Massanutten Trail Massanutten Loop Trail (In Progress)

The Massanutten Trail is a 71-mile National Recreation Trail in George Washington National Forest in Central Virginia. Much of the path is steep and rugged/rocky, with some mountain views. The trail travels the Massanutten Range around its inner valley. Shenandoah National Park is to the east, and Great North Mountain is to the west.

The trail's origins are in the American Revolutionary War. Originally known as Morgan's Road, a portion of the trail at Veach Gap was built as a potential avenue for retreat in case the Continental Army had been defeated at the battle of Yorktown. George Washington had Daniel Morgan construct the road over the eastern ridge into the valley.

In the 19th century, the area was used for mining and the production of charcoal. Elizabeth Furnace was a blast furnace utilized to create pig iron. Signal Knob, a peak on the northern end of the trail, was used by the Signal Corps of both armies in the Civil War.

In 1933, Camp Roosevelt, located on the eastern part of the trail, was established as the first Civilian Conservation Camp. In the latter half of the 20th century, many trails were established in the Massanutten area. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club had envisioned a long-distance trail there since the 1960s, and in 2002, the Circuit Trail was completed. Rich in history. {1}

Below are my section hikes of the Massanutten Trail;

February 4, 2024: Northbound from Edinburg Gap, where I had started many times before, but this time, I went beyond Waonaze Peak and continued to the Woodstock Tower. The trail is easy enough to follow with its orange dot-ash blazing. The trail consists of loose rock and open forest with plenty of outlooks along the trail. I knew this trail had little to no water to filter, so I had to ensure enough for me on this trip from Edinburgh Gap to Tower Road. Any camping spots are few and far between more needed, and if I did find one, it would be rocky ground.

It was me and my dog, Misty, and today’s adventure. Well, we did not see another soul today. We did see a few deer along the way. Well, at least I saw them. I don’t think Misty did. I wouldn’t have seen them had not heard the foot stomping and snorting during one of our water breaks; it’s always nice to see wildlife go out on a hike, especially in the dead of winter when nothing is on the trees.

February 10, 2024: From the tower road to the tote road leading to Strasburg reservoir, the trail comprised mostly rocky terrain with short ups and downs. The trail zigzags the ridge from one side to the other before it finally drops down the east side to the FS 66 road (forest service road), where it turns back north, not before intersecting with the Tuscarora Trail, which is an entirely different trail system. I would meet a group of southbound hikers today.

I would see no water supply points along the way on today’s hike, but I did see something pretty cool. Just north of the Woodstock Tower road was a man-made stone bridge that connected the trail over a drainage during wet season runoff.

February 18, 2024: From the junction with the road, I continued north, following the road until just south of the reservoir, where the trail skirts the reservoir on the west side. A brook crossing required rock hopping to continue along the trail. The trail eventually reconnects to the road north of the reservoir. The reservoir is visible from the trail as it skirts it.

Once back on the road, the trail continues along the road to just below the summit of Signal Knob, where it departs to the left coming up to the summit. The trail then turns eastward and follows the ridge until it intersects with the trail to Maneka Peak. From there, I continued northeast, switchbacking down, crossing through several rock fields, and eventually reaching a section of trail that was less rocky until I reached the parking area for Signal Knob.

February 24, 2024: continuing clockwise from the signal parking area, I traversed through the woods down to where the trail crosses the road into Elizabeth Furnace. From the road, you cross over a bridge and follow the road to the left. The trail takes you past several remnants of days gone by, consisting of the furnace. From here, the trail switchbacks continuously up to the ridge, passing several rocky outcrops. Once up on the ridge; the trail mostly stays on the ridge but occasionally drops down slightly. The trail passes over several knobs, which would provide limited views on a clear day. Today was not that day; as it was overcast with snow flurries. I would eventually meet several people going in the opposite direction which was a surprise as this area seemed desolate. Before dropping down into Veach Gap, I would pass a few lookouts that would have provided beautiful views. The drop-down into Veach Gap was much like the hike up from Elizabeth Furness, and it switched-backed all the way down to the junction where the trail continues along the Massanutten Trail to the right or to Veach Gap parking area. The trail from here is much like the rest of the trail, except this trail follows an old tote road. Eventually, it meets up with a stream, and for a short time, the trail goes right down the middle of the stream before crossing over. It takes focus in this area as it would be easy to miss the crossing. From here, the trail veers left away from the stream, eventually turning into a soft, loamy trail until reaching the parking lot.

March 4, 2024: I mixed it up with this section; my wife dropped me off at the Edinburg Gap intersection of the trail and would pick me up where the trail crosses the SR-730.

From Edinburg Gap, I traveled south above SR-374 along the western ridge of the Massanutten Trail loop. Today's hike would be an 8.3-mile day over mostly rocky terrain. The trail up from Edinburg Gap shares the SR-374 up to a slight pull-off, where the trail goes back into the woods on the right, and the road continues south. It takes a watchful eye to see where the trail returns into the woods. It could be easy to miss the turn, especially if the trees are leafed out.

The trail up from the road is a typical rocky trail, winding its way up to the cliffs that offer views north into the Shenandoah Valley. Most of the views on my hike today were partially open; only one or two provided decent views without obstructions from trees.

The trail quickly gets up on the ridge, switching from the east to the west side of the ridge. Ultimately, it would favor the west side. The further south I went, the rockier the trail became. Few areas of the trail were free of rocks. I would stop at the trail junction just south of Short Mountain for lunch. I would take almost an hour's break. The trail junction meets up with another trail that leads straight down to SR-374, albeit the trail is obscure, almost to the point it was filled in to deter someone from using it. I would eventually continue south on the Massanutten, crisscrossing the ridge the rest of the way. Eventually, the trail started to switchback down to the road, where I had a brief respite from the rocky trail. The trail crosses the road and continues east, eventually crossing SR-730. This would be the end of today's section hike.

There would be no water sources today.

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