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April 1998

Virginia’s Massanutten Range

The 50-mile-long Massanutten range in Virginia may be D.C.'s top-secret hiking getaway.

QUICK TAKE: Massanutten Mountain, Virginia

DRIVE TIME: Massanutten Mountain is in northwestern Virginia, 80 miles west of Washington, D.C., (11/2 hours) and 120 miles (21/2 hours) southwest of Baltimore, Maryland.

THE WAY: To reach Signal Knob trailhead and the northern end of Massanutten Mountain from Washington, D.C., take I-66 to the Front Royal exit. Go west on VA 55 for 5 miles. At Waterlick, turn left on County Route 678 and travel 3 miles to the trailhead parking area on the right. To reach Massanutten Visitor Center and trails at the midpoint on Massanutten Mountain, take I-66 to Marshall. Follow US 17 to Warrenton and turn south on US 211 to New Market Gap.

TRAILS: There are nearly 50 trails on Massanutten Mountain totaling 150 miles, 30 miles of which are open to all-terrain vehicles and four-wheelers. The section of Massanutten Mountain West Trail between Woodstock Gap and Edinburg Gap has rock outcroppings with eye-popping vistas of Shenandoah Valley. But bushwhackers who navigate to the top of Catback Mountain will probably find the best view of all.

ELEVATION: Ranges from a low point of 680 feet along Passage Creek near Elizabeth Furnace to 2,552-foot Kennedy Peak.

CAN’T MISS: Fort Valley Overlook on Signal Knob Trail sweeps in steep Massanutten ridges and jagged interior knobs, which one well-traveled Forest Service employee says rivals anything out West.

CROWD CONTROL: The trails in the southern portion of Massanutten Mountain (south of US 211) are steep, rocky, sometimes poorly maintained but generally deserted.

PIT STOP: The Country Store, at the intersection of county routes 678 and 758, has a little bit of everything, including deli sandwiches.

WALK SOFTLY: Scatter stones from fire rings you find along trails.

MAPS AND GUIDES: The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club sells a detailed two-map set and 74-page Guide to Massanutten Mountain (revised in 1993). Send $18 to PATC, 118 Park St. SE, Vienna, VA 22180-4609; (703) 242-0693. The main trails of Massanutten are also covered in The Trails of Virginia: Hiking the Old Dominion, by Allen de Hart ($18.50, The University of North Carolina Press, 919-966-3561).

MORE INFORMATION: Lee Ranger District, George Washington National Forest, Windsor Knit Rd., Rt. 4, Box 515, Edinburg, VA 22824; (540) 984-4101.

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