The Woodstock Tower hike is a fairly easy hike in the Lee Ranger District of George Washington National Forest that leads to a fire tower with 360-degree views of the surrounding area.
After parking in the Little Fort Campground area, we headed up for our hike to Woodstock Tower. The white-blazed Wagon Road/Nature Trail starts off as a rough fire road and after .1 mile, intersects with Peters Mill Run. Peters Mill Run is an ATV/OHV trail, so look both ways before crossing this popular trail for ATVs and motorcycles. Continue straight across Peters Mill Run to connect to the trail again. The trail does go steadily up with a few switchbacks, but the switchbacks really make the trail easier of a climb. The first switchback comes in around .25 miles and the second switchback comes around .5 miles. After the second switchback, the trail does become steeper, but it ends after just a couple tenths of a mile. At .7 miles, take a left on the pink-blazed Tower Trail. It is only about .2 miles to reach the tower on a fairly level trail.
When we reached the tower, we climbed up the metal stairs to reach the top. I’m not a big fan of heights, but I’m especially nervous when it involves man-made things. The tower did seem quite sturdy, but it makes some noises when railings move slightly, so I was more eager to get down from the tower than the rest of Christine’s family. The views are nice, but the area is quite crowded. Unless you went up early in the morning, I fear that it would be hard to have a moment’s peace at the top. There aren’t any signs posted for maximum number of people on the tower and you may have to hug the side of a platform as people pass in opposite directions.
There are a few geocaches in the nearby area:
- Wagon Road
- ZOY II (B.I.A) – I didn’t find this one though. It’s a mystery cache that I’m guessing is located nearby.
- Woodstock Tower Letterboxes – a multi-cache that is best found reaching the tower by other means.
This was the second time I’ve been to the Woodstock Tower. Last time I was there was several years ago in mid-October. I remember the fall foliage being amazing from atop the tower. This time, the foliage had just the slightest hint of change, but the day was crystal clear and sunny – not a bit of haze – so the view was extra nice.
There are shorter ways to get to the view. In fact, you can practically drive right up to it. However, we chose to hike up from the Little Fort campground instead. The slightly longer route gave my mom a chance to try out her new hiking boots.
Because the day was so beautiful, we had to share the tower with crowds of people. At times, there was actually a line of people waiting to get to the top. We even saw a person trying to coax their pit bull up the open, metal stairs. That didn’t go so well, and they had to turn back about halfway to the top. The inside of the tower is covered with graffiti and the area is littered with broken beer bottles and empty soda cans – a very unfortunate side effect of its popularity.
Despite the tower’s less-than-pristine nature, it still offers one of the best views of the mountains in the area. It’s well worth the short walk.
- Distance – 2 miles
- Elevation Change – about 500 feet
- Difficulty –2. While you would think that going up 500 feet in one mile would be steep, the trail up seems to take off a lot of the steep terrain.
- Trail Conditions – 3. The trail had some loose ground in a few areas (especially in the first .1 mile), but overall was well-maintained.
- Views – 4.5. It does have 360-degree views, but we always enjoy views from natural surroundings like rock outcrops over man-made towers.
- Waterfalls/streams – 0. Non-existent.
- Wildlife – 2. Too many people to see anything other than people. May be good for hawk spotting or some other woodland birds.
- Ease to Navigate – 4. Not too many turns on this one and trails are well-labeled.
- Solitude – 1. You will see lots of people on this trail during a nice day.
Directions to trailhead:
We approached this from I-81. There are other ways to the east to approach this, but here is the most common way for anyone traveling via interstate. Take exit 283 on I-81, heading east on 42. Stay on 42 until it intersects with US 11. Take a left on US 11, heading north through the town of Woodstock. As soon as you pass the Woodstock Shopping Center, take a right on S.R. 665/Mill Road. Take this until it ends at S.R. 758/Woodstock Tower Road. Take a left here and continue to follow S.R. 758 up and down the mountain (this area can be scary when passing other vehicles – there are no guardrails in most spots). Be sure to stay on S.R. 758 until you reach Little Fort Campground. Turn into the campground area. There are campsites and parking spots along the road here. The trailhead is located on the right-hand side of the road near a campsite right before you reach the outdoor restrooms.