Thursday, February 5, 2015

Signal Knob and Three Top Mountain

We hiked Signal Knob and Three Top Mountain in the Massanutten area this past Saturday with two friends and their two border collies. We've hiked Signal Knob a number of times before, but this time, we approached it from the back (southwest). We met our friends in Front Royal and piled into their car because it has all wheel drive. I had a feeling the road to the trailhead wouldn't be in great shape, which turned out to be the case. Most of the last couple of miles of the road were covered in snow and ice.

The first half of the hike follows a fire road except for a brief stretch of trail that goes around Strasburg Reservoir. It is a pleasant walk, generally uphills, but nothing too steep until the approach to Signal Knob. Like I said, we've hiked up to Signal Knob before from the Fort Valley Side. At the top of the mountain, there is a communications tower and a power line cut with a nice view towards Front Royal to the northeast. We had always stopped at the power line cut and usually would have lunch there. Then we would return the way we came for the hike back. I had no idea there was another viewpoint a few hundred yards north of the power line cut with a view to the west towards Strasburg and Great North Mountain. I had just never walked beyond the communications tower. Since we came up the mountain the other way, we found it this time (and our friends knew about it).

We went back down Signal Knob the way we came to the junction with the Tuscarora Trail, where we turned right and headed up to the top of Three Top Mountain. After climbing gradually towards the ridge, the trail follows the top of the ridgeline for a couple of miles. The ridge walk was really pretty. It is a narrow ridgeline with upturned rocks and views through the trees both east and west (the views are probably best in the winter). When we reached the junction with the Massanutten Trail, we turned downhill and made a quick descent down to the road and the car.

It was a nice hike, but there is a fair amount of road walking, which would be less pleasant on a blazing summer day. Three Top Mountain is really pretty. We had perfect winter weather: 30s and sunny.
Our friend and Michael walking up the road near the beginning of the hike.
Strasburg Reservoir from the dam.
Our friend's very dignified border collie on top of Signal Knob.
The view from the power line cut towards Front Royal.
The overlook I had missed several times before: northwest from Signal Knob
Cool ice patterns.
Moss in the snow.
The sun shining on snow on Three Top Mountain.
This tree broke in nearly a perfect square when it fell over.

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