Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hone Quarry Hike - April 10, 2010

Thanks go to Betsy and Gigi for hosting my son on a Cub Scout overnight that did not require my presence over the weekend of April 10-11.  I used the opportunity to test out the new tent at George Washington National Forest's Hone Quarry Campground, west of Harrisonburg.  It was very peaceful out here, despite a supposed "student riot" going on at Harrisonburg's James Madison University at the same time.

After setting up the tent in the campground, I headed off on a long circuit hike.  I started by walking up the Hone Quarry Road past the reservoir, and after 2.4 miles came to the Pond Knob Trail.  The Pond Knob Trail climbed at an exceptionally steep 23% grade to the top of Pond Knob where a trail sign was leaning up against a tree.  This was the highest elevation of the hike, at 3576 feet, 3.7 miles into the hike.   

Here, I turned onto the Meadow Knob Trail.  The Meadow Knob Trail is an old jeep trail, though I cannot imagine any jeep ever taking this road.  It dropped breathtakingly fast - at a 27% grade - before climbing back up to the summit of Oak Knob.  

Oak Knob is slightly lower than Pond Knob at 3506 feet.  There is a geocache on the summit of Oak Knob that was easy to find.  It had not been accessed since June, the only time someone had nabbed it in the past year.

I continued on the Meadow Knob Trail for another mile-and-a-half to access another geocache.  This cache has only been accessed one time since 2006.  And I never saw another hiker after leaving the road.  Even the guy who placed the geocache on the Oak Knob summit emailed me asking about the trails I used to get to his cache - he'd clearly never taken the most direct trail to his geocache - the Cliff Trail.

Coming back, I re-summited Oak Knob then dropped down a few hundred feet to the Cliff Trail turnoff.  There was no sign for the Cliff Trail on the Meadow Knob Trail (not even one leaning up against a tree), but the blazes on the trees were pretty clear.  Also somewhat confusing, as I thought when I first passed it ascending to Oak Knob from Pond Knob that it might be the trail to the top, since all trails are blazed yellow.

The Cliff Trail is not a bad trail, but the upper portion of the trail traversed several sections of loose rock where a twisted ankle could happen at any time.  This greatly slows the hike and is an added difficulty to a trail that cannot show up in the calculations I make comparing trails.  

Closer to the trailhead, there are a couple of great overlooks that look down on the Hone Quarry valley.  I had been to one of these a couple of years ago when my nephew Ned came to visit.  I'd always wanted to come back and explore the area a little more closely.  I am glad I did.

Hike Details.
PATC Difficulty Factor 243.9 
Distance: 10.5 miles
Total Time: 4 hours 59 minutes, including stops.
Steepest Uphill: from 2.95 miles to 3.22 miles; 23% grade.
Starting elevation: 1984 ft.
Highest point: 3576 ft.


  1. Too right about the possible confusion due to all the blazes being yellow! The loose rock portions are also a good place to meet a timber rattlesnake as I did, in addition to the ankle-twisting hazard. Still, some great views, and crazy-steep sections. Also Hone Quarry campground is particularly nice I think. Beautiful day in May, no other hikers.

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