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Hiker Comments for the Sugar Knob Hike - 1 to 24 of 24   
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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: 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: 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 ( 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 thestream in many places.

By: Cali Guy Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 19, 2011
This was a challenging hike for me that enjoyed very much, even in the downpour in the last 1/3. I got slightly confused at the clearing, but worked out the route after finding the Old Mail junction. One thing I should mention is that the little plank bridge shown with two pictures here at the end is nowhere in sight at the streambank. I chose to just trudge through the water and continue to the parking area wet. Carry lots of water or bring tablets for the stream water.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 1, 2011
This was my second backpacking trip & it was exactly as described by others. I had a great time and loved all the stream crossings. There are a few things I'd like to note.

When you get to Racer Hollow it says there are several camping spots. There are only 3 well established sites. The first one you hit immediately the next one is I'd say another mile and a half down the way and the third not long after that one. I passed the first one thinking it would be easy to find another one but there are a lot of boulders on this section of trail and not much flat space to pitch a tent. I finally settled near a small creek only to find the next morning I was around the corner from an established site.

When you are looking for the pink blazed trail where it says you reach the wildlife clearing you actually hit two before you hit the one you need. I didn't read that far along in the directions and had to hike back up a half a mile or so to check out the first one (which was also the biggest) before continuing on down.

The gates on the FS road have changed too. The first one you arrive at is only about a tenth of mile down the road. It's not for a half mile after that you hit the one mentioned (which is only posts now without a gate).

It was definitely a good beginners trip. There were a ton of stream crossings and a lot of mud but I didn't mind and neither did my dogs. I only ran into a few hikers and some people on horseback. I definitely plan to hike this area of the GW forest again.

I highly recommend bringing a walking stick of some sort. My staff was a life saver many times!


By: Mike A Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 3, 2010

This hike is very easy to get to from 66, though if you're going by Google directions, you could have difficulty finding the trail if you following them exactly. From 66 W to 81 S, you get on 55 W. Aftera bout 20 miles on 55, the directiosn say make a left onto Waites Run Rd--- this is incorrect. I think it has been noted previously that Waites Run Rd not called this at this point-- it's called Sanfield Rd (also marked with a 5/1 in a small white circle). It's fairly close to a gas station / car wash. Besides that, very easy to get to.

Did mostthis hike in combination with White Rocks. A nice slow uphill hike through the woods, most of the time along a creek. Not terribly difficult but tiring with a full backpack on. Nothing overly notable about this hike--but nice. No great overlooks or water features, and not a lot of wildlife (2 deers and a fat squirrel).

There is a large campsite along Racer Camp Trail at the intersection of the orange and blue trails to the south. nice fire ring, and a handy board/counter nailed into a tree that was useful for cooking.

We had the trail mostly to ourselves the first day of hiking, only passing a group of others setting up a campsite. Ran into a few others on day 2--but not at all crowded.

Overall, a beautiful weekend and nice to get out. The trail was well blazed and easy to follow, and generally pretty nice.

By: Aaron Bagby Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 29, 2010
There's been some good reviews written here, so I'll just reiterate a few points and add my own experiences. The trailhead is on the right hand side and easy to miss. There's a large faded brown sign and the trail goes uphill with the run. Later in the season or during a dry spell, water is scarce beyond the first mile or so. Both of the Springs noted on the trail map were dry when I went, so carry extra water accordingly. The climb of Mill Mtn is pretty challenging and consistently steep. When backpacking, I'd strongly recommend solid boots and/or trekking poles if you're carrying more than 20% of your own weight. The main campsites I found on and near the Pond Run Trail were as follows: -Roughly 1 mile in where the run forks on R (good spot for quick access and water) -1st intersection at the lookout trail (highly recommended for view access) -Before 2nd intersection (Stony Creek Trail) on right (flat area w/ lots of space and nice ring) -Down Stony Creek Trail past Sugar Knob Camp 1/4 mile on left (I camped here - neat although somewhat uneven site) I ended up heading back down the Pond Run Trail at this point, as I was running low on water and didn't want to rely on luck or dehydration. So, the rest of my review only covers that section. In the Summer, you are under a fairly dense canopy most of the time. This is ideal for hotter days, but can also obscure the views. During late August, the bugs were noisy at night and fairly pervasive at camp, so I kept the spray handy. Didn't see many ticks, but lots of horseflies (a few monsters) and other flying insects. Not a whole lot of wildlife aside from a few squirrels and an owl that watched me and my dogs for a good hour. Overall, this is a nice trail that is well-maintained and very scenic. The quick hike down the lookout trail is absolutely worth it and a very nice place to relax and have lunch while soaking in the view. There is some interesting fauna and rock formations along the trail and nice solitude, as I only saw one other hiker the whole time on a weekend. With plentiful campsites and easy access from DC, this can be done over the weekend with time to explore and just enjoy the woods. 3 1/2 stars. A HUGE thanks for the HikingUpward folks for this incredible resource. You guys are much appreciated!!!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 30, 2010
I was initially a little apprehensive about going on this hike since every time I have hiked in the GWNF, it has been a little disapointing. The beginning of this hike was great. 8 stream crossing in the beginning 2.5 miles were a lot of fun and made the first leg of the trip a 5 rating. It was a lot of fun even though it had stormed the night before and it was extremely humid and very slippery on the first part. If we had ended there, this would be one of my favorite hikes. The next 10 miles or so (we extended the trip wider by avoiding Racer Camp Trail to see White Rocks which was OK) were a little monotonous and were a walk in the woods. Nothing remarkable at all although I did see a lot more hikers than I would have guessed. Probably more hikers than I may see in the Shenandoahs on any given trail. The 1.5mile road walk was a huge letdown and I thought it would have been better to do the road walk first and end at the car rather than the way listed. It was great to get outside but it may be fun to do a 2.5 miles up and then back down which would encompass all the exciting parts and save the rest of the day for somewhere else. Did see 2 box turtles on the way in which was very cool.

By: J&D Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 30, 2008
My husband, dog, and I just got back from this hike - it was beautiful! We did this as a backpacking trip spread out over two nights. I am a beginner, and this was well-suited to my level - challenging, but not overwhelming. A few months ago for my first hike, we did the first part of Little Schloss, which was way too much for me. But Sugar Knob was perfect.

Sugar Knob has gorgeous streams - we slept next to a stream each night. Not much for views though. We saw several other groups, but it was Labor Day weekend after all (we had the campsites all to ourselves). As far as pests, we had some mosquitos, flies, and bees - but no ticks! I guess it depends on when you go. Our dog usually gets a ton of ticks.

Overall, I highly recommend this hike! Be sure to bring the Hiking Upward directions - they're incredibly accurate (great site).

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 21, 2008

***Ticks*** Just posting this as a warning to anyone hiking Sugar Knob or any hike in the area. This morning Idid about a mile of the hike with my dog. A mile in I notice two ticks on his face near his eye - upon further inspection we found about10 more at that point. We decided do head back b/c of the number of ticks. When we reach the car and inspected him again we pulled another 10-12 off. In all today I believe I have fould 50-60 ticks from the mile up and back.

I it were just us we could have continued on but it was not worth it with the dog. Thx.

By: MEL Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 26, 2006
A very pretty, secluded hike, which we enthusiastically endorse. Didn't see anyone the entire 2 days. A few points of clarification/elaboration: Disagree with the directions on route 5/1. It is 5 miles not 5.5. The easiest way to know if you are in the right place is to park immediately after the first bridge you cross. At that point, park, and then you can access the trailhead by backtracking across the bridge and down the road about 100 yards.The trailhead will be on your left.Highly recommend taking the white blazed trail for the view/lookout.This is by far the best view on the hike and a truly inspiring view on a nice day. A good place for a break. We passed--directly on the trail--2 large, sleeping rattlesnakes about a mile or so past the lookout.Lots of established camping sites as you turn onto the Racer Camp Hollow Trail. In fact, a little too established to feel like you are in the 'backcountry'.You will, however, have to go a good mile or so beyond this area to find water and camping spots. Directions to the Old Mail Path are very misleading. Don't worry about finding the right wildlife 'clearing,' as there are several such clearings that make such an endeavor impossible. Try the far easier way of finding the path -- the amazingly obvious TRAIL SIGN on the left. It cannot be missed.

By: Bohnfire Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 17, 2006
Directions to the trail and trail description are mostly accurate, however some clarification is necessary. Parking for the Sugar knob loop is just beyond the bridge over Waite's Run on the LEFT, but the trail-head, Pond Run Trail, is located just BEFORE the bridge over Waite's Run on the RIGHT and it is pretty well hidden especially during the summer months.Secondly, when the trial decription says to turn left on the orange-blazed Racer Camp Hollow trail as it passes several great camping spots, be aware that once you pass these camping spots (which do not have accessto flowing water),there is not another suitable camping spot for another 1.6 miles. The Racer Camp Hollow campsites are close to the halfway point- we passed them by in search of water but did not find another campsite for almost two miles. I have not done this hike during the winter but would imagine that the views are much better without all the leaves...

Note: Bohnfire, it should also be possible to park on the left side of Waites Run Road 70 yards before the bridge. See Photo

By: Mike Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, June 12, 2006
All info listed here is still 100% accurate. Season has been very dry this year but water was plentiful during the entire hike, even along the ridge. There is a great camp site when first reaching ridge (this in my opinion was the nicest site on the loop). We camped further on at the Sugar Knob Camp area. There is a spring below the shelter owned by the PATC (locked but for rent I understand). No views at this camp. We had heavy rains all night and I wished wed brought a tent rather than a tarp. Temperature reached into the low 40s. Rain stopped shortly after sunrise. Hike back to the car was very muddy in areas due in great part from horse travel on the trail, especially the Racer Camp Hollow Trail. There are lots of connecting trails and opportunities to create other loops and/or side trips. Well be back to explore more. I believe if I were to do it again Id try returning via Tuscarora Trial, over White Rocks for the view and then down Old Mail Trial. See the description for White Rocks Hike Number 27.

By: M. R. Hyker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 2, 2005
Need more views? Combine this hike with Hiking Upward's White Rocks hike described here. It only adds about a mile to the trip. You'll have a few more 100 feet of elevation gain but they are unbelievably easy. The short rock scramble to get to the White Rocks overlook is both challenging and rewarding. We had perfect weather with low humidity and temps altough there was a bit of a haze in the valleys. The toughest part is the hike up Pond Run. To loosen up before the climb we parked at the pull over near the old farm gate about 1 mile further up from where the forest road crosses Waites Run and walked down to the trailhead.

By: M Lutz Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 14, 2005
Thanks so much for this website--directions(both road & trail) were excellent. Sugar Knob hike was great--I did it solo so the directions provided were of utmost importance. Only one good view of the Valley but I knew that going in. All of the streams and creeks were very nice--good background noise while hiking alone. Not too strenuous--a challenge but nothing too bad. Water was plentiful and reliable. Saw a couple different groups of hikers but other than that it was a nice pleasant, quiet hike.

By: Dean Simmons Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 1, 2005
Hiked this with two NVHC friends on New Years Day. There are 8 stream crossings on Pond Run and 8 more coming down Waites Run along Racer Camp Trail. Both stream valleys are very scenic and the view from the top on Mill Mountain is great. I've hiked this twice and seen only two other people each time. Old Mailpath offers an alternative back and allows access to the White Cliff overlook. Overall, either version is excellent. Thanks for your first rate web site!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 29, 1910
We combined this hike with the Gerhard Shelter hike for a 19 mile circuit, 2 night backpack. The hike up Pond Run to Sugar Knob is definitely exhausting. We went the day after it had rained and the rocks were very slippery and it was very humid. It took us a lot longer to get to the top with our big packs on than we had planned (nearly 2 hours with lots of stopping to catch our breaths). We were glad to be going up this than down as it would have been rough on my knees and very slick. We ran out of time to check out the lookout but wish we had since we never made it to White Rocks and instead went down Racer Camp looking for water and a campsite. I recommend filling up at the Sugar Knob cabin spring and carrying it with you as you have to go down Racer Camp a ways before you find water. With the rain the day before and the 30 minute storm that rolled through that afternoon, Racer Camp became very slick and mucky. We tried to find a level spot for a tent but the wet ground made it difficult to find an adequate spot. We eventually found a campsite and got set up shortly before dark. After hiking a little over 6 miles we were exhausted. Apparently there was a honey bee hive nearby because we were visited by very interested bees the next morning. We got out of there and made breakfast further down the trail, which by that point had turned into a muddy mess that was very slow going. To get over to the Gerhard trail, we continued straight on the red blazed fire road rather than heading down the valley on the Old Mail Trail and then turning right on Wilson Cove Trail. The fire road walk was very nice, with short grass and some clearings to give you perspective on where you were in the valley. The road eventually meets up with the Wilson Cove and Vance's Cove trails at the WV/VA border. For a review on the rest of the trip, please see the Gerhard Shelter trail description.

Overall, I give the trip a 3. There are no views on this hike unless you take the side trip to the lookout or venture up to White Rocks. We wished we had stocked up on water at the cabin knowing now how far down Racer Camp you'd have to go to get water. By that point we didn't want to hike back up the wet and slippery trail to get back to the intersection and then head onto White Rocks. This hike did have nice stream views but it did feel like hiking in a tunnel of green. It is nice to have shade but with the rain the day before and the afternoon storm, it was uncomfortably humid. The campsites we saw were very nice and most have enough room for a 2-3 tents. The nice perk was a decision to head down the fire road as it was breezy and pleasant. For someone looking to get over to the Gerhard Shelter trail this is a nice option, though it lacks water sources. We saw no wildlife on the trail and only a lonely hiker that morning.

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