook. If I did it again as a first-timer, I would probably do the route counterclockwise because it put the steepest parts at the beginning of each day to get them out of the way.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 15, 2018
I was looking for a solo overnight hike that had a little of everything and the Browns Hollow/Bird Knob delivered. First of all, thank you to whomever did the writeup of this hike because they got me where I was going unambiguously (though there is one trail intersection on the descent from the vista that was unnoted... turn right at the survey marker and stay on the orange blazed trail). But I digress...

I arrived to find one other car in the parking lot but no one else around. Someone had been on the trail ahead of me since the last time it rained, as evidenced by the big footprints straight through every mud hole on the trail, but the spider webs indicated that it hadn't been but so recently. One thing to note: this is overall a pretty rocky hike, punctuated by patches of mud. You get a sense of this right away for the first few miles are just that, with some little creek crossings and water seeping out of the ground. As you climb out of the gorge, it gets increasingly steeper and rockier and it may have you questioning whether or not you actually needed all 21 pounds of the stuff that's strapped to your back. Then you reach the trail intersection and there is even more, steeper climbing through rocky switchbacks until you reach the saddle, at which time you begin a rocky descent. An interesting note: right past the saddle when you begin the downhill portion hanging over the trail is a live American Chestnut tree producing chestnuts, which is a rare thing, indeed. When I finally reached the fire road, I was grateful to give my knees a rest and ponder the purchase of some hiking poles. It's pretty easy going the rest of the way to Emerald Pond, which I arrived to find deserted. I set up camp right by the pond on the far side and collected firewood sawing off logs from fallen trees in the forest to find that they, too, were chestnut but had been claimed by the blight. You will have to work for your firewood here, as it is pretty well picked over for the easy pickings.

I had the pond all to myself all day and night and it is hard to overstate how beautiful the pond is (despite the broken glass and human feces/TP... come the F on, people). The spring comes out of the ground and goes directly into the pond. I went through the trouble of going to the headwaters of the stream to get the freshest water but after sampling that and the water from the pond I found the water from the pond to be just as good (after filtering, of course). Since I had the whole hollow and surrounding mountains to myself, I enjoyed a swim in the clear, green water as nature intended and kept my clothes dry. Night time brought with it clear skies, stars, and nothing but the sound of whipoorwills to lull me to sleep in my hammock. I didn't even have to use my bug net as there were surprisingly few of them given the time of year, most notably zero mosquitoes.

After cleaning up camp, the next day started with some brief uphill to the meadow before reaching the ridge and some welcome level-ish ground. Again, lots of rocks but now encompassed by a lush mountaintop forest with vistas poking through the trees. The cliffs overlooking New Market are a great place to stretch for a bit while taking in the view in preparation for some serious downhill. The rock scramble down the first half mile requires strong ankles and balance and while it does get easier after a bit, the entirety of the descent to the terminus of the trail is tough, especially when it has recently rained.

TL/DR: Rocky, somewhat challenging trail, best done on a weekday to avoid people as I saw not another soul, camp at emerald pond, consider investing in hiking poles if you're carrying a pack.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 11, 2018
I tackled this hike on a steamy August Saturday with a group of 13 from Central Virginia Trailblazers (  We had done the shorter Emerald Pond circuit two years ago and returned to do this longer version.  Not many other hikers on the trail, except for a few friendly hillbillies with hunting dogs near the pond. Disappointed to see there is still broken glass near the stacked stone "diving board".    The downhill portion on Massanutten South following the overlook was indeed steep and downright treacherous at times, as a brief rain shower and made the rocks wet and slippery.  One note to future hikers:  Somewhere between mile 10.0 and mile 11.4 there was an unexpected fork in the trail that was not mentioned in the description.  Both appeared to be orange blazed.  We debated for a while an ultimately went to the right, which fortunately was the correct choice.  It took us about six hours to complete the hike including a break at the pond and overlook.  Then we headed into town for dinner at Southern Kitchen Restaurant followed by frozen custard at Pack's.  It was truly a step back in time!  All in all a great day to be on the trail.

By: Yerboy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 4, 2018
We took the fire road short cut to the pond due to a late start. The views are great. The ant hills were cool. Don’t stop too long to take a picture. You’ll see why!! Unfortunately a great time walking in the woods with friends and a nice night by the pond were all ruined. The weather was fantastic. The water was cool and clean and great to swim in. However, the pond’s proximity to road access allows for this to be a more popular spot. In our case, an awesome group of generator and cooler toting 20somethings with a sharing problem. After assisting them (before sundown) with a severely burned hand we were rewarded with skinny dipping to horrible music, inter-crowd fighting settled with gun fire. No one was hurt, but after the police left at 3:30am most did not get to enjoy any of their hammocks or the sounds of the GWNF. Getting up the fire road to cell signal to call the police was an adventure in and of itself. VERY IMPORTANT: If you need assistance and call 911 to help you there. The local police know this as PITTSVILLE SPRINGS POND. it is in Page county. The police were awesome. However our pond guests were not.

By: DDL Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 16, 2018
Took the suggested route and made a long (~5 hrs) day hike out of it. Trail is well-marked and traverses mostly through lush green forests. Only saw a few people on the trail which makes it a nice, less crowded alternative to some of the Shenandoah hikes.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 27, 2018
Did this hike as a 3 day 2 night hike - our first trip of the season and our first through Hiking Upward! We really appreciated the excellent direction and map. We arrived Friday afternoon and hiked to the 2nd campsite - not so much of a "waterfall" as the junction of Browns Run and another small stream cascading downward. There is great water access at the first 2 sites (after recent heavy rain), but not as much once you head upward from the stream to the saddle and ridge and over to the pond. Once you get to the Roaring Run trail it is steep with lots of switchbacks. The ridge campsite has a fire ring and a place for one small tent but no water. The descent to the fire road is steep with a lot of loose rocks - watch your step! Once you get to the pond there are three campsites -the one described adjacent to the pond near the rock tower, one before that on the left is small but you can squeeze two tents there, and a large site on the right. There is room for at least 2 tents here. Behind that site there is a rocky area with a fire ring that didn't have a spot for tent but was a good site for hammock camping.

Between the pond and the meadow there is one site on Bird Knob trail (essentially ON the trail) with a fire ring. At the meadow, there is one site on the far side to the left, and one site as the trail enters the forest again. At this point the trail narrows, and is pretty well marked, though there is one rocky area that wasn't as well blazed on the Bird Knob trail, but just keep going straight across and it picks up again. It's pretty easy going over the ridge until the vista, but no water or campsites along that portion of the trail. Great views at the overlook! The trail from the visit descends steeply as advertised and was a little muddy in places.

By: Silverback Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 13, 2018
Did this hike starting out on the morning of 13 April as a weekend camping trip. we decided to go with the quick steep climb over the gradual long climb of going up through the gorge at Brown's hollow. the climb up was taxing but not too tough with some brief rest breaks. the overlooks were great as well as the rest of the trail to Emerald pond. since we started out early on a Friday we didn't see a soul until an hour or so before dark. The next morning we did another climb up and over big mountain and down into roaring gap run. this wasn't as hard as our initial climb Friday morning as the switchbacks helped and the trail was less rocky. From that point on it was five miles or so of downhill until we reached the final campsite on Brown's run. despite the Red Flag conditions, the campsite had great water. I do indeed recommend doing this hike in a counterclockwise direction and get out early or mid-week if you want seclusion at Emerald Pond.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 13, 2017
Quite the challenge on the suggested route - be aware that after the second campsite on the map's suggested path, there is no easy access to water for campsites 3 and 4 (unless you are feeling up to a ravine scramble like me). Also, a previous commenter was quite prescient in their prediction of the saddle camp site (4) being a good place for a bear a black bear took a look at us and barreled down the trail after we made camp there around 5pm.

By: kk4288 Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, August 17, 2017
Have done this hike twice now with my dog and enjoyed it both times. The one vista really is spectacular and makes the rather long haul through some dense forest beforehand (should you go the recommended way round) worth it.

By: KevinG Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 26, 2017
This was a great weekend hike. My wife and I and our 1 1/2 year old daughter did the recommended loop over three days and two nights. We got to the trailhead a little later than we were hoping on the first night, but were able to pack up quick and hike into the first campsite (which luckily was open, because it was bedtime for one of us). The first campsite was really nice, and easily large enough for three tents. The second day was definitely a tough one. We tried to get an early start because we were shooting to get to the pond before naptime. It was a lot of uphill though and took us a little longer than we had hoped. However, we did end up making it to the pond around 1:00, had a nice lunch and afternoon nap. I took a dip in the pond, it was very refreshing (aka chilly), but very clear. The pond is definitely a well frequented spot for the locals (some of them more sober than others). We were hoping for a little more solitude, but after about 7:00 it was just us. The campsite at the pond was not the cleanest, we found a good bit of broken glass, cans and bottles, and there really was only room for 1 tent (or maybe 2 small tents). Besides those couple annoyances, the second campsite was very beautiful. The last day hiking the ridgeline was our favorite. A thick fog sat on the ridge all morning, which made hiking through the pines really pretty. Unfortunately, that fog also obscured our view from the lookout, but that's okay. The last section is definitely pretty steep and rocky (had to be extra careful with the kiddo on my back), but fun. We made really great time back to the car and got back just as the first couple raindrops started to fall. Overall, we really enjoyed the hike and will probably do it again.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Did this with a friend as a two-nighter (camping Friday and Saturday night). Friday night we set up shop at the first campsite which I have at ~1.7 miles into the trail (roughly 40 minutes). It's a great campsite with water access and room for three tents or more. Saturday we underestimated the difficulty of the five mile hike to the pond. It's 1500 total feet of elevation gain. Be warned! The pond was still very cold (I jumped in). There are about 3 campsites around the pond with another about 200' away in a clearing. Sunday we decided to take the orange trail instead of the white Bird Knob as it was the shorter route (3.8 miles to the parking lot, ~90 minutes). Personally I like hiking on ridge lines, so the 1/2 mile or so of this hike near the overlook was pretty cool. Overlook is at 38.6333571,-78.6182322 which makes it about 1.25 miles from the parking area. Also saw a buttload of wildlife on this hike including frogs, toads, turtles, a woodpecker, fish, tons of flowers, and even heard a turkey.

By: Schnitzel Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 24, 2017
Drawn by Emerald Lake and distance, my good friend (Pennzoil) and I decided to spend a few days taking our time along this trail. Two nights sounded great to us, as some suggested in previous posts, and we arrived midday on a Friday to find the parking lot largely empty. We chose the route as suggested (clockwise) and found the trail pleasant if a bit slippery due to leaves covering rocks and holes. The first campsite was amazing with the creek next to it where we resupplied our water (Mile 1.3), while we continued up the trail looking for a good first campsite.

The trail continued to rise leaving us guessing that just like the second (still too early to camp) there would be water - not the case. We realized that we had ventured close to where the trail turns (about 5 miles) when the trail descended unto Roaring Run Gap. So note: the campsites (after waterfall site which is the second one on the map) do not have water access until you arrive at Emerald Lake. We debated staying at the campsite (noted at Mile 4.5) but it again had no water and no fire ring - in fact the area looked like a fantastic place for a bear with the type of thick overgrowth and what looked like game trails running through that campsite.

We decided to camp in the Gap which had a trickle of water running, but not nearly enough to feel comfortable with filling up our reserves entirely. The next morning had us finding the ridge line campsite at Mile 5.2 (beautiful spot if the weather cooperates) and eventually our second campsite at Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake is as described and looks in the pictures. An idyllic spot for resting with just a couple (or three) campsites unless you're hammocking. We arrived early, had the best spot for relaxing and had a warm fire for later that evening. Thunderstorms were forecasted, however none materialized while the back clouds raced past us overhead. We were grateful that we weren't camping on the previously mentioned campsite on the ridge as we heard roaring wind coming over the mountains all night. The last day had us continuing up through the meadow (several campsites were seen although no one else was camping) and once at the top, the trail continues along the ridge (read: gratefully easy) until we quickly arrived at the vista toward New Market - a great view looking west toward I-81 and beyond.

The rest of the trail then descends STEEPLY and we were grateful we hadn't taken the counter-clockwise route as we would have certainly been second guessing ourselves on the rationality of two older fellas going backpacking for a few days (Noted on Mile 10 notes).

A great three days in the woods (the second being embarrassingly short but restful) with a wild turkey, lots of horse-apples on the trail (specifically on the switchbacks on the purple blazed Roaring Run Gap Trail) which had us pitying the animal required to venture up this narrow trail, and a dedicated trail runner who looked to finish the entire trail in hours which took us days to enjoy - ahhh youth.

Should you camp in the warmer months at Emerald Lake, there is little question that you'll have lots of local company as it looked to be an ideal spot for rebel-rousing and noise-makers by the number of fire-circles and trash seen around the lake. I expected to see more trash from reading previous comments about this hike, yet am still disappointed by the lack of leave-no-trace principles adhered to. I expect this is a direct result of the presence of the road so close to the lake that allows people to arrive by car and multiple six-packs of beverages in tow.

Great trail if a little confusing at first with the number of roads / trails that bisect the first few miles - be sure to bring the trail directions with you.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, December 13, 2016
I hiked the trail as described except for an accidental detour. I carelessly went left where the pink and purple blazed trails intersect. It was a tiring 3 mile mistake to get back on-track! Camping at Emerald Pond was gorgeous. The location of the pond helped buffer some of the wind and the water is crystal clear. Overall, the hiking involves serious ascending and descending portions and it can be tiring. It's a fairly rocky at times, too. The fall/winter leaves hid a lot of rocks and I slipped a couple times. The only real views you'll get are of the pond and at the New Market overlook. However, if it isn't too cold or windy (I wasn't so lucky), you would be hard pressed to find a nicer swimming hole.

By: DougT Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 22, 2016
This hike presented me with a challenge on how to rate it. We did this hike as a two day hike camping at emerald pond. We did it in the opposite direction as what is listed on this site. The views to the west were beautiful with very clear skies as a front was passing through. The wind, however, was very strong which forced us to take the views in fairly quickly. Emerald pond was a nice place to camp. We shared the area with another group who camped across the pond from us. The scene around the pond of trees during the day and the stars at night was something to behold. The next day we left the pond and proceeded with the remainder of the hike through the Browns hollow portion. This area was quite secluded as described but provided little in the way of differing views. As my wife described this portion as “being miles with little reward” I feel was quite accurate. There were a lot of rocks to negotiate which really worked on my knees. One word of caution on navigating the trail, the intersection between the Browns hollow trail and the roaring run trail is not marked except for a tree with both orange and pink blazes. We missed this intersection, but fortunately as we headed down hill something didn’t feel right and a check of the GPS proved we had indeed missed the turn off.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 15, 2016
This had been on my list "to hike" so decided to do it today. Just like the previous reviewer mentioned, there is no sign to the parking lot from the road, so make sure you pay attention to your gps. I started my hike at about 9:15 am and hiked non-stop to reach the emerald pond at around 11:45 am, just in time for lunch where I spent about 10-12 minutes. The trees along the pond's bank had started to change color and with the clear skies and sunlight, I was able to capture some amazing photos. The water is impressively clear and since I was the only one there, I was able to enjoy my break very peacefully. Resuming my hike, my next stop was the vista where I spent another 15 minutes. The view is just mesmerizing! I had to force myself to leave and got back to the parking lot at around 2 pm (about 5 hours including 30 min break). My pedometer recorded 10.8 miles for this hike. I saw bear scats on several areas of the trail, and being alone, I was kind of scared since most of the hike is deep in the forest. Luckily I didn't encounter any wild animals or any other hikers. Overall I would give this hike a rating of 3 or 3.5 max for difficulty. I chose to give it 4 stars because there is only 1 vista point, which is however absolutely incredible.

By: Denis Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Firstly a sincere thanks for the directions and maps on this site- downloaded before setting off and would have been lost without them. Today was a perfect day for hiking- overcast with a little breeze on the tops but dry. I only had today so started at 10am and did it in one big gulp- tough going but definitely feasible if you're used to hiking. First surprise was that there is absolutely no indication from the highway that the start of this hike is anywhere near. The first section is quite steep and you don't see much from the first summits as you are still in deep forest. The swimming lake is superb and makes a good stopping point- I got there in perfect time for lunch. The lookout towards New Market is the highlight- I saw many birds of prey roosting up there and got quite close- the views are superb. The last bit is quite steep downhill at a time when you are tiring so be careful. As an added bonus I didn't see a single person on the trail all day. A most enjoyable experience.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 28, 2016
Did this loop as a single overnight in reverse direction. The climb to the overlook definitely got the heart pumping but it wasn't crazy strenuous and the views from the top were totally worth it. The hike down to the pond was some of the best trail we've been on in some time with the pine needles providing nice cushion and the flattish rocks made it seem like you were walking on pavement. Since it was the long weekend, there were lots of folks camped in the meadow and near the pond. I can see how the pond could get quite rowdy with it so close to the fire road. We saw a handful of people walk to the pond from the fire road in their bathing suit and flipflops. The pond was quite refreshing and provided a good place to fill up bladders for the hike up and over to Browns Hollow. The hike up Roaring Run trail was definitely steep and made for slow going with the extra water we had to pack with us for the night. The campsite at the top can fit one 2-3 man tent and a hammock or two if you don't mind some underbrush. It's pretty bare bones and right next to the trail. Since we were hammocking we gave the site to a group behind us that had a tent. We had to drop down the ridge a ways before finding suitable ground to set up our hammocks since it was quite steeps with thick underbrush. We woke the next morning and continued our hike down Roaring Run trail. The first water we came upon was a small run in the saddle about half a mile up Browns Hallow Trail from the intersection with the Roaring Run trail. We had plenty of water so we opted not to fill up but another group was glad to finally run into water again. The next chance to fill up for water was some 2 miles further down the trail but we opted to wait until the crossing at 3 miles to fill up and have lunch. We were glad to have done the trail in reverse as the climb up Browns Hallow to Roaring run is a pretty sustained as very steep at times climb. The rest of the hike was uneventful and we finished up before the rain came. We'd definitely do this hike again in the same direction. Would love to spend more time at the pond and try to camp at the meadow.

By: James M. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 28, 2016
This really is a great hike, that can be strenuous at times, but I loved the solitude of majority of the hike. Most of the listed campsites were already occupied, with the pond and the clearing crowded with people who parked by the gate on the forestry road. We ended up hiking 10 miles to the Bird Knob Overlook and camped at the small campsite right by the overlook, which really is the perfect spot for one tent. Once we made it to the overlook, we really didn't see anyone at all and we had a very easy 1.7 mile hike down to the parking lot on Sunday. I really did enjoy the hike and I'm sure there would be way less traffic any other day that wasn't a holiday. Make sure you bring lots of water or a water filter. Be ready for some mucky trails if it has rained recently!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 7, 2016
Browns Hollow made for a great overnight backpack with four friends. Hiked counter-clockwise from the now-shuttered visitor center, which wasn't a bad way to do the trail. Initial ascent Saturday afternoon was tough, but the views at the two overlooks were worth the climb. It looked like there may have been a nice (albeit dry) camping option right away at the overlook. The hike to Emerald Pond was nice and we were pleasantly surprised that the campsite at the pond was in not at all trashed and we had the whole place to ourselves, an iffy proposition giving the easy access via forest road and parking lot just down the trail. The pond made for a super spot to camp for the night. Western site had room for three tents, eastern site maybe two. The ups and downs toward Browns Hollow Sunday morning were pleasant, although none of the alleged campsites were much more than a spot to bivouac for a night until the final (or first, if you're hiking clockwise) campsite on the north bank of Browns Run. We made it back out Sunday afternoon by 1:00, in plenty of time for a stop at Pack's Custard. A great way to do a relaxed two-night hike would be to hike clockwise and stop the first night at Browns Run and the second night at Emerald Pond. Enjoy!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 15, 2016
A group of nine women did this hike on a Friday/Saturday. The uphill was very long. Directions are clear and easy to follow. We camped at Emerald Lake. We had three tents and a hammock for our group. There wasn't a lot of space for the tents. The lake must be spring fed as we didn't see streams entering into the lake. There is one campground on each side. Following the directions as given, we came across the clearing after the pond. This area has space for more tents. Though, one probably needs to protect against and check for ticks. The hike from that point is very pleasant along the ridge to the overlook. We enjoyed sitting in the rocks for awhile looking out over New Market and I-81. It took us about four hours up and two and a half coming down the next day (including the stop at the overlook). We didn't pass anyone on Friday. We saw 3-4 groups on Saturday. We missed the waterfall that was mentioned as well. We liked the proximity to the Washington DC area the ease of parking and finding the trailhead.

By: Evan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 12, 2016
We did this as a 2 day backpacking trip.  Left DC in early afternoon and hit the trail head around 4pm on Friday afternoon.  We followed the directions from HU and decided to set up camp just before 5pm when we came across the first campsite we saw since we weren't sure how good the next few would be.  That first spot, right in Brown's Hollow was an incredible camp site.  We just had one tent but you could have easily found space for 2 or 3 more.  A great fire ring was already set up and we were able to pull down a bunch of wood from the hills next to the site.  Having multiple sources of flowing water right there was a huge plus as well.  We woke up and had a leisurly breakfast Saturday morning and hit the trail around 9:30.  The first two or so hours was a steady dose up ascent - some portions more strenuous than others but it worked out well to take a lunch break when we got to the very top of Big Mountain.  From there we made our way to the pond that many others have spoken about - it is awesome and had it been a bit warmer, we likely would have tried to take a quick dip.  It is very close to the fire road so I can see how it may be pretty busy in the summer when locals can drive almost right up to it.  The next few miles of the loop went pretty quickly as they were very flat winding along the top of the crest until we came to the incredible scenic overlooks just 2 miles from the end.  We took the opportunity to post up for an afternoon snack and enjoy the view before making our way down the steep descent we had remaining.  That last bit of the trail took less than an hour and we finished the day at about 3:30pm having taken a total of about an hour of breaks.  The trails were very well marked with blazes all over to make sure we kept on our way, and the hike was a great mix of scenery, challenge, camp sites and that vista near the end.  We will definitely be doing this loop again - it can definitely be done in a single day, or broken up in various ways to a 2 (or even 3) day depending how you want to do it.

By: Brian (Mop) Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 2, 2016
This is a very nice hike, probably more like 3.5 stars. Even though it was a mild winter weekend (highs in the low 40s, lows in the high 20s), the solitude factor was very high. After seeing quite a few folks on the nature trail part of the hike near the welcome center, once we got into the woods and away from the sound of Rte. 211, we were basically all alone. Following the trail notes in the clockwise direction, we set up camp at the first campsite noted on the topo map. It had a great fire ring, decent space for three small tents (with room for maybe one or two more if you needed to have a crowd), excellent water supply, and ample fallen oak limbs for firewood. We did a short day hike up the Browns Run gorge. The next campsite (the one located just after the spring) is very small and right on the side of the trail. There is room for only one or two tents, and the location is not very good. The only reason to camp there is the proximity to the spring, and only when the spring is running. While we were there, there was a pool of water and clearly a little water coming from the spring, but it did not look good enough to drink. It's a long, steep descent to Browns Run and the alternate water supply. The next campsite is a bit smaller than the first one -- room for three tents at most. But it is right on the banks of Browns Run for water supply, had good firewood around, and was even more secluded.

By: Mh Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 29, 2015
We had a good hike. Left Saturday, spent the night and returned Sunday. We took the recommended route, but after hiking I would recommend the reverse route. Primarily because most of the campsites are on the 1st half of the recommend route. We had a good hike up in the recommended direction, but once at the top the campsites were taken on the second half and most of the campsites were now behind us. We had to make a new camp site.

As other said the pond had locals, who drove in by the fire road. We just moved on.

Be ready, many of the inclines are steep.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 6, 2015
My husband and I chose this hike to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary. We extended the hike as a backpacking camping trip with our dog, doing ~4 miles the first day, ~6 the second day, and then the final ~1.7 on the last day. As some others have said, we chose to hike counterclockwise, starting with the ascent of Short Horse Mountain and heading straight to the panoramic vista. Even with the great tree coverage providing shade from the heat of the sun, with our packs on that first bit was an extremely punishing incline of ~1 mile. The view was completely worth it. It was really spectacular. From there the hike leveled out mercifully and we quite enjoyed the remaining ~3 miles to Emerald Pond where we chose a campsite right on the lake by a tall rock. When we began setting up camp I spotted a rattlesnake coiled up under some leaves near the fire pit. I coaxed him with a stick and carried him out into the woods. He was not aggressive at all, and did not rattle. Now, this spot was really amazing. It was so, so beautiful... But we encountered 4 different groups of locals that said they had driven right up the fire road to come by for a swim. This was a grey Monday... I can only imagine the raucous traffic the pond would get on a sunny day or a weekend. All of the groups were extremely loud, large families with children. I imagine groups like this were the source of the many beer cans, bottles, and cigarette butts that littered the campsite (we cleaned them up and carried out as much as we could, but there is a lot of broken glass near the tall rock to look out for). One group carried in sleeping bags and said they were planning to camp across the lake from us, but left when one of their party sprained her ankle leaving climbing out of the lake (luckily we had brought our first aid kit and where able to offer her an ace bandage at least). By around 9:00 p.m. thankfully everyone had left, and we had the pond to ourselves. We filled our water bottles from the lake but added iodine capsules for purification. There are no fish in this pond because of too much lime, but plenty of crawdads, toads, and a few snakes which we observed at night by flashlight. In the morning I swam and bathed in the lake, which was not very cold at all! It was perfectly refreshing and so peaceful. We packed up camp and left around 10 o'clock to continue the trail. As we were packing up the friendly rattlesnake returned to watch, but didn't bother us or our pup. The next bit of the trail was pleasant. The first .4 miles of the purple-blazed Roaring Run trail was a rough incline. We rested at the peak for a short while before descending steeply .7 miles and we were glad we had chosen the counterclockwise route. There are rock towers that indicated the pink-blazed Brown's Hollow trail which we may have missed without because the trail intersected from behind to the left. As we started down that trail we came across some running water to fill our bottles. Continuing on, this trail acquires a slight incline with very little shake for a while. It was just enough to have us breathing heavily, but we were able to continue at a steady pace. I enjoyed this bit. It was challenging but not so much that it required any breaks. When the trail starts to descend the shake increases. The next few miles were mostly downhill, following Brown's Run. We kept looking for the small waterfall described, but never found it. We passed about 3 campsites but continued on in hopes of coming across the small waterfall where we had agreed we would camp. However, we made it to the crossing of Brown's Run without finding it. The campsite just past the crossing by a small tributary stream was very nice. It was close to the trail, but we did not encounter any other hikers at all and therefore enjoyed total solitude at this spot. We set up camp, collected firewood, and dug up a few worms to head back across the creek to a decent sized pool where about a dozen fairly large river trout were swimming. We fished for a few hours, trying different things, but the larger fish were uninterested. I sat in the creek and bathed that evening before heading back to camp for supper. We spotted an owl in these woods along with a few toads. The birds sang beautifully in this area. We tucked in for a pretty early night (around 9:00 p.m.) and slept like rocks. In the morning, it was hard to leave but we packed up camp and hit the trail for the final 1.7 miles. There were a few small inclines, a few small declines, but nothing too challenging. It was an easy hike out. Before too long we heard the highway, and passed the picnic tables. We saw a very large whitetail deer just up the Wildflower trail, which was a nice way to end the hike. I would very much like to hike this trail again. I would have gladly rated 5 stars if it hadn't been for the litter and disruptive locals at Emerald Pond, whom I assume visit often. I wish the pond wasn't so near to the fire road. If it weren't so easily accessible in would be a very private spot. Totally worth it, though.

By: Tessa Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 31, 2014
I hiked the trail as described above. Saw a bear about 2.5 miles in and not another soul until after i left Emerald pond. I was waist deep in the pond and about to go under when i saw what i thought was a snake swim across in the center of the pond. I aborted my swim... After reviewing you tube video of swimming snakes, i am not entirely sure that it was a snake as i could only see the head, but i dont know what else it could have been. I dont mind snakes, but for some reason they freak me out when in the water. Saw a bunch of people with kids, dogs and floats heading for the pond just as i was leaving, and a few more hikers in the second half of the hike as well. The view was a little disappointing because of hazy conditions. Overall a very nice hike though.

By: Zendog74 Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 18, 2014
We did the hike as an overnight hike and went backwards as it was a nice sunny day to be on the ridge and the following day was supposed to be rainy/overcast, so we felt it would be better to be in the hollow then.

A nice hike overall. Not too much in the way of views or streams, but still pleasant. A couple of items to note:

  1. If you hike it backwards like we did, the first .8 miles going up to the ridge are tough. Nice to have the overlook there as a reward.
  2. There are no more views along the ridge. You may get some views going in the winter or early spring when there are no leaves on the trees, but the trail is right in the middle of the ridge, so you may still not get much in the way of views.
  3. Emerald Pond was a pretty nice spot, but we ran into yokels there, so no peace and quiet. The pond is so easily accessed from the fire road, I would not recommend camping there.
  4. The small campsite at the top of the ridge is super small and right on the trail. It *may* fit a single person tent, but not much else and you will have no privacy.
  5. We camped at the top of the saddle. There is a decent flat area there, but it was apparent no one had camped there in quite a while. We spent 15-20 minutes moving branches and rocks and were able to carve out a decent spot for our tent. There was a lot of underbrush growth though.
  6. The ticks were awful. We brushed off at least one every time we stopped. There were two outside the tent all night and two got inside the tent somehow. There was one on me when we got back home. That being said, we did not use any spray. Perhaps you would fare better if you did.
Overall, it was a pleasant hike with good variety of terrain and elevation. However, given the lack of views, the ticks, the fact that Emerald Pond is not a tranquil spot and that the camping spots were not that great, I don't think we'd choose to do it again.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 12, 2014
Hiked as overnighter with the bride. Went clockwise. Camped at Emerald pond. Shame it was pretty trashy. Folks should practice better "Leave no Trace". Other than that it would have been spectacular. The pond is definitely swimable although pretty cold water. Great view on west side of the mountain the next day.

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