High Knob Fire Tower

High Knob Fire Tower

Located in the George Washington National Forest

This moderately-strenuous hike rewards with some of the best views in Virginia national forests from the historical High Knob fire tower. After restoration in 2001-2003, the tower now lends expansive 360° views to visitors, with vistas of sunsets over West Virginia’s highest mountain Spruce Knob and the Eastern Continental Divide. To the east, sunrises over the slopes of Shenandoah Mountain, Switzer Lake, and the Blue Ridge Mountains are visible. Plaques on each side of the tower catwalk show the names of peaks in the distance. The area also offers excellent bird watching.

Trail Information

Trail Activities: Hiking and Trail Running

Time required: 1.5-2.5 hours
Challenge level: Moderate
Distance: 2.5 miles
Elevation change: +/- 643 ft
Terrain: Mostly singletrack footpath, with a short section on a wider dirt road
Preferred direction: n/a (out and back hike)

Practical Planning Information

Services Along Trail: None, grassy clearing at the top of the mountain around the fire tower
Food & Water: None
Phone Service: There may be service at the parking area and on top of mountain, depending on the carrier

Directions & Parking

Google: High Knob Trailhead

Driving: 30 minutes from Harrisonburg (Google maps, note left turn is possible after crossing state line)
Signs and Marking: From the trailhead at the parking area, follow the trail blazed yellow on trees.
Parking: Large gravel parking area on the left/south side of Rt. 33 immediately after cresting the pass on the VA/WV state line. Space for 20+ cars. Trailhead/parking not signed from the road, but is very visible.

High Knob Fire Tower

Navigating the Trail

From the parking lot, the trail starts with a short, rocky descent from the guardrail down to a rolling yellow blazed trail through the forest which gradually climbs in elevation. After 0.8 miles, turn left on the High Knob Trail which climbs steeply up to a dirt road at 0.9 miles (the trail to the right leads down to Brandywine Lake). Turn right on the road, where the trail levels out, and walk 0.1 miles to a left turn that leads uphill on a grassy road to the fire tower (1.3 miles). Return via the same path.

Be sure to stay on the trail to avoid entering private property, which is well signed. Note that temperatures can be significantly cooler at this elevation than in Harrisonburg, and the area is exposed to wind– it’s wise to bring a jacket. Take caution when climbing the fire tower, especially with young children.

Hunting season occurs from November 5 to January 7 each year. During this time, be aware hunters may be active on National Forest lands. Wear bright clothing to make yourself more visible and consider wearing a brightly colored hat or vest. Whistle, sing, or carry on a conversation and alert hunters to your presence. For more information and safety suggestions, visit the Virginia DWR website.

More Information

National Historic Lookout

The fire tower was constructed by World War I veterans in 1939 and completed by members of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in 1940. Fire marshals utilized the tower to monitor the area for fires. The tower is uniquely constructed out of stone, while most fire towers were built out of metal or wood. While many fire towers were taken down after fire detection technology improved, High Knob tower was added to the National Historic Lookout Registry due to its scenic location and unique stone construction.

Images from the Trail

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