This hike is just under four miles round trip. The trail offered me lots of solitude and some excellent, obstructed views, and I would not see another person all day. The only drawback is that the area is also known for dirt bikes and ATV use, which have their trail system. You could find engine noise distracting at times on this hike. I never heard any vehicles once the trail veered away from the road.
The trail up to the ridge of Waonaze Peak is part of the Massanutten Trail, which runs 71-miles in the George Washington National Forest. It appears to run north-northeast along the ridge. Taking this trail would be a nice hike in the fall by connecting with the 7 Bends State Park trail system, allowing Danie the chance to drop me off at the Edinburg Gap and then pick me up closer to home in the 7 Bends State Park, making it an approximately 10-mile day hike.
My plan today was to hike just Waonaze Peak. This hike would be my first significant one since my doctor released me to exercise. The forecast was a bluebird day, with a slight breeze; the high was in the mid-'40s, a perfect day to hike. Waonaze Peak was the perfect hike for me, somewhat short, with easy elevation gain. The peak has a unique name, I did a quick search into the name origin, and the most I could find was it had some Algonquian origin. I'll have to dig a bit deeper to find more.
The hike was pretty basic out and back. I had Danie drop me off at the parking area at Edinburg Gap (Route 675). An informational kiosk near the parking area also outlines all the different trails. I crossed the road from the parking lot and picked up the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail. The route uses red blazing with a dot-dash pattern. The trailhead is a little hidden in the trees, and someone placed orange taping on a branch to help locate the trail. There is a trail sign just in from the road, probably not visible when the trees are leafed out.
For the first mile, the trail meanders gradually uphill through open hardwoods. During the flowering season, I read the path has dense stands of mountain laurel in the summer months. I had also read that water sources were impossible to find, yet the trail crossed over a tiny stream (probably dried up in the summer), and I would eventually come upon a marked spring that had a pretty good flow.
I came to another trail mile marker; from this point, the trail gets steeper and rockier the further up I went. Something I'll need to get used to that I wasn't used to living in New York is keeping an eye out for viper snakes once it gets warmer. Timber rattlers are typically non-aggressive and reclusive, which doesn't mean I want to play with them. This terrain is ideal for them.
As I climbed toward the high point of Waonaze Peak, the views toward the valley below, and Kennedy Peak open up. The overlook itself is nice but partly obstructed, not as bad in winter compared to summer. The steeper, rockier section makes several big switchbacks and passes several big boulder jumbles. After I reached the high point, the trail quickly descended into a saddle between Waonaze and Opechee peaks. I turned around at this point but someday will tackle Opechee Peak.
I had looked around for a herd path to the true summit but could not find any. A few areas looked like paths filled in with branches to deter using it, so I gave up on the idea of hitting the true summit. I was probably 50' below the true summit anyway, not a big deal.
Directions to trailhead: GPS Coordinates for this hike are 38.789125, -78.519384. Look for the ATV/OHV parking area at Edinburg Gap on the south side of the road. The trail is on the opposite side of Rt. 675, look for the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail sign.
Elevation Change – 1280 feet
Start time: 11:30 am
Summit: 1:00 pm
Finished: 2:00 pm