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Hiker Comments for the Emerald Pond Hike - 1 to 23 of 23   
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By: Sorcha Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 27, 2019
Very enjoyable hike. Perhaps it was the low humidity and clear skies, but I felt like I was in the Rockies: path of pine needles and crushed rock once we got up on the ridge line, smells of pine, and strong updrafts with hawks circling. Emerald Pond is pretty as promised, and the ridge line portion of the walk is simple. The rhododendrons weren't blooming yet, but I can imagine that in about two weeks, they'll be out, and they're everywhere along the trail. The climbs up and down are not too challenging but steady for about mile each way: some mud from springs here and there that were slippery, and lots of rocks. I appreciated having my hiking pole for the downhill as my knees are not in the greatest shape. Some of the mileage descriptions didn't jive completely with our GPS, and total hike clocked out at 8.3 miles. I would describe the section of Bird Knob trail after the meadow as old forest road, not white blazed trail, so the description of meeting a forest road is a little confusing when two forest roads meet. There's a portion of the hike after Emerald Pond that is an active Forest Service road (a truck passed asking for directions), and that's kind of unpleasant, but it is only about a half mile, so it's over quickly.

By: GradSchool Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 14, 2019
I was looking for a good long hike after a stressful week. I really enjoyed this one. As others have mentioned, it's easy to miss the parking lot because the visitor's center looked like an abandoned shack or someone's run-down home, so at first I thought it was a private driveway. But my GPS said I had arrived, so I turned around and drove in. There's a small parking lot, which this day had only one other car, and they were clearly wrapping up their hike.

I found the instructions to be clear, the blazes easy to find. The first part of this hike is mainly uphill, which I don't mind but as it was my first longer hike of the season, I was huffing and puffing. Thank goodness for trekking poles! There are several nice campsites to pass if you want to do an overnight (which I would have done had it not been predicted to rain heavily). There are some great views once you finish the ascent, plus a couple of dry camps near the vistas (I would not relish carrying my water up there, but it could make for a lovely view).

Emerald Pond was really, really pretty. I will certainly consider parking on the access road on a nicer day and bringing my boyfriend there for a little camping retreat, though as others note, it is clear this is used as a retreat for locals. I probably wouldn't want to do it on a weekend. There was so much trash, and I cursed myself for not bringing a trashbag with me. Also obvious that these folks chop down smaller trees for fire, which I always hate to see. But it really is a pretty pond.

The rest of the hike is relatively flat and straightforward. The last part described is mainly downhill. I tend to dislike going down more than going up because of my knees, but it was also nice not to feel so winded at the end.

But aside from the other hiker finishing up, I saw no one. Though this was on a rainy day. Overall, I liked this hike and will add it to my go-to list. I don't think I would do it in one day again, unless I could get someone to do the drive home for me! That was honestly the most difficult part at the end of a long day -- making the drive home.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 7, 2018
This was an awesome hike! A bit muddy near the beginning and quite steep but we got through that without much trouble, and the two overlooks are really beautiful. There were hardly any other people out there at the same time as us (we started at ~10 AM on a Saturday and there were maybe 3 or 4 other cars in the parking lot). We stopped to eat lunch at the pond, it was the perfect break, picturesque and cool in the shade. We did the loop on the gravel road and the Massanutten trail, and did wonder a lot about the piles of sand - it was really cool to read the reviews here later saying that they were built by ants! I've never seen anything like it. I'd hike this again, maybe in the fall to see how it changes with the seasons. I'd also agree with an earlier reviewer who said they thought it was more like 10 miles - that's what both my friend's and my fitbits said. It took us about 5.5 hours with a 30 minute-ish stop for lunch.

By: Tater Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 8, 2017
Terrible. Complete waste of time. Nothing but an ugly dried up mud hole. I would recommend driving on up to Skyline Drive.

By: tmr Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 3, 2017
I enjoyed this hike a lot. I expected it to be very busy considering it looks beautiful. The beginning of the trail was the hard part and after that it was easy

By: Karl Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 21, 2016
I hiked this as described, starting at the creepy abandoned visitors center (would be good in a Stephen King movie). The first mile or so is a challenge as you can see from the elevation profile, but taking a few breaks I made it to the top. The trails vary from very rocky to smooth gravel road. The pond is nice and I sat there for a while. There is a tremendous amount of litter at and near a gate close to the pond, and broken beer bottles at the pond -- apparently roads near the pond are accessible to the public and it ends up being a sort of hillbilly retreat. I picked up some trash but it needs a more extensive cleanup. Along one stretch on the way back from the pond there are many mounds produced by the Allegheny mound ant, which is unusual. They can bite so keep your distance.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Parked at the gate near the pond. This took the majority of elevation gain out and made the hike a little over 6 miles. We went counter clock wise to the the view point and enjoyed a nice break there. We then hike to Bird Knob and over to the pond for a lunch break at the end of a 4 hour nice walk in the woods. The trail is reasonably flat except for the initial uphill on the road from our parking spot. The pond had washed out a bit of the berm at the road and required high stepping to keep our boots dry. A lot of trees have been cut down on the dam side of the pond making walking tricky to get to the rock area on the far side where there are rocks for sitting and just taking a break. A nice hike and not strenuous at all if you're not looking for a tough workout but want to enjoy the view and the pond of clear water at the end.

By: Arei Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 12, 2015
Park at he Massanutten Visitor Center, which looks a lot like someone's run down house that they stopped caring for in the 90s but there is a parking lot and two trail heads. The initial trail can be kind of swampy, so bug spray may be desired for the first mile or so. After that you enter the rock zone of this hike... Not quite a scramble, but lots of rocks to step on, over, and around. The entire rock section was just awesome and reminiscent of Frodo climbing Weathertop, lots of fun. The rock field ends just at the first vista which was crazy good. Totally worth the up hill slog.

After the vista things are mostly easy. When you reach the meadow, cross it along the left and follow the road out. stay on the road until you get another road to the left and follow that to the pond. Was beautiful with the fall colors and completely deserted. We had a lovely lunch at the campsite, just us and the dragonflies.

The return trip from the pond up the Massanutten South Trail was far less interesting than the way in. A lot of it is gravel road with little shade and not much excitement. Consider going back the way you came in. If you do take the Massanutten South Trail back make sure to stop and notice the giant ant hills that pop up every so often. Some of the largest I have ever seen in my life. Otherwise completely forgettable.

Finally you will retrace all that uphill work through the rock section, so take your time and be careful with your footing.

Distances described in here are misleading and don't match the posted signs. I would estimate this more at ten miles than eight, but that is just my personal guess.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 10, 2015
We missed the parking lot at the Old Visitor Center and parked about 2 miles up the road past Dan's Steak House. Hiked 2 miles before we got to the intended start point. We've done a good bit of hiking and there was some impressive climbing to this one. It was steep and rocky for over a mile and we were getting a little winded until we got to the first of two vistas. It made it all worth it. We continued on not knowing how far the pond was and came up on several bear hunters (very friendly). Found out that the pond was at least another 1 1/2 miles and we were concerned about light and whether or not to turn back. Seeing a rather large pile of bear poop on the trail sealed the deal and we made the decision to turn back and got back to the parking lot before 6. Hate we missed the pond but there is always next time! p.s. the Old Visitor Center is marked with a Civil War marker and is beside the Park Rangers house. If you get to Dan's Steak House you've gone too far.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Started about 8:30 after driving by the parking area which has no signs that I could see. The climb after the wildflower trail is a good workout with rocky sections. The views are great looking west and the rest of the Bird Knob trail is a nice hike. The pond is very nice and so unexpected in a high location. The camping area is limited and the area is very rocky. The return trail goes from a walk on the road to a nice soft bed of pine. There are many large ant mounds along this section so be careful where you stop. The downhill at the end is a knee buster and made more difficult by being at the end of the hike. I think it would be good to try it starting from the road near the pond and end with a swim and the views more at the halfway point.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 28, 2014
The hike, the trail, the overlook, and the pond are very nice previous visitors suck. We did this hike as a training hike for scouts going to Philmont in August, and its a great training hike. The beginning climb is challenging with a full pack, the kids did great, the old goats were slower. The reward is a great overlook, and a welcomed rest spot. The rest of the trail is easier. It is also a nice trail, with parts that are seemingly very seldom trekked. The kids navigated this entire hike and had no problem following the trail however, beware there are typos in the directions. The fourth directional bullet should read 2.5 miles (rather than 1.5 miles). We set up camp and stayed overnight at the pond. There is not much room at the pond to set up tents, we struggled to set up five two man tents, but ultimately did so. The most disappointing part of this hike was finding all the trash at the pond. Beer bottles, broken chairs, and general trash littered the banks of the pond. The locals use this spot as a late night drinking and skinny dipping hole. We were visited at 0100 hours by four young locals, who park at an access road approximately a quarter mile away and walk in, who were loud, drinking, and skinny dipping. Then they left their empties at the rock. We carried out as much of the trash we could, but it will soon be replaced by kids that certainly do not appreciate the idea of leave no trace.

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 9, 2014
Pretty trail with some great vistas heading in. We hiked this on a somewhat warm but overcast February day and there was still snow and ice on the ground. Sounds like it's much nicer in the warmer weather (minus the rubbish people leave!). Not a difficult trail but it was busy, even on a winter day (several hikers and a few mountain bikers). The pond was beautiful and huge.

By: slackpacker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 9, 2012
This is a really great hike.  The ascent is steady/easy &  the trail is in good shape.  There are also lots of fun formations/scrambles along the route to B-Knob.  I know B-Knob is the highlight, but I plan to return late fall/early winter once the leaves have fallen as I suspect the east views and additional views west are fantastic.  We were short on time & turned back after the second overlook.  One additional note:  I think this is very do-able for 9 y/o and up if you're looking for a kid-friendly trail.

By: Danyl Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 27, 2012
Amazing hike. the start is a huge push but once you pass the rock scramble, its a steady hike to the spring pond.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 19, 2012
I've done this hike twice and never knew when I had reached Bird Knob. Of course, the trail turns away short of Bird Knob, so I never did get there. Who creates and maintains GWNF trails? Are they permanent and unchangeable or could a group work to extend Bird Knob trail to Bird Knob? I don't mind long walks through the woods, but I don't particularly enjoy just walking in circles under the trees I want to get somewhere! Bird Knob trail has signs telling which way to go and how far to Bird Knob, but it never says, "Welcome to Bird Knob! This trail will take you back now."

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Hiked into Bird Knob today ...clear w /some haze, 50-52 degrees, Nice hike and was surprised trail is in good shape, nice views and a fairly descent rock scramble towards the peak, nice nature trail paved (at parking lot area), It is exactly what the site says it is, great place to stretch the legs,  Nice summit and camping area, all in all a nice hike!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 22, 2011
The 1.5-mile hike to vistas makes for a great quick outing if you're in the area. There isn't much to see on the rest of the hike.

I'd say the swimming hole is more like a pond. The water is murky and wasn't an inviting place (at least for me) to take a swim. Much better swimming spots can be found at hikes such as St. Mary's Falls, Riprap Hollow, Moorman's River, etc.

I didn't have any problems finding the swimming hole/pond. After leaving the clearing on the white-blazed trail, keeping heading downhill. As soon as the trail bottoms out and start going uphill, be on the lookout for a forest service road on the left. Take that road to the pond.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 30, 2011 I joined the Strasberg Meet up today since they posted Bird Knob which I'd never done.  The reviews made it sound like an "unfun" hike.  Quite the contrary.  It was delightful today even though it was in the 90s and I'm definitely coming back in the fall to see all the colors.  I would have given it 5 stars but there was about a mile of the Massanutten Trail which was on the boring Federal Service Road.  We never did find the swimming hole along the white blaze Bird Knob trail any tricks to finding it much appreciated.

By: Annie Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 2, 2009
I would rate this as a level 3 difficulty hike up until the point of the 2 vistas, which were spectacular, but the remainder of the hike was too easy. Moreover, when we got to Bird Knob, we saw that the area had been freshly cleared by crawler machines. The ground was muddy and all the vegetation had been pulled up. There didn't seem to be a trail to Bird Knob itself, nor was there a vista, which was a disappointment. The remainder of the trail from there consisted mostly of walking on roads, either grassy or of gravel. The best part of the hike was Pack's Custard Stand! :)

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 7, 2009

This is our second trip on the Bird Knob hike.  We have a 11 month old daughter now that came along for her first hike.   We hiked the entire loop on our first trip in the snow and found it to be very uneventful so this time we did an out & back to the overlooks.  The best part about this hike is the first 1.6 miles, where you earn the views. 

There are several rocks to enjoy the view from so we ended up having one outcropping to ourselves for over an hour.

By: Kurt Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 17, 2008

Nice hike overall. Short (half hour) uphill to some magnificent views of the valley (west). After that, the hike levels off to a pleasant walk through the woods. Didn't see anyone along the trail today - except for a blacksnake, ringneck snake, and lots of scarily enormous red ant mounds on the orange loop back (seriously, some of these mounds were 10 feet across and 3 feet high; don't stand close for long!) Lots of late blackberries and blueberries along the way, too. The swimming hole is pretty, clean, and cool. Today there were several local folks there who drove in via the fire road. If nobody's there it's worth the stop.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 25, 2008

This was a great hike!  Be prepared for steep climb initially, but the views from the top are spectacular!  On the way up there is a great rock wall to the left. The kids loved it.  We were fortunate enough to see two Pink Ladies Slippers off the path near the rock wall. There are no signs anywhere for Bird Knob Trail. However, the trail is well marked.

By: Andy Simpson Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 24, 2007
The panoramic views were excellent.  I havn't hiked this trail in the spring or summer but I would recommend this hike for the winter.  There was 5 inches of snow//ice sitll covering the trail, which turned the 3 difficulty rating into a 5.

Overall it was a good hike, and the Bird knob circle is very very uneventful.

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