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Signal Knob - Front Royal, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
9.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

5.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,680 ft with two different ascents
George Washington National Forest
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Signal Knob parking area on 678/Fort Valley Rd. 38.93498, -78.31996

The Signal Knob hike in the George Washington National Forest has spectacular views of Strausburg VA. in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as Buzzard Rock in Fort Valley to the east. Signal Knob, at 2,106ft, gets its name as both Confederate and Union troops used it as a lookout during the Civil War. The Confederate Signal Corps controlled the outlook from 1862 until August 14, 1864, when Union troops defeated the 61st Georgia Volunteer Infantry and took control of the peak.

  • Mile 0.0 - Start the hike from the right side of the Signal Knob parking area. The trail is blazed orange which designates it as part of the Massanutten Trail. Start uphill on the orange blazed trail then shortly pass an old stone house on your left, cross a small stream, then follow the trail around the eastern section of the mountain.
  • Mile 1.5 - Arrive at the Buzzard Rock Overlook. The trail will take a hairpin turn back to the south and becomes significantly more rocky. In 0.9 miles from the Buzzard Rock Overlook the trail turns back to the north passing another nice vista of Fort Valley. Continue to follow the orange blazed trail as it becomes less steep, then passes several nice camp spots just before arriving at the intersection of the Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 3.4 - Pass the Meneka Peak Trail on the left, continuing on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail as it winds around the ridge to your right and passing a transmission tower in another 0.8 miles.
  • Mile 4.3 - Arrive at the Signal Knob lookout area. The lookout has some nice views north of the Shenandoah Valley and Strausburg VA. The Massanutten Trail continues as a orange blazed gravel road now descending the mountain to the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail the crosses the road.
  • Mile 5.5 - Turn left on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail crossing Little Passage Creek, then ascend Green Mountain/Meneka Peak where you arrive at the ridge line, and white blazed Meneka Peak Trail.
  • Mile 6.3 - Cross over the ridge and proceed downhill remaining on the blue blazed trail as it winds back and forth through the Bear Wallow area.
  • Mile 7.1 - Pass the pink blazed Sidewinder Trail on your right.
  • Mile 8.2 - Pass a white blazed connector trail for Elizabeth Furnace. Continue straight on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail as it winds around the mountain then arrives at a flatter area close to the valley, and an intersection where the blue blazed trail turns right downhill towards Fort Valley Rd./VA678
  • Mile 9.3 - Continue straight on the orange blazed Massanutten Trail (this section was formerly the the Tuscarora Spur Trail and was reblazed in 2002) as it descends slightly, then parallels Fort Valley Rd./VA678.
  • Mile 9.9 - Arrive back on the left side of the Signal Knob parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Signal Knob Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 16, 2018
A great hike with a very accessible trailhead! I did it for the second time today (having done it in December too). It is a pretty typical local mountain hike with lots of rock, good for building ankle strength. Since it is summer, the views are not as open as they are in the winter. We did not see anyone else until running into some mountain bikers late on the descent. Having a good local loop hike with good altitude gain is special. It can be done in around 3:30 with a steady pace.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 28, 2018
This is easily one of my favorite hikes in the area. Decent elevation gains and gorgeous views as you're right at the tip of the range. I've done this loop counter-clockwise, but I think it would be more enjoyable as a clockwise loop. There are definitely pros and cons:

Doing this hike counter-clockwise, you get to do the 1-mile boring section of the fire road going downhill which is a plus. But you also have some killer switchbacks to deal with after the fire road to get back up to the top of the ridge.

A clockwise hike affords much more gradual uphill section at the beginning, but you have to do the boring fire road part uphill, too, which I'd imagine makes it more tedious. The major upside to doing this hike clockwise is that the awesome views will be near the end resulting in a great payoff and a lot more things to look at while you're tired and going downhill.

If you want to make this loop slightly shorter and avoid the fire road completely, you could take the Meneka Peak trail. Taking the Meneka Peak trail means you don't have to leave the ridge only to climb back up. You'd save about 2 miles and probably save some energy-- though I'm not sure how rocky that particular shortcut is.

By: Adith Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 15, 2017
I agree with those saying you should hike it counter clockwise, the rocks are hard and especially when the leaves fall its something id rather do fresh. The trail was fun and easy to follow, but definitely and ankle buster, and no real views. Signal knob was a pretty narrow view out over the area. Not recommended for novices, and probably would be more fun if you camped in the middle.

By: Sam S. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Don't bother going on this hike. There's nothing but rocks under your feet the entire time which means your ankles will be killing you by the time you're done. Even if you persevere through the rocky terrain your given a mediocre view that its right next to a loud power station and has a pole with power lines right at the overlook. The hike itself took my friends and I about 7 hours to do the entire loop and I honestly cannot think of a section of it that I enjoyed. Genuinely a bad hike I would not recommend to anyone. I'm not sure why the ratings are so high.

By: DK Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 16, 2017
I have done this hike a couple of times and really like it. It's never too crowded, it's a good work out, and there are some pretty cool views. We took our dog and he did pretty well even though the first half is rocky. We completed the hike in just under 5 hours and we stopped at the overlook for about 15 min. It is sunnier than some other nearby hikes so bring a hat or sunscreen.

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