Weekend Backpacker: Baltimore

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
By Leonard Adkins
  |  Gorp.com
Blue Ridge Parkway

Nearly 2,000 miles of pathways course through more than 1,700,000 acres of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Rising out of the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, Massanutten Mountain's hundreds of acres provide grand hiking, backpacking, and camping opportunities.

A circuit hike of just over 50 miles begins near the Elizabeth Furnace Campground and takes in both of the mountain's major ridges. Ascend four and a half miles along Signal Knob Trail to a grandstand view of the northern reaches of the Shenandoah Valley. During the Civil War, the Confederacy used this spot to watch the movement of Union troops. From Signal Knob, hook up with the Massanutten Mountain Trail North to do some ridgeline walking southward for 17 miles to VA 675. Along the way, you can climb Woodstock Observation Tower overlooking the famous horseshoe bends of the North Fork Shenandoah River. Follow Bowman Mountain Trail south from VA 675 for several miles and turn left onto VA 730. A mile of road walking brings you to a left onto Massanutten Mountain Trail East, which you'll follow for almost 22 miles before you descend the Tuscarora Trail to return to your car.

Drive south on I-95 for 25 miles, then head west on I-495 for 22 miles. Take 1-66 West for 52 miles and take Exit 6 onto U.S. 340 South. About one mile later, turn right onto VA 55, watching for the left turn onto VA 678 in less than 10 miles. The trailhead is on the right after about three and a half miles.

No permits required.

Rough and rocky, lots of ups and downs; water can be scarce.

George Washington National Forest Visitor Map.

Adventure Guide to Virginia; 50 Hikes in Northern Virginia; Circuit Hikes of Massanutten Mountain.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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