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Hiker Comments for the Great North Mountain Hike - 1 to 16 of 16   
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By: Babbling Brooke Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 25, 2019
This trail is outright dangerous! Iíve been hiking for many years and have seen many good and bad trails. If you are thinking about doing the loop thatís laid out in the description, be prepared for the potential of danger. If you want an adventure, and feel the need to do the entire loop, think about completing this hike in late fall, before it snows and the clear cut is less dense. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt the loop when the ground is wet.

The hike to the falls along the Falls Ridge Trail is simple, enjoyable and worth the time. The North Mountain Trail is well marked, yet poorly maintained, with limited views of the Shenandoah Valley. Long sections of this trail are overgrown, with dense foliage, tickets, and briars in many sections, it felt like a bushwhack. Itís a good idea to wear long pants. I wore shorts and came out of the hike with many scratches.

Once I reached the radio tower, saw the gas pipeline clear cut, I returned the way I came. During the summer, the clear cut is dense. After exploring the clear cut, I discovered a steep slope, with tall grass, at least 3ft Ė 4ft high, dense, and thick. There are many briars and thickets. The ground is littered with large and small rocks, and stumpy. In wet conditions, the large rocks are an accident waiting to happen. One slip, who knows when youíre going to stop tumbling. In addition to the dangerous conditions of the descent, I was concerned about snakes. This environment is a wonderful habitat for timber rattlers and copper heads. If I had snake proof gaiters, I would have carefully considered completing the descent.

If you are intent on doing the loop, there are other options. Several miles down the forest service road, it intersects with the blue trail, near a road side memorial. While I didnít explore this option myself, it looks like a possible alternate to descending the clear cut.

I hope this helps. :)

By: aldikuma Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 26, 2015
I really enjoyed this hike, but I think it depends on what kind of hiker you are. I prefer a lot of change in scenery and challenges. I definitely got these!

I didn't read all the way through the previous posters or I would've seen the description for what's off the red blazed trail halfway up the ascent on the yellow trail (waterfall and rock scramble). I'll know for next time! It's very obvious, off to your left, with a large cairn and small red blazes.

The hike is the standard GWNF hike till you get to the towers, with a few nice views along the way. There are two campsites on the right within a half mile of the towers. The descent down the pipeline clearings is VERY steep, and watch for the thorny vines and countless small stumps that can trip you up - best to really take your time (took me 45 minutes to get down with my weak knee). And there were SO MANY gnats out today, especially on the descent. It was definitely interesting and challenging, though. As the previous hiker states, stay to the left so you can see the blue trail, which is very clearly marked (though no rock pile anymore).

Finding the purple trail wasn't too difficult if you keep track of your distance on the blue. Though you will not see a purple blaze till you walk into the trail, the wide trailhead is marked by a pink ribbon and small cairn resting on a large cut tree. After about 10-15 minutes on the purple trail, you will come to a clear cutting on your right as you go uphill, then to a small clearing with a fire pit. On your right you will see a wooden post with what looks like a white blaze. It's not - it's light purple (and where you continue on). To your left is the blue blazed FS road (also marked with a light blue blaze on a post). Both take you back. If you continue on the purple, you will not see a blaze for a while, don't worry - they become more frequent as you move into older forest. The trail is very obvious.

I really liked this hike and it was a great workout. I didn't see anyone all day, it was recently used by horseback riders. If you really want to get a workout, do it clockwise! I probably wouldn't do this in summer, though, as the foliage and trail growth will be very thick, lowering the views and increasing the risk of ticks. It was fairly overgrown in spots already.

By: LMHHIKE Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 4, 2013
Did this hike on a fairly hot, humid day. I have done North Mountain before but don't remember so much high grass as was encountered today on the ridgeline. And the pipeline descent was horrendous. Unlike the photo, the "trail" is covered in scree, small and fairly large trees, and rocks of assorted sizes. Not pleasant.

Falls Ridge Trail was fine, as I have found it in the past. I would give this hike a pass as written up here. Maybe take a right on North Mtn. once you ascend on the Falls Ridge Trail in order to avoid the pipeline which adds nothing to this hike.

By: Mountain Girl Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 13, 2013
My husband and I did this as a birthday hike, and we loved the 65+ degree weather (in January!!!) and the fact that we had the entire trail to ourselves all day long. There were a couple of okay views, and we definitely got our heart rates up in a few places. However, that's really all the good that we can say about this hike. Due to the logging, a lot of the latter part of the hike looked terrible--fallen trees, open, eroded land, and blazes on tons of trees. The worst part of all was, we looked REALLY carefully for the purple blazes. I mean, REALLY carefully. We amazingly found some purple blazes and were so excited! We veered to the right and crossed two streams, just like the directions said. But something felt wrong about it. Sure enough, about a mile later, we came back out on the blue-blazed trail...back before we had ever gotten off on the purple trail. By this time, it was dark and the bats were out. We felt like we were in the Twilight Zone. We just followed the blue-blazed trail back to the yellow, but it wasn't much fun at all. I don't really recommend this hike unless you're just looking for a day of solitude and don't really care too much about the scenery.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 17, 2012
As other reviewers have noted, the trail is rather long but without any discernible reward or benefit. The hike has a steep section in the beginning, leading up to the orange section, but besides that is not physically challenging. The long walk on the ridge is dominated by tall grass and the trail is frequently akin to bushwhacking at parts. The oddest of all section is the descent (rather steep, along loose rocks and thick brush) along the "clearing" over natural gas pipelines: one must wonder why they routed a hiking path through this most useless section, for it is neither enjoyable nor rewarding. Challenging, yes, espcially if one has a heavy pack, which I did. All fine, the hike would have remained just unremarkable but for the badly marked and rather confusing second half of the hike. Calculating which slope to go down from the radio tower and finding the purple trail were very trying. The purple trail (evidently) joins up with the blue trail at an angle that one must look behind as they are walking forward, or might miss it. This indeed did happen to me- but luckily the blue trail joins up with the yellow trail eventually, and turning right on that leads back to the start, albeit a bit longer than if the purple had been found.

Overall, lots of small to moderate difficulties for neither good views, nor good physical challenge. Poorly marked trailheads. I wouldn't do this trail again because it seems a haphazard patchmark of sections of forest but for those who do try it, some pointers:

-Wear pants, because (at least in the summer) a significant majority of the trail is amongst high grasses, and the descent along the gas pipeline clearings is fraught with thorny stalks and high grasses that can scratch up one's legs.

-Continue up the hill past the radio tower installation, on its right side, and at the very top, the orange trail will continue to your right. To the left of the orange trail, there two parallel pipeline paths are present. Take the path to the left (farthest from the continuing orange trail), since the blue trail head will be on the left side of this path after it flattens out.

-Keep a close watch out for the purple trailhead from the blue trail. I couldn't find it but perhaps it was because I did not look hard enough as the purple trail joins up more or less facing away from the direction one is walking. If you miss the purple trail, not to worry, just continue on the blue till you gradually climb on and off along the wide and sometimes gravel-laden path, and you will intersect the yellow train eventually, and take a right on that to return to the bus and back to parking lot.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 4, 2011
About a mile from the radio tower I saw a large male bear on the trail. It was in the area of several anthills. It walked toward me, stood on its hind legs and did not display any aggression. I banged rocks and yelled, and the bear got off the trail. I decided not to continue to the pipeline, which was a good idea anyway as a thunderstorm was approaching. It will be interesting to revisit this area in a few years to see how the forest recovers from logging. †

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 16, 2011
I have gone on several strenuous hikes in around GWNF and this was by far the most difficult hike I've been on. I added a few side excursions and lost my directions and had to backtrack up the steepest part of the hike which increased the hike distance to about 16-18 miles. The toughest part was the terrain, almost the entire hike was uneven and rocky making it very difficult to keep a fast pace (Prefer to average 3-4miles/hour, but with the terrain it was down around 2miles/hr).

Hike started off nicely, but the trail quickly became a steep accent. At the bus, go right and follow the yellow blaze. About 1/3 of the way up the yellow blaze, there is a red blazed trail to the left that will take you down to a small waterfall and a great rock scrabble. I highly recommend adding this into your hike. The decent and following accent were very steep, but was well worth the time spent down near the waterfall.

On the orange blaze there is a ton of tall grass, so please beware of ticks. I also passed three massive 3-4 feet red ant mounts, so be careful not to get attacked. It was quite the scene if you disturbed the ants causing them to fly into a frenzy. There aren't many views due to tree cover, but there is a nice one about half way down the orange blaze. Once you reach the radio tower continue until you see two large clearings (they are parallel, so you can go down either one). They called this the green blaze, but there is no blaze or trail. It is a very difficult decent and of course I didn't realize I left my trail itinerary at the top until I reached the bottom, so had to backtrack up the mountain to find my directions. Of course, it's the one day I didn't have my back up and this hike was too far west for my PATC maps.

Once the decent levels out, make sure you're on the left so you can see the blue blaze trail. There are tons of blackberries and raspberries that were delicious and safe to eat. Note: There is logging operations in the area which made the hike very confusing from this point. The loggers would spray paint trees the same color as the blue blaze, making it confusing. In addition, they have cut down so many trees that the environment has completely changed. Where there used to be trees is now just open land, so I found what I thought was the purple blaze and went down the trail for a mile until it just didn't feel right. There was no purple blaze down this path. It was getting dark at this point, so instead of risking getting lost in the dark I back tracked back to the blue blazed trail which I knew led me back to the yellow blaze and back to my car.

I was out there for about 10 hours and literally did not see one person the entire time. There aren't many views, but if you truly want a challenging forest hike this is a great one to try. The small waterfall side excursion was a great addition to the hike (about 1.5 additional miles). I would recommend this hike again, but just be very careful not to get lost.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 9, 2011
We actually combined this hike and the Laurel Run hike by skipping the Falls Ridge trail and completing the entire 6.2 North Mountain segment, returning via the Laurel Run trail (skipping the Stack Rocks segment as well). I estimate this made the trail about 15 total miles. Since we started in the evening, we hiked the hike in reverse order, going up the gas pipeline and the over the ridge, camping at a fantastic campsite not far from the observation tower on the ridge. We were able to return to the parking lot area by 11:00 a.m. the next morning.

Really great views. I could have done without some of the road walking, but we beat the heat with some nice elevation and we look forward to returning in the winter when the views will really open up. Nice addition to the repertoire if you are looking for another hike in the area and have done Halfmoon, Big Schloss, White Rocks, etc.

By: Elena Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 15, 2011
Yes, Virginia there is a waterfall for Fall Ridge Trail!† About halfway up the yellow trail there will be a smaller trail to the left marked with red as well as red stone markers.† Just follow the red trail down to the waterfall bottom.† Soon the rest of the trail will be marked for the upper part of the falls as well as a back trail that leads to the purple train that ends the Falls Ridge Trail.

By: Lubos Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 24, 2011
Awesome hike indeed. Did it in the opposite, clockwise direction (went up the gas line) which I think worked out much better. It's steep going up, but then the rest of the hike is gradually downhill. Plus my knees prefer steep ascent over a steep descent. The purple trail was really muddy - basically a creek bed - so bring waterproof shoes. Highly recommended, I'll definitely be coming back, possible extending the hike by walking along the ridge North Mountain trail longer. Amazing views from the ridge.

By: Andy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 12, 2011
Excellent hike.† Came out on a whim and was very much pleasantly surprised at the views and solitude of it.† One note is that the purple trail is now marked by a white mark on a marker.† No pretense of being purple anymore.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 5, 2011
Excellent hike despite the rain and wind (mainly on the ridge line).† The yellow and orange trails were well blazed, except for the trail area going past the radio tower installation.† Note:† It was quite foggy when I approached the installation and†I didn't notice it until†I was within†about 50-75 feet of†it.† †However, the double pipeline cutouts were easily found after passing the installation.† There is also a campfire site in the first pipeline was filled with cigarette butts.† No problem in finding the blue trail after descending the cutouts, however I would suggest staying to the left side of the cutout(s) after crossing the FS road.† The purple trail is identified by a very whitish purple blaze on a post at the trail entrance (after crossing a logging area), but there was maybe one or two blazes after that.† Plan do this again when the weather gets warmer.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 17, 2006
The last time we hiked this was in April/2003. It was a rainy day and the mountain was totally socked in. Today it was sunny w/o hardly a cloud in the sky. This time we had a couple of nice vistas although the summer haze has already started to settle in. With temps already in the high 80s by the time we started the hike, the intial assault to the ridge top took a lot of effort. Once there, however, it was an easy walk for several miles. The North Mountain Tr was literally lined with Fly Poison (in the Lily family) in its prime.† To avoid some of the steep and sunny pipeline swath we used a gravel road mentioned here. Its bank was full of Gray Beardtounge (a flower in the Snapdragon Family). The descent along the pipeline swath was hard on the ankles since a lot of it is lose dirt and stone but once we made it to the bottom it was smooth sailng. We couldn't wait to get on the Fat Mt Tr to regain a feeling of 'woodsieness' you lose on the pipeline and fire roads.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 17, 2005
I did this hike after an ice storm. Stupid. I didn't realize before the initial ascent that, not only had the prior week's heavy snowfall not melted at the higher elevations, but that, on top of which, the most recent storm had deposited close to an inch of solid ice. The base of the hike was deceptive, to say the least. The hiking conditions by the parking lot were unrestricting, and the scenery beautiful. I was psyched. by the time I reached the ridgeline, every step had become a deliberate struggle -- a heavy stomp, followed by a high-step, followed by a heavy stomp, and so forth. Cleats wouldnt have helped; the powder beneath the ice wouldnt support much weight. Snowshoes would have been disastrous (cleated snowshoes?).

With all that ice and snow around, yes... the views were spectacular. Need I comment on the solitude? alright, yes, I was the only knucklehead on the trail that day. Very peaceful as well. I couldn't even hear any road noise; that is, when I stopped to listen between long periods of smashing windows with my feet. This hike gets five stars from me on any other day of the year.

Notes: the purple trail on the return is not well marked. I was quite surprised to find it and felt rather lucky after having done so. Also, the road sign at the right hand turn in front of the big church indicates 702 not 701 -- though it is in fact 701. (702 makes a left immediately thereafter, I believe).

By: Chad Rudolph Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 12, 2005
Great hike. The ridgeline gives you a chance to make up time. We spotted a black bear cub walking our way on the ridge about mid way through, but he left us alone and ran the other direction. Keep an eye out for overturned stones on Great North Mt. Trail. If you see a cub, watch for his or her mommy. :) We were also greeted, moreso attacked by two grouse; who ran at us with the fearlessness of a badger; who apparently were protecting nests in the brush near the trail. The bear left us alone, but we were attacked by birds. Go figure. Also spotted a timber rattler not far from the trail. There is much solitude to be had on this hike. The ridge walking was great. Views were ok. The gas line right-of-way is dangerous if you have a heavy pack and you get up some speed. It is VERY steep in some areas. It was nice to see a stream at the bottom and even nicer to filter some very cold fresh stream water into the nalgenes. Great hike. Long, but not very hard or grueling at all. Enjoyable, and would (will) definitely do it again soon. -C

By: MRHyker Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 10, 2003
Since the lower Laurel Run FR gate was open Don and I were able to start the hike at the junction of the Laurel Run Connector Trail and the Falls Ridge Trail. That made the hike 10.5 miles long. It was a cloudy, rainy day and we had decided to hike UP the pipeline. (A review of the elevation profile shows little difference between going up the swath or the High Falls Trail.) Part way up we reached a gravel county road. We happily waved good-bye to the swath and followed the road, which has a long, gentle switchback to it, all the way to the top. All along the ridge we could sense views from the rock outcrops that Mr. Upward had later captured with his camera but at that point we were 100% socked in. I remember the descent on Falls Ridge Trail being quite knee-jarring. I think the pain is worth it for the views and solitude but I'll tell you something, if it's not a good day for views, chose another one of these great hikes. Oh ... call the Lee Ranger District of the GWNF to find out when the lower Laurel Run Gate is open.

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