Halfmoon Mountain Loop

This 10-mile loop could easily be a day hike, but we chose to do it as a short overnight backpacking trip. The route has some fairly nice vistas and there are a couple campsites near the summit.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Halfmoon Mountain Summit
Adam takes in the view from Halfmoon Mountain. Below: The trail started from the Bucktail Trail parking area – pass the locked forest service gate to begin; We hiked the loop counterclockwise – starting on the pinkish-purple blazed Bucktail Cutoff Trail; Walking along the Bucktail Cutoff.

Halfmoon Mountain Halfmoon Mountain Halfmoon Mountain

Adam Says: Day One  (4.7 miles)

This past year was not a good year for our backpacking hobby. The rain seemed endless and the amount of exceedingly heavy rain did a lot of damage to trails. We also got a new puppy in March. He needed a lot of training and we weren’t quite ready to trust him to someone else for long periods of time.

We did manage to get out for this one trip in August 2018. Halfmoon Mountain had been a trail we had looked at doing for many years.  We heard there were great views and a sweet campsite with a view at the top. One thing that hurts this as a backpacking loop is the nearest water source to the top is about 1-1.5 miles away from the camp areas, so you have to haul what water you need to the top.

Campsite
There is a nice campsite at the junction of the Halfmoon Mountain Trail and the Bucktail Cutoff Trail. Below: After the campsite, we followed the yellow-blazed Halfmoon Mountain Trail; The trail was steep and had some obstructed views; Junction of the Halfmoon Mountain Trail and the Halfmoon Lookout Trail.

Halfmoon Mountain Trail Halfmoon Mountain Trail Halfmoon Mountain Trail

We started the trip by parking along Trout Run Road (see GPS coordinates below).  We started off on the Bucktail Trail and shortly walked through a gate blocking off the fire road.  After a short distance, we came to a junction where the Bucktail Connector Trail branched off to the right while the Bucktail Trail takes a left (this is your return trip for the loop). We took the right Bucktail Connector Trail which has pinkish-purple blazes to follow this loop counter-clockwise.  The trail began to climb up through forested terrain.  Overall, this trail was well-maintained as it is a visible, narrow footpath cutting through the forest.  There isn’t a ton to say about this section since there wasn’t a lot to see other than forest around you.  The trail climbs for about the first 1.25 miles before descending slightly for about .5 miles and then there is another up and down until you reach another junction at 2.5 miles. There is a very nice campsite along the stream near this junction.

At the junction take a left on to the Halfmoon Trail (going right would take you to the Halfmoon parking area – where many hikers originate on a shorter out-and-back route to the summit).  From here, the trail gets steeper and at the 3.5 mile mark, you reach the junction with the Halfmoon Lookout Trail, which takes off from the left.  Take that left on to the Halfmoon Lookout Trail to reach the summit after another .8 miles.  On our way up to the Halfmoon Lookout, we noticed a small footpath that branched off to the left which led to a larger camp area where we ultimately camped for the night.  The last tenth of a mile is a steep rock scramble to the top.  With crumbling rock underfoot, you really have to watch your step.  At the top, there are two great viewpoints. The first you come across on the lefthand side of the trail and there is room for a few people at the top. There are remains of an old firetower at this lookout spot.

To visit second viewpoint, you descend through a campsite in a saddle and then over another rock scramble to to the view.  This view spot will typically only work for about two people. It’s tight quarters.

First Views
One of the viewpoints from summit of Halfmoon Mountain. Below: The Halfmoon Lookout Trail is pretty flat until the last bit before the summit; The last hundred yards to the summit is a minor rock scramble (it’s steeper than it looks in the photos); Somebody chopped down numerous living trees at the summit to make the saddle campsite larger (jerks!); We thought about camping in the saddle at the summit, but didn’t like the tightness of the campsite.

Halfmoon Mountain Trail Halfmoon Mountain Trail
Tree Damage Summit Site

We initially were going to camp at the top – we heard it was a great campsite. Some jerks had chopped down some live trees to build the frame of a lean-to (so much for Leave No Trace principles) on the campsite. We deconstructed the lean-to and tried to clear out the area a bit, but felt the campsite would have been a bit tight and we would have had people walking through our campsite all day to get to the second viewpoint.  We decided to enjoy the views up here and then make our way back down.  Investigating that side trail, we found a great spot to set up camp. Even better, the campsite below the saddle had its own little viewpoint for us to enjoy.  We found a nice grassy spot to set up our tent on some flat ground.  The bugs were a little hard to deal with at camp, but we made the best of it.  We were later joined by another couple that shared our camping area.

Sunset on Halfmoon
We had a beautiful sunset on Halfmoon Mountain. Below: We chose this spacious, grassy site right below the summit; Our campsite had its own little viewpoint; There are remains of an old fire tower at the summit; Another camping part hung a hammock on the summit for sunset.

Our Campsite View at camp
 Hammock

After we set up camp, we made our way back to the top to enjoy some late afternoon/sunset views.  At the second view, another couple had set up a hammock somewhat precariously over the edge – a nice spot, but it did obstruct the views for anyone else. We had a nice dinner back at our campsite and settled down for the evening enjoying the sounds of the forest.

Christine Says: Day Two (5.3 miles)

I woke up early on the second day, so I could watch the sunrise. There were a couple decent places to catch the sun coming up – the small outcropping at our campsite and a spot about halfway up the scramble to the summit of Halfmoon. Both vistas were a bit obstructed, but I was still able to capture some pretty morning color in the sky. The day was already warming, so we ate breakfast and packed up quickly.

Halfmoon Sunrise
Sunrise on Halfmoon Mountain. Below:  Our camp kitchen; Leaving camp in the morning along the German Wilson Trail; The German Wilson Trail is exceedingly rocky and steep in places.

Bucktail Trail Bucktail Trail

We made our way back down the Halfmoon Lookout Trail for several tenths of a mile to its junction with the German Wilson Trail. I don’t know what color I’d call the blazes on German Wilson Trail – purplish? fuchsia? magenta?  Something like that, I suppose. The German Wilson Trail descended very steeply over loose, rocky terrain. It wasn’t fun and I was very glad we had decided to hike the loop counter-clockwise and didn’t have to ascend this tough section of trail with full packs. The trail drops steadily for about a mile before coming to a grassy area with a shallow stream.

Look for a forest service gate to the left.  You should see the orange blazes of the Bucktail Trail.  The trail that continues toward the right is the Old Mine Trail – do not take this trail. Follow the Bucktail Trail, crossing the stream multiple times over the next .8 mile. When we hiked in August 2018, this section of the trail was in terrible shape. Big sections were washed out and we had to navigate by following sparse orange blazes.  Lots of sections of footbed were completely disappeared by debris and erosion. Hopefully some trail maintenance has been done over the last eight months.

Stream Crossings
There were many stream crossings on Day 2. Below: Arriving at the junction of the German Wilson Trail with the Old Mine Trail and the Bucktail Trail; Following the Bucktail Trail; There were numerous stream crossings on the Bucktail Trail.

 Bucktail
 Stream Crossing

At 2.2 miles, you’ll come to a junction with the Cacapon Trail. That trail follows a small footbridge over the stream on the right.  Stay to the left and continue following the orange blazed Bucktail Trail. At this point, the trail becomes wide and grassy. It also begins to ascend again. This climb wasn’t difficult, but the grass was pretty overgrown and there was a lot of direct sun/heat. I also saw a ton of poison ivy mixing in with the grass. The climb felt worse than the numbers make it look.

Erosion Along the Trail
The trail was eroded and hard to follow in places. Below: Cliffs along the Bucktail Trail; This bridge takes you onto the Cacapon Trail; More scenes along the Bucktail Trail.  Much of the Bucktail Trail was a grassy, overgrown road.

Cliffs Bridge Near Cacapon Trail Overgrown
 Bucktail Bucktail

The last three miles on the Bucktail Trail were pretty dull. It was basically a trudge along a grassy roadbed back to the parking area. All in all, this hike didn’t really live up to my expectations. It was nice to get out after such a long backpacking drought, but this trail definitely is not destined to become a favorite. If I were to hike it again, I think I’d park at the Halfmoon Mountain parking area and just do this as a seven mile, out-and-back dayhike.

We got back to the car by late morning, so we decided to get some lunch and a cold beer before heading home.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 10 miles
  • Elevation Change – Day One: 1545 feet, Day Two: 477 feet
  • Difficulty –  3.  This was a fairly easy backpacking route.  The first day has about a mile of serious climbing, but the rest is very gradual. The second day has a steep, rocky mile of downhill, followed by a bunch of stream crossings, and then a moderate climb along a forest road before gently descending back to the parking area.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  The trail was in decent condition for national forest. The first day along the Bucktail Cutoff and Halfmoon Mountain Trail was excellent.  The second day had rougher trail conditions: the steep descent when you first turn onto the German Wilson trail had lots of loose softball to football sized rocks and was a bit challenging to walk on, there was a trail washout near the final stream crossing on the Bucktail Trail, and the road portion of the Bucktail Trail had loads of tall grass and poison ivy.
  • Views  3.  There are several vistas at and near the summit of Halfmoon Mountain, however they are all small and partially obstructed.
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 3.  There are nice streams on both day one and two, but the closest water source to the summit campsites is about 1 – 1.5 miles downtrail.  In drier times, I expect campers might have to walk up to 2.5 miles down from the summit for water.
  • Wildlife – 3.  We saw several deer and had a whippoorwill at camp.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.5.  The trail has spotty blazing and intermittent trail signs.  Blazes are not equally distributed for hikers headed in both directions, sometimes we had to look back to check for blazes to make sure we were on the same trail.  There are some trail washouts on the Bucktail Trail that make navigating the stream crossings a little tricky.  Also, many blazes are faded and painted in inconsistent colors (for example – the orange Bucktail Trail blazes were often closer to red).
  • Solitude – 2.  There is one small campsite and one large campsite near the summit. We had to share the large campsite with another hiking party.  There was also a steady stream of dayhikers visiting this peak.  

Maps

Download a full size map for DAY ONE.
Download a full size elevation profile for DAY ONE.
Download a full size map for DAY TWO.
Download a full size elevation profile for DAY TWO.

Directions to trailhead: Parking coordinates are 39.01431, -78.66388.  The parking area is at the top of a gravel loop right off Trout Run Rd.  The sign along the road will be for the Bucktail Trail.  Do not park at the lot labeled Halfmoon Trail – that is the 7-mile out-and-back route, rather than the loop outlined here.

Dolly Sods – Rohrbaugh Plains to Red Creek (WV)

This 10 mile (round-trip) hike takes you past some of Dolly Sods most beautiful scenery.  The dense rhododendron thickets, unblazed trails, and rugged terrain will have you feeling like you’re truly in the wild.  Camping along Red Creek is popular and can be crowded with weekend backpackers, but it’s still one of West Virginia’s most spectacular places.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Beautiful Red Creek
Beautiful Red Creek was our destination for this short overnighter. Below: Our excellent hiking crew (Maia the dog not included in the photo!);  Making our way onto the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail; The trail is only lightly maintained so you have to climb blowdowns and navigate without the help of blazes.

Our Hiking Crew Start of the Rohrbaugh Plains Trai Rohrbaugh Plains Trail

Day One…

Back in early June, we were at happy hour with our friends Christy and Brian.  Over beers, we cooked up a vague plan for a weekend backpacking trip in late July.  In the weeks to come, we added our mutual friend, Kris, into the mix and settled on a route.  The plan was to take two cars, and do a trans-navigation of Dolly Sods starting at the picnic area and ending at Bear Rocks.  It was about a 16 mile route with tons of camping options along Red Creek.

As it turned out, a heat wave settled over the mid-Atlantic that weekend.  It was the hottest, most humid weekend of the summer.  We still thought we could make the full 16 miles, so we met at Bear Rocks and shuttled in our car to the start point at the Dolly Sods Picnic area.  On the ride, we learned that you really can fit five adults, five big backpacks, and one German Shepherd in a Subaru Forester. It was like a clown car!

We parked at a small pullout near the picnic area, and picked up the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail on the opposite side of the road.  The trail meandered through dense rhododendron forest.  A lot of the rhododendron was Rosebay near the peak of its bloom.  So pretty! The air was thick, still, and heavy with humidity. It felt like walking through the jungle.  At one point, Kris said, “I feel like we might see monkeys!’

Meadows on the Rohrbaugh Trail
Walking through meadows. Below: Maia enjoys a shady pool under the rhododendrons; Walking across Rohrbaugh Cliffs; A nice spot for lunch!

Maia Enjoys a Shady Pool Arriving at Rohrbaugh Cliffs Lunch Stop

The trails in Dolly Sods are well-traveled but very lightly maintained.  There are no blazes.  The only wayfinding signs are at trail junctions.  There are lots of rocks, blowdowns, and mud pits to navigate. Even though the area is complete wilderness, the high traffic through the area keeps the trails apparent and fairly easy to follow.

We walked the Rohrbaugh Plains trail for about 2.5 miles before reaching the spectacular viewpoint off Rohrbaugh Cliffs.  The area is near and dear to my heart because it was one of the first places I ever camped in the backcountry. The cliffs offer great views across the valley to the Lions Head (another popular rocky outcropping in Dolly Sods) and down into the Red Creek basin.  Just past the cliffs, there is a patch of open forest with space for many tents.  It’s still one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at.

We decided to take a lunch break at the cliffs.  At first, the breeze across the open terrain felt nice.  Maybe the heat wasn’t so bad?  But after a few minutes of sitting in the direct sun, we were all pretty hot.  I could feel my shoulders starting to burn.  After lunch, we packed up and continued another .6 mile down the Rohrbaugh Plains Trail.  At 3.1 miles, we passed the junction with the Wildlife Trail.  We stayed to the left, continuing on the Rohrbaugh Plains trail.

We passed a small (mostly dry) waterfall and crossed over some extremely rocky footing. At 3.5 miles the Rohrbaugh Trail meets the Fisher Spring Run Trail.  We followed the Fisher Spring Trail to the left, beginning to descend for 1.2 miles.  At first the descent is smooth a gradual, but it becomes steeper and follows a couple switchbacks down to a rocky crossing of Fisher Spring Run.

Setting Up Camp
We set up camp at a large site along Red Creek. Below: Most of the trails in Dolly Sods are rocky; Crossing Fisher Springs Run before arriving at camp; Our campsite had a private swimming hole nearby.

Rocky Trail Crossing Fisher Spring Run Our Private Swimming Hole

After the crossing , the trail follows the stream on high ground.  There are several nice campsites at the bottom of extremely steep spur trails.  A few sections of this trail are quite eroded, leaving the trail narrow and precipitous.  Take your time and watch your footing, especially if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

At 4.7 miles the Fisher Spring Run Trail ends at the Red Creek Trail.  We took a right, following the trail down toward Red Creek.  In about three tenths of a mile, we passed the first of many stellar campsites.  At the very first one, I thought to myself, “That’s a really sweet campsite.  I wouldn’t mind sleeping here!’

Our group decided to take a break and discuss camping plans and how much of the route we wanted to cover on day one of our trip.  We all agreed that we were pretty hot, the campsite was ideal, and Red Creek looked really inviting.  We figured on day two, we could either hike 11 miles or hike out the way we came in and make our trip a short 10-mile out-and-back.

Adam and I explored several more campsites along the stream before agreeing that the very first site was the prettiest and most private.  There was easily space for four tents.  The ground was flat and clear.  We had easy access to water.  We even had a large fire pit with a stone couch someone had constructed. We all unpacked and set up camp. Maia, our friends’ German Shepherd, supervised the operations.  She was on her first backpacking trip ever, and she took to it like a pro!

Red Creek
Red Creek is a beautiful place to camp and swim.  Below:  Fun in the water and fun at camp!

Swimming in Red Creek Swimming in Red Creek Swimming in Red Creek
Swimming in Red Creek Enjoying Red Creek red creek 18

It was only around 2:30, so most of us spent the entire afternoon swimming and playing in Red Creek. The water was so cold and refreshing. The small rapids and waterfalls felt like hydrotherapy for our hot, tired muscles. Adam opted to restock everyone’s water and read a book at camp, but even he enjoyed splashing in the cold water near camp.

Around 5:00 we decided to get dinner started.  Everyone brought their own dinner, but Christy and Brian brought a shared dessert – Rocky Road pudding.  Kris contributed a two-bottle capacity bag of wine to the feast.  After dinner we played cards and sat around our campfire.  Even at 9:00 p.m., it was still 75 degrees.  That’s unusually warm for Dolly Sods at night!

Around 10:00 we let the fire die down, and everyone started retreating to their tents.  Adam and I opted to leave the rain fly off in hopes that it would keep us cooler.  Honestly, it didn’t really cool off until sometime around 3:00 a.m.  It was a steamy night and I was very glad to have left my sleeping bag home in favor of a light summer quilt.  I enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of the running stream.  Any time I woke up during the night, I took a moment to marvel at the brilliance and magnitude of the stars in the sky.  It’s such a gift to be able to visit places like this and have good friends to share the experience. I felt so fortunate that night in my tent.

Day Two…

The next morning we awoke at daybreak.  We thought Maia would have woken up the group, but she was a perfect camp companion and let us get up when we wanted.  We enjoyed some of Christine’s homemade granola with Nido and then made our way back to the car.  With a warm night and temperatures climbing quickly in the morning, we decided to get an early start to get back to our cars before the temperatures peaked in the afternoon.  It is always uncomfortable when you feel like you never had a chance to cool down, so everyone felt hot within a few minutes back on the trail.

Camp Dog
Maia did great on her first backpacking trip. Below: Hiking back out the way we came in!

Hiking Out Hot and Humid More Rocks to Cross

We climbed back up the steep Red Creek Trail and Fisher Spring Run trail very slowly as we were all quickly drenched with sweat.  We got back to the junction with the Rohrbaugh Trail in about 1.5 miles and we knew our toughest work was behind us.  In another .4 miles, we reached the junction with the Wildlife Trail and took a right to make our way to the Rohrbaugh Cliffs again.  We paused for a snack and some more pictures from Rohrbaugh Cliffs, which is probably my favorite spot in Dolly Sods.  Looking over the creek and seeing nothing but mountains around you is a scene that begs you to pause and appreciate nature.

Rohrbaugh Cliffs
Taking in the view from Rohrbaugh Cliffs. Below: The small waterfall along the Rohrbaugh Trail was running very low; Climbing on the rocks of Rohrbaugh Cliffs; Back to the Forest Road.

Small Waterfall Rohrbaugh Cliffs The End

With the strong sun beating down, we decided to press on and continue our journey back to the car.  We made our way back fairly quickly, passing by a group of about 10 women that were enjoying the weekend as well.  We got back to our car just a bit before lunch and carpooled Christy, Brian, and Maia back to their car.  We had a great adventure together and we were really glad to share this amazing piece of wilderness.  We parted ways with Christy and Brian, and Christine, Kris, and I headed to Lost River Brewing Company in Wardensville, WV for some celebratory beers and food.  It was a great trip, but we vowed to return when it isn’t the hottest weekend of the year to do the traverse across Dolly Sods like we originally planned.

If you are looking for a hike or overnight trip that combines majestic views, creeks with a waterfall and swimming possibilities, and great overnight camping, this may be a perfect one to experience.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 10 miles
    (Check out the stats from Map My Hike [Day One] [Day Two])*
  • Elevation Change –  1480 feet
  • Difficulty – 3.  The elevation gain/loss is moderate, but the rugged nature of the footing adds difficulty to this route.
  • Trail Conditions –  2.  Trails are unblazed.  Be prepared for mud, blowdowns, and lots of rocks.
  • Views – 5.  The view from Rohrbaugh Cliffs is pretty spectacular!
  • Waterfalls/streams – 5.  You will want to spend all day enjoying the beautiful rapids and waterfalls along Red Creek.  This is some of the best stream swimming in West Virginia.
  • Wildlife – 2.  We saw a white tail doe with two fawns on the drive in, but generally the woods were quiet and we didn’t feel like there was much wildlife in the camping area.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.  There are no blazes, but junctions were marked, and the trail was generally easy to follow.  Navigation gets trickier near Red Creek where you depend on cairns to mark stream crossings.
  • Solitude – 3.  This is tough to call!  We saw almost nobody on the trail when we were hiking, but there were many people camped along Red Creek.

MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.

Download a trail map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead:  GPS Coordinates for Parking are 38.962019, -79.355024. From Seneca Rocks, go North on WV 28 for 12 miles.  Take a left on Jordan Run Road.  Go one mile up Jordan Run Road and take a left on to Forest Road 19.  In 6 miles, Forest Road 19 comes to a T on to Forest Road 75.  Take a right, heading north on Forest Road 75.  Drive for about eight miles until you reach the Dolly Sods Picnic Area. The Rohrbaugh Plains Trailhead will be across the road from the picnic area.

Spruce Knob – Seneca Creek (WV)

This 16.5 mile overnight backpacking trip has cooler temperatures in the summer, beautiful streams and waterfalls, high mountain meadows, abundant berry bushes, and even an old plane wreck to explore. It’s a great change of pace from hiking the Appalachian Trail.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Hiking Along the Huckleberry Trail
The high meadows along this hike were beautiful! Below: Backpacks in the car; Everyone checks out the information at the trailhead; Suzanne picks ripe blueberries along the Huckleberry Trail; The Huckleberry Trail passes through several small meadows; Spruce-shaded areas on the Huckleberry Trail; Signage along the way.

Backpacks in the Car Getting Started Blueberry Picking
Views from the Huckleberry Trail Spruce Trees in the Sun Trail Sign

Day One…

Initially, we  planned on doing very little hiking in July this year.  Our goal was to stay out of the heat and to rest up a bit so we wouldn’t overdo things before we tackle our trip to New Hampshire later this summer.  But the weather was too nice and we had lots of invitations to go hiking.  Over the 4th of July weekend, our friends Anthony and Suzanne suggested we go on a backpacking trip together.  We always enjoy hiking with them, so plans were made to hike in the Spruce Knob area.  This was actually the second 4th of July weekend we’ve spent on the trail with Anthony and Suzanne.  A couple years ago, we did a trip to Dolly Sods.

Our friends came down and spent the night before the trip at our house. We divided up some group gear and then packed the car and headed out fairly early to start our trip.  We arrived at the trailhead mid-morning.  We saw the short trail to the Spruce Knob summit fire tower, but we decided to visit that at the end of the loop the next day to feel like we had truly earned it.  Spruce Knob is the highest peak in West Virginia.

The printed maps we have found of this area are fairly outdated and online maps also don’t have the trails completely accurate.  The best map I have found of the entire area has been from Mid-Atlantic Hikes and it may be helpful to bring that along since there are lots of trail options here.

Descending to Junction
Adam descends to our junction with the Lumberjack Trail. Below:  Anthony makes his way along the Lumberjack Trail.  The trail has a reputation of being sloppy/muddy, but it wasn’t too bad when we visited; Someone moved a piece of the plane from the wreck site up to the trail – probably to mark the spot; Even after 4+ decades on the mountainside, the plane wreck is still mostly intact.

Walking the Lumberjack Trail Plane Window Fuselage
Mud Nettles First Large Meadow

We started off our first day of the hike on the Huckleberry Trail (TR533).  The trail starts off with a little bit of crushed gravel on the trail, but that goes away in a short distance.  This first section of the trail was fairly flat or downhill and alternates from going from dense Spruce forests to more open fields. There are numerous dry campsites along the trail. In the fields, we found tons of blueberries that were just starting to ripen.  We stopped along the way for a few handfuls before pressing on.  At 3.4 miles, you will reach a campsite and a sign that points to the trail going right.  Follow this trail and in another short distance, you’ll come to another sign pointing you to go left as the trail winds around a dense forest area.  You’ll soon reach another sign that shows that the Lumberjack Trail is .4 miles away.  The last .4 miles of the Huckleberry trail drops rather steeply to the large trail junction at 4.7 miles.  Take a right at this junction to join the Lumberjack Trail (TR534).

The Lumberjack Trail is a relatively flat trail.  We were warned that it can be very muddy and wet, but we found that even after some recent heavy rains there were only a few 20-foot sections that had mud to slog through.  Most of the trail had rocks or logs placed that saved us from having to get our shoes wet or muddy.  Around mile 5.8, we saw a plane door hung on a tree and a short, yet steep trail that led down to plane wreckage (a Piper PA-23 that crashed here in 1973 with two casualties).  Be respectful if you decide to visit this site.  We stayed on the Lumberjack Trail until it came to a junction with the High Meadows Trail at mile 6.7.  Take a left to join the High Meadows Trail (TR564).

The High Meadows Trail was the most overgrown trail we came across.  There were times that it felt like we were bushwhacking.  There are stinging nettles everywhere along the trail and grass was up to our knees in some portions.  The High Meadows Trail also has alternating landscapes; you will go from dense forests to large open meadows several times.  Keep an eye out for blue blazes on posts or trees as you navigate through these high grass areas.  The trail descended through these gorgeous meadows and it is not surprising that we were thinking of the Sound of Music when we were walking through these fields surrounded by mountains.

High Meadows
The high meadows on this hike were so beautiful!  Below: Adam admires the high meadows; Grass in the meadows was tall;  There were several meadows separated by short sections of shade;  Most of the shady spots were densely overgrown with berry brambles; Black-eyed susans; Adam crosses out of the final meadow.

Adam in Meadow Meadow Walking Shade Between Meadows
Overgrown Susans Leaving the Meadows

Eventually, you will enter into the woods again and cross a small creek.  At 8.6 miles, you will reach another trail junction. Take a right here and you will descend even more as you make your way through a scenic forest landscape.  You will soon hear water flowing from Seneca Creek below you.  The trail crosses the creek and comes to a junction with the Seneca Creek Trail at 9.1 miles.   At this point, you will cross Seneca Creek to reach the trail on the other side.  The water was flowing to make a nice small waterfall.  Before we crossed, we ventured just a short distance (about 75 yards) to the right down the Seneca Creek Trail and came across one of the most beautiful waterfalls/swimming holes I’ve seen – Seneca Falls.  We dropped our bags on the trail and scrambled down to reach the base of the falls.  There was a large cavernous rock overhang to the right of the falls.  In the water, we could see brook trout swimming around, occasionally breaching the water to catch flies that were dancing along the water surface.  Once we climbed back up from the basin, another group came down to the falls jumped into the swimming hole at the base of the falls.  From the screams when they jumped in, we could tell the water was extremely cold.  We made our way back to our original junction and then determined the best place to cross the creek was at the very top of the small waterfall.  We all made it across safely.

Christine hit a wall with her energy level, so we stopped a few minutes to eat a snack on the opposite side of the creek at a nice campsite.  Knowing we still had a distance to go, we pressed on further.  The Seneca Creek Trail went to the side of Seneca Creek for the entire way.  We crossed the creek in a couple of places.  Around mile 10.4, we began to see a ton of campsites.  We were surprised to see that there were so many people that were camped here overnight.  When we kept passing people on the trail, we felt that we would have our picks of campsites, but we didn’t realize how many people come here a different way (mostly from the lower Spruce Knob parking lot and taking the Seneca Creek Trail to these campsites).  Anthony and Suzanne hurried ahead, while I waited a while for Christine to try and regain her strength.

Seneca Falls
Seneca Falls is an impressive waterfall with an emerald green plunge pool. Below: Leaving the high meadows for Seneca Creek; A small waterfall above Seneca Falls; A side view of the falls; The trickiest of the stream crossings; Pretty wildflower; Lovely Seneca Creek.

Start of the Seneca Creek Trail Small Waterfall Seneca Falls
Crossing Wildflower Seneca Creek

We caught back up with our friends soon and they had claimed a gorgeous campsite (even though it was hard to imagine a bad one here) at 10.6 miles that was near a waterfall that plunged into the creek.  While there were lots of larger groups out here, we found a nice, secluded campsite that had a nice waterslide that created a babbling brook sound throughout the night.  We set up camp and started to make some dinner.  I always enjoy bringing a card game with us when we do an overnight backpack and this time I brought the game Hike.  It was pretty brainless fun and plays similar to Uno with specialty cards that create twists in the game.  It was starting to get dark, so we created a small, but nice fire in the pit.  Once the sun set and the fire died out, we retired to our tents.  It may have been the sound of the brook, but I probably slept the best I have ever slept backpacking that night.  What a great first day!

Campfire
The evening concluded with dinner, card games and a great campfire. Below: There were abundant rosebay rhododendron all along the stream; Our campsite had nice, flat space enough for 2-3 tents; We also had a pretty waterfall and pool for our water source.

Rosebay Camp Filtering

Day Two…

As usual on backpacking trips, we both woke up right around first light. We spent a little while longer in our sleeping bags, chatting and stretching.  It was a chilly morning, so we weren’t quite ready to climb out into the cold.

Eventually we emerged from our tent to start the day.  I put on gloves and a light jacket and  headed downstream to take a few photos of the big waterfall at the next campsite over.  The folks camping there had packed up and departed very early.  Adam went to get the bear bags down while I took photos.

Campsite Falls
One lucky group gets to camp on a site right across from this pretty waterfall.  Below: Our campsite in the morning; You can see smoke from other campsites downriver; Crossing the footbridge across Seneca Creek before our big uphill climb.

Campsite in the Morning Downriver Footbridge

We got everything out for breakfast and started taking down our tent, rolling up sleeping pads and stuffing our sleeping bags back into compression sacks.  I decided that I was going to eat a huge breakfast, so I wouldn’t bonk again on our second day of hiking.  Adam didn’t go into much detail in his day one post, but right around mile ten of our hike the day before, I hit a wall – HARD! It was right after we visited Seneca Falls and crossed the stream.  I sat on the ground and told everyone that I was feeling really lightheaded and sick.  I didn’t feel hungry.  I had been drinking water all day.  Regardless, my legs just felt like jelly and I just didn’t want to walk another single step.  Adam, Suzanne and Anthony all told me that they thought I needed to eat.  Turns out they were right – I had been hiking for ten miles with a 25 lb. pack on under 700 calories.  I guess I just didn’t realize how little I had eaten until I did the calorie math.  My appetite always goes away when I’m doing strenuous activities.  Usually, it doesn’t cause problems and I just eat when I get to camp.  I guess this time I just expended all my short term energy before we finished for the day.  I need to do a better job forcing myself to eat enough.

Alright… off that tangent and back to breakfast!  As promised, I ate a large breakfast – oatmeal, cheese, a honeybun and coffee.   It was about 600 calories of food and much more in line with my energy needs for a tough uphill and 6 miles of hiking.  Everyone had eaten and packed up camp by around 9:45 and we were on our way again.

Final Meadow
Adam climbs steeply uphill across our final large meadow of the hike.  Below: Anthony and Suzanne take a look back toward Seneca Creek;  We had spectacular skies; Making progress back to our start point.

One Last Look Toward the Creek Beautiful Skies Trail Sign

We had a short distance left to walk along Seneca Creek.  Within about a quarter mile, we reached a small wooden footbridge across the stream.  We crossed and continued uphill on the Seneca Creek Trail.  The steepest climbing was across a beautiful, expansive meadow.  We got great views of the valley and our last glimpse into the Seneca Creek watershed.  The high meadows on this hike are truly majestic and are definitely one of the trip’s highlights.

After crossing out of the meadow, we continued uphill through the woods back to the four-way junction of Seneca Creek/Lumberjack/Huckleberry.  Staying straight took us back onto the Huckleberry Trail.  From there, we retraced our steps from the day before.  It was a little slower going and felt longer on the second pass.  It was all uphill and everyone was a little tired.  It’s always funny how different the same four miles can feel under different circumstances.

Adam on the Huckleberry Trail
Hiking the Huckleberry Trail reminded us of hiking in New England.  Below: More lovely views from the Huckleberry Trail;  The trail was often paved with rock; A well-appointed campsite on the Huckleberry Trail; Ripe berries; A view from the talus slope.

Huckleberry Views Laurels Campsite
Ripe Berries Talus

We enjoyed the sunny, unseasonably cool July weather.  We stopped and picked many blueberries along the walk back.  I also took a little side trail from one of the meadows and found a talus slope with nice views across the mountains.

We got back to the car around noon.  We threw our packs into the back of the car and took the short, flat walk to check out views from the observation tower atop Spruce Knob.  It’s just a short quarter mile walk and well-worth the extra time and steps.  We spent some time enjoying the lofty views and cool breezes.  Anthony, Adam and Suzanne decided to walk to one more nearby viewpoint on the Whispering Spruce Trail.  It was just a tenth of a mile down the trail and provided even more spectacular views.  I headed back to the car to eat some more candy and switch my trail shoes for flip flops.

Tower Views
Anthony and Adam take in views from the observation tower on Spruce Knob.  Below: Views from the tower; The hiking crew; Views from the Whispering Spruce Trail; The tower.

Views Hikers Whispering Spruce
Observation Tower

After a few minutes, everyone was back at the car and we were on our way back to Harrisonburg for a celebratory meal and beer.  We all decided that Jack Brown’s was the best spot for lunch.  They have fantastic gourmet burgers and a great beer list.  It’s a perfect post-hike indulgence.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather, scenery, or company for this 4th of July weekend backpacking trip.  After lunch, we bid farewell to Anthony and Suzanne.  They’re such great hiking buddies and we always feel lucky when we get to hit the trail together.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 16.5 miles [Day One] [Day Two]
  • Elevation Change – About 2300 ft.
  • Difficulty –  4.  The distance makes it fairly tough and the second day has a lot of uphill on the trail. 
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  Most of the trail was well-maintained.  The High Meadows Trail was quite overgrown.  There are some rocky, loose sections on this trail too, which can be a little rough on the feet.
  • Views – 5.  The best views are from the Spruce Knob trail near the fire tower.  The fire tower has wonderful views, but once you take the .5 mile trail around the fire tower, you will have gorgeous, breathtaking views from the highest point in West Virginia.  The views along the main backpacking trip were mostly during the High Meadows Trail.  There are gorgeous mountain views and no sign of civilization. 
  • Wildlife – 3.  There were lots of birds to be found on the High Meadows Trail.  We did have a deer visit us several times at camp. 
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.  The Huckleberry Trail and High Meadows Trail could use more signage.  I would suggest printing out our step-by-step desciption and bringing the midatlantichikes map to help guide your way. 
  • Solitude – 2.  This is a popular spot for people to do overnight camping.   Expect to see lots at the campsites, but you will have more solitude until you get to Seneca Creek. 

Download a Trail Map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead:  Directions vary so greatly depending on the direction you’re coming from.  Please refer to the trailhead marked on the map below to determine your best route.

North Fork Mountain to Chimney Top (WV)

This 6-mile hike is a bit challenging – tough climbing and a little hard to follow – but payoffs at the end make the effort well worth your while.  The views are spectacular – some of the best in the mid-Atlantic!

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Amazing views from Chimney Top!
Amazing views from Chimney Top! Below: Adam checks out the trail information board; The spine of the mountain offers many magnificent views, if you’re willing to do a little climbing.

Trail Sign Scaling the Spine

Adam Says…

Our first experience hiking on North Fork Mountain was on my birthday in 2012 (birthday hikes are a tradition for us!) We decided tackle a little piece of the the trail from the base of the mountain to the well-known outcropping of Chimney Top.  This August day ended up being one of the hottest days of the year.  While hiking up the backside of this mountain, there was absolutely no breeze so the air was stifling.  We were quickly questioning why we chose this one, but we had to press on for tradition’s sake.  We reached the ridgeline and walked along for a while.  We eventually came across a few rocks that seemed to denote a path up.  We semi-bushwhacked up this trail and came to a rock column and climbed up to the top to enjoy the views.  We thought this may have been Chimney Top.  When we got back home and did more research, we realized we hadn’t found the true Chimney Top, so we vowed to return – and we did… on our sixteenth wedding anniversary in fall 2013.

First Outcropping
The first outcropping offers stunning views. Below: The view in the other direction from the first outcropping,

Views from Ridge

It was a perfect October day with the leaves just a shade past peak.  One of the difficulties about this trail is there are no solid online resources for maps and even using our mapping software (alltrails.com), the full trail doesn’t appear on any kind of topo maps.  We used our MapMyHike app on our phones to try and get accurate readings and I traced that outline on a topo map through alltrails.com to try and get a good resource if you want to attempt this hike.

We arrived at the small parking area and made our way up the trail.  The trail meanders for the first two miles through the woods with some slow switchbacks to help you gain elevation.  The thick canopy is high above you, but you will notice you will rarely feel much wind on this side of the mountain.  Around 1.5 miles, you make a steeper ascent up the mountain and reach the top of the ridgeline around 2.0 miles.  Once you reach the top, you can see down below to the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River and WV-28/55 on the other side.  Both times we have been, you can see dots of people fishing in the river.  Across the way, you will see ridges of mountains with Canaan Valley hidden behind them.  Looking along the ridgeline, you’ll see sheer cliffs of rock, making this quite a remarkable scene.  From this ridgeline, we continued along the path.  The trail stays on the ridgeline allowing for several opportunities to check out the views for the next .5 mile.  Around 2.5 miles, the trail has been rerouted away from the ridgeline and you descend the mountain.  The signs say that it was to protect the nesting/hatching peregrine falcons, who have nested on the cliff faces. The signs are at least five years old, and October is not nesting season, so we’re not sure if the signs are still valid.

Fall Color
Fall color was pretty nice!  Below: The trail is often rocky and rough; Adam walks along the increasingly hidden trail.

Rocky Spine Tough Trail to Follow

The trail continues through this terrain for another .5 miles and then starts to gain elevation again.  At 3.0 miles, we came to a well-established campsite and could see the ridgeline just above it.  I walked over to the ridge, but the views were fairly obstructed.  I then saw a smaller campsite to the right of the trail.  Going to that campsite, I walked a short distance behind it on a small trail towards the ridgeline to discover the elusive Chimney Top.  The photos we will place should lead you to the proper campsite that leads to the correct trail.  We ate some lunch from the top of the cliffs near Chimney Top  Exploring a little around this area, you are able to see a most-impressive cliff face (where I’m assuming is the section protected for peregrine falcons).

After we ate our lunches and took in the scenery, I decided I wanted to try to climb up Chimney Top.  I had to find some good footholds, but I was able to get up without too much trouble, but please be careful if you try to do the same.  There are many sheer drops from here, so I wouldn’t advise any unsupervised children to be given free reign on this hike.  Head back the way you came to make this a 6 mile out-and-back.

I do believe that the scenery from this spot is one of the most dramatic and beautiful views you will get in Virginia and West Virginia.  The trail was called the best trail in West Virginia by Outside magazine in 1996 and I can see why.  Some people like to backpack the entire 34 miles of North Fork Mountain.  Since you are at the top of the ridgeline for this hike, there isn’t a reliable water source to be found so you would need to pack in a lot of water for this backpacking trip.  I would strongly recommend trying this hike on a beautiful spring or fall day.

Christine Says…

I’ll admit – I’m the reason it’s taken over three months to get this hike posted.   A foot injury, a lingering cold, and the unusually frigid temperatures have sent me into a state of lassitude.  I haven’t felt particularly motivated to hike or write.  I’m sure I’ll snap out of it completely sooner or later.  But today, I decided to give myself a little push and get this post live!

Fall foliage and amazing views.
Fall foliage and amazing views. Below: Adam checks out one of the campsites; A nice view of the cliff face along the mountainside.

Campsite The Cliff Wall

We were really excited to try this hike again.  Our trip on Adam’s birthday had been rewarding even though we missed out on the main view.  We started the morning with a big breakfast at Bright Morning Inn (Pumpkin Pancakes with Walnuts and Maple Butter Sauce!).   It’s one of our favorite places to eat in Canaan Valley/Davis – everything is always excellent there!

After parking, we started climbing the mountain, following the familiar ground we had covered the previous summer.  We spent a little time exploring the first of several impressive rock outcroppings on this hike.  While there, we took some time to chat with the only other two people we saw on the trail – a couple from Pennsylvania.  They were recent empty-nesters and were returning to backpacking for the first time in 20+ years.  They still had all their gear from the late 80’s/early 90’s – external frame packs, old fashioned sleeping pads, and I think I may have seen something cast iron!  It looked like a heavy load!

After leaving the first view, we pushed along the trail, passing the spur trail to our lunch spot from the 2012 attempt.  This spot is marked by a rock cairn and the worn footpath is well established.

I thought this rock formation near chimney rock looked like a tortoise.
I thought this rock formation near Chimney Top looked like a tortoise. Below: More views; Adam checking out another rock outcropping along the way.

More Views Another Outcropping

The route follows a series of rolling hills after passing the spur trail.  I thought the trail was pretty hard to follow along this section.  It’s a reroute, and vestiges of the old trail are still apparent.  It may have been because the trail was under so many leaves, but I still think the reroute isn’t fully established.  As we continued along, I asked Adam how much further we should go.  According to old information, we had hiked far enough to be well past Chimney Top. As it turns out, the reroute is just longer and follows a wide arc around the preserved cliff face.

Eventually, we reached a spot with numerous campsites.  That’s usually a good indicator that you’re near something desirable to hikers/campers.  In this case, spotting the campsites let us find yet another unmarked trail that led out to the spectacular view from Chimney Top.

We spent quite a while up there, enjoying the fall foliage and awesome views, eating our lunch and taking photos.  The hike back went very quickly… mostly downhill and along a route that felt a little more familiar.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 6.0 miles
    (Check out the stats from Map My Hike)*
  • Elevation Change – 1725 ft.
  • Difficulty –  3.5.  The trail has some decent climbing on it.  Both times we’ve hiked it, there wasn’t any wind until the top, so the temperatures can be stifling. 
  • Trail Conditions – 1.5.  Trails are largely unmarked with reroutes not always clear.  Finding the actual viewpoint of Chimney Top can be a little challenging.  Watch out for loose rock on the ridgelines in case you go to check out any views.
  • Views – 5.  Absolutely stunning views and great ridgeline walking. 
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 1.  From way above, you’ll see North Fork Gap.  There isn’t a water source on this trail.
  • Wildlife – 1.  We barely saw squirrels, but you may have some views of preying birds.  Watch out for timber rattlesnakes on the rocky ridgeline.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.5.   There is basically one trail to follow here, but it can be tricky finding Chimney Top.
  • Solitude – 4.5.  Typically, you’ll only see a few people on this trail.  Most will go to the first overlook and stop.

Download a Trail Map (PDF)

Directions to trailhead:  From Seneca Rocks, WV head northeast on WV-28N/WV-55E for 15.2 miles.  Take a right on to County Route 28/11/Smoke Hole Road.  You immediately cross a bridge where you may see people fishing in the stream.  In about .4 miles, there is a small parking lot on the right-hand side.  You’ll see the brown board which denotes the start of the trailhead.

MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.

Murphy-Chambers Farm – Harpers Ferry

This 2.2 mile route is more of a historic stroll than a true hike, but it’s definitely worth doing if you’re in Harpers Ferry and don’t have time for more significant hikes, like Weaverton Cliff, Loudon Heights or Maryland Heights.

Cannons on Murphy Farm
This short hike has a lot of interesting history. Below:  Meeting Jennifer Pharr Davis, Brew Davis and baby Charley; Berries on the trail; The beginning of the route.

ATC Talk Berries Trailhead

Adam Says…

We took a trip to Harpers Ferry, WV primarily to meet Jennifer Pharr-Davis, the current record-holder with the fastest time to hike the Appalachian Trail.  She was giving a talk at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to promote her new book, Called Again,  and talk about her experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The center holds archives of all the thru-hikers that have made it to this halfway point and while we waited for her talk to begin, we browsed around the center and looked through the photo archives to find some of our friends that had thru-hiked in years past.  We found Jennifer’s talk to be truly inspirational and she took several questions about her experience.

After leaving the center, we decided to take advantage of being in the area and headed to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.  We drove up to the Visitor Center.  At the gate, there was a line of cars and one car was taking a long time to get through.  While I wasn’t feeling particularly patient either, the car in front of us was shouting for the car ahead to move along.  When this car finally got to the gate, they yelled at the park ranger for being too thorough with the other people’s questions.  They ended up just turning around since they were too mad to enjoy the park.  We felt so bad that the park ranger had to take this abuse.  We paid our $10 entry fee and parked near the Visitor Center.  We talked to the staff there and asked for an idea for a quick hike.  The staff member recommended this hike to us, since she said this had some of the nicest views of the Shenandoah River.  We filled up our water bottles and began our hike.

River View
A view of the river. Below; Stairs climb into the woods at the beginning of the hike; First views; Cannon

Steps View from Trail Cannon

The temperature was scorching this day and we hit the trail in the peak of the afternoon heat.  We both talked about how much we hate the heat of the summer.  Give me fall or spring hiking days any time over humid, hot summer days.

The trail starts from behind the restrooms of the Visitors Center and across the main road.  As soon as you cross the cross the road, the trail bears a sharp left, skirting the tree line.  The trail then goes deeper into the woods and begins a descent including a sharp switchback.  At about .25 miles, the trail crosses a bridge over the small creek and then begins a short climb uphill.  Once you reach the top, the trail opens up to houses on the right and a large field on the left.  We took a sharp left, which hugged the tree line down a path that was cut into the tall grass.  The shade of the trees gave us a little protection from the sun beating down, but it wasn’t quite enough.  At .5 miles, the trail approaches the back of the Murphy-Chambers House.  We decided to continue on and see the house on the return trip.  We continued along the trail and at .9 miles, we reached the John Brown Fort foundation.  John Brown was such an interesting character in American history and I remember writing a paper in college about his activist behavior.   A short distance from the foundation, the trail dips into the woods for the view of the Shenandoah River.  You get a nice view of the river and we weren’t surprised to see large rafts floating down the river.  We continued from this point to take a right at the next junction (rather than continuing on to the earthworks) to head back to the Murphy-Chambers House.  The trail follows a rather straight path and there wasn’t any shade to be found from the sun at this point.  At 1.2 miles, we reached an area of cannons and learned about how Confederate General A.P. Hill maneuvered his troops to a fortified position on this hill.

From here we continued on the trail which led to a gate keeping an unpaved road from going any further.  There is a parking lot here and a path to the right leads to the Murphy-Chambers House.  The Union took over this farm in 1862, ousting the Chambers Family.  While he tried to claim restitution for his property, there is no evidence that he was ever paid.  In 1869, Alexander Murphy re-established the farm.

We continued along the trail on the unpaved road until we reached the junction again that led back into the woods at 1.5 miles.  We followed the trail back to the Visitor Center and our car.  While the day was incredibly hot, it was nice to get out and stretch our legs and learn a little about the history that shaped this area.

Christine Says…

If the weather had been cooler or if we’d had more time, we would have opted to take one of the longer hike options in the area.  But after spending Saturday visiting Charlottesville-area wineries (Horton and Barboursville), touring James Madison’s Montpelier and enjoying a huge dinner at the Barbeque Exchange, we got a very late start on Sunday morning.  So late, in fact, that we were worried about making it to Jennifer Pharr Davis’ talk in time.  The original plan had been to have a leisurely lunch in downtown Harpers Ferry and then make our way to the ATC.  As it turned out, we ended up wolfing down Subway in Charles Town and making it to the talk just in time.

Murphy Farm
The Murphy-Chambers Farm; Adam checks out route options, John Brown historical site; Rafters

Checking the Map John Brown Historical Site Rafters

Jennifer’s talk was everything I hoped it would be and more!  I will never be a tenth of the athlete that she is, but she inspires me to get out there and challenge myself.  She loves the Appalachian Trail, and despite all the amazing places she has hiked, the AT is still her favorite.  Some people might think that setting a speed record on the trail would preclude appreciating or enjoying the beauty and the experience of nature.

But after hearing her speak and reading Called Again, I believe she found new levels of beauty, love, and personal fulfillment.  People hike the trail for a variety of reasons – to see scenery and wildlife, to engage in self-discovery, to challenge oneself physically or to form/deepen personal relationships.  Jennifer may have flown across the trail in a mere 46 days, but she still had all the experiences you would expect a person to have along the way.   I really enjoyed Jennifer’s first book Becoming Odyssa, but Called Again was even more rewarding.  I also added Brew Davis’ book (Jennifer’s husband) to my reading queue.  I expect his side of the story to be equally fascinating!

Fawn
We spotted a cute fawn. Below:  The return arm of the loop; Adam at the ATC.

Path ATC Adam

OK… now on to the hike!  Adam has already done such a thorough job describing the route and points of interest, that I really don’t have much to add.  I will echo his sentiments about the heat.  I felt like I was going to melt into a pool of sweat on the trail.  The day we were there was the beginning of one of the only really hot weeks we’ve had this summer. It was probably in the low nineties, but it was humid, windless and sunny, so the heat index was 101.  I really don’t like to hike when it’s above the mid 80s, so this wasn’t a particularly fun hiking day.  Even if there had been more time to explore the area, I don’t think I would have wanted to do a longer hike in this heat.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the views of the river and the historical attractions.  If it had been cooler, I would have taken more time to read informational placards.  My favorite part of the hike was spotting a fawn grazing in the field.  From a distance, I saw a brown hump in the grass.  I asked Adam, ‘Is that an animal of some kind?’.  He thought it was a rock and headed over to read about the cannon on display.  I tiptoed along with my camera and found that the ‘rock’ was actually an adorable spotted fawn.  We made eye contact for a brief moment before he flashed his white tail and bounded off into the trees.

We made our way quickly back to the car where I chugged more water and blasted the air conditioning.  The outdoor temp thermometer on our car said 107.  I know that was mostly from leaving the car sitting in the sun… but still!  This short hike in the heat added even more to the anticipation about our upcoming ten day trip north!  Our next five posts are going to be out-of-staters!  We’ll be taking you to the rugged, exciting, spectacular high peaks of New Hampshire!

Trail Notes

  • Distance2.2 miles
  • Elevation Change – negligble
  • Difficulty –  1.  The trail was not very difficult and only had a little bit of elevation change on the hike.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.  The trail is well-established and didn’t have very difficult footing.  Most of the trail is on grass or gravel.
  • Views – 1.5.  The views of the Shenandoah River were somewhat obstructed with trees around. 
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 2.  You do get one heightened view of the Shenandoah River from this point.
  • Wildlife – 2.  I believe we were fairly lucky to see a fawn on the trail.  I would expect to see field birds here for any bird-watchers.
  • Ease to Navigate – 4.  The trails mostly inter-connect here, so you shouldn’t get lost.
  • Solitude – 4.  My guess is that most people that visit the Visitor Center do not hike up to this area, but you may see some people at the Murphy-Chambers House. 

Directions to trailhead:  From Charles Town, WV head north for about 4.5 miles.  Turn right on Shoreline Drive (about .8 miles past Millville Road).  The entrance fee station is just ahead and the large parking area is to the right.  Walk up to the Visitor Center and the trail is across the road behind the bathrooms.