Elliott Knob/Falls Hollow
9 miles, moderate terrain
65 miles from Daleville & 6.5-mile shuttle, $7.00 carpool fee
Map: USGS 71/2' Elliott Knob
Elliott Knob, the summit of Great North Mountain, is not only the highest point in
Augusta County but also the loftiest height obtained in all of George
Washington National Forest. Although this hike involves a vertical rise of
more than 2,000 feet to reach the summit, the elevation is gained gradually
over the course of almost 5 miles. Enjoyment and inspections of assorted spring
and summer wildflowers can make the ascent seem even easier, and the downhill
portion of the journey has charms of its own, providing a forest and
environment quite different from that found on the mountain's ridgeline. A
stream drops through the narrow canyon of Falls Hollow in an extensive series
of cascades, best appreciated in the spring and early summer when the flow is
at its highest volume.
To do the
complete hike as a one-way trip will require a car shuttle. Take VA-254 west
from Staunton, and in about 8 miles, in Buffalo Gap, continue straight onto VA-42.
In just a short distance VA-688 comes in from the right. Stay on VA-42, but
be paying close attention to the odometer because 2.4 miles from this
intersection you need to pull into the unmarked Falls Hollow trailhead parking
area on the right side of the road. Leave one car in the large turnaround next
to the gated road. Take the second car and backtrack to make a left onto VA-688,
ascending almost 4 miles to the top of the ridge. Be looking for a small,
possibly unmarked parking area on the left side of the road in Dry Branch Gap.
Start south, through the gate and follow yellow-blazed North Mountain Trail (FS-443).
Rounding the side of a knob, look
right to the west for views into the Calfpasture Valley and out to Shenandoah
miles is an unmarked side trail to the right leads to the somewhat-dependable
Buffalo Spring in less than 500 yards.
At 4.4 miles, turn right and ascend on graveled Elliott Knob Road.
When the dirt road swings right and the
North Mountain Trail turns left to descend, keep straight climbing on a grassy
At 4.7 miles, clearing on top of 4,463-foot Elliott Knob with fenced-off abandoned
fire tower. The ridgeline of Great
North Mountain courses northeast and southwest. Shenandoah Mountain is to the
west, and to the east, across Little Calfpasture Valley, is the Virginia
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries' Wildlife Management Area on Little
North Mountain. Retrace your steps back down the road, walking past the two
segments of the North Mountain Trail and coming to multiple springs on the left
side of the road, 5.1 miles after beginning the hike. After descending on the
steep roadway, turn left onto the gently sloping Falls Hollow Trail (FS-657)
at 6.2 miles, no sign, only blaze marking.
At 7 miles, come to an old road in a forest of hemlocks and plush green moss. Go
upstream a couple of hundred feet to see the first of many falls you're going
to enjoy while in Falls Hollow. Follow the roadbed downstream, passing numerous
falls and, in some places where the gorge becomes steep and narrow, rising high
above the stream. The cascades of these narrow stretches are some of the most
impressive in Falls Hollow. During
spring runoff season, be prepared for high water when fording the stream at
7.4 miles and then again a few feet beyond that.
At 7.7 miles, the route begins to swing away from the creek and soon becomes a major
dirt road in an area of new growth after recent logging activity. It could be
easy to become confused in the maze of roads passed within the next mile, but
the roadway to stay on is the one that is the best maintained.
At a turn in the road in one of the
clear-cuts, at 8.5 miles, Elliott Knob can be seen to the west, soaring high
above and dramatically illustrating the more than 2,000 feet you have dropped since
being on its summit. At 9 miles pass through a gate to the shuttle car.
From 50 Hikes in Northern Virginia by Leonard Adkins