A Tale of Two Knobs

Thanksgiving 2015: Eric and I decided to do something different this year. Instead of spending the weekend gorging ourselves, we had a quiet vegan thanksgiving dinner and then headed to George Washington National Forest for an easy 2 days of backpacking. Eric picked out the Duncan Knob Hike and we decided to combine this with a little out and back to Strickler Knob. Here’s what happened when Eric, Andrew, and I decided to opt outside.

Vegan Thanksgiving appetizers including lentil pate and a vegan cheese ball

Vegan Thanksgiving appetizers including lentil pate and a vegan cheese ball

Thanksgiving day was great. Eric went out for a long bike ride while I prepared some of our favorite vegan celebration foods. Highlights included lentil pate and beet wellington.

Felt like we had the whole forest to ourselves

Felt like we had the whole forest to ourselves

On Friday we slept in and had a lazy morning before driving about 2 hours to George Washington National Forest. We started at Crisman Hollow Road and began hiking the yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail. At the intersection, we veered right onto the orange blazed Massanutten Trail and stayed on that until we reached a great little backpacking site along a field. We set up camp while the sun went down.  We shared some laughs around the campfire before retiring for the night. The Duncan Knob loop is littered with great little backpacking sites. Each one seems better than the next. Some even have elaborate rock chairs built around the fire pit. Sites range from in an open field to along a cliff or next to a stream. You could go here dozens of times and camp at a different site each visit.

Sunrise along the ridge

Sunrise along the ridge

We woke up before sunrise to try to hike out to Strickler Knob to see the sun rise over the ridge line of the Shenandoah Range. We continued along the Massanutten Trail until we reached the unofficial trail out to Strickler Knob. It  is technically a bushwhack, but it is pretty well marked with pink and red tape. There are some difficult rock scrambles to get out to the end, but the view is well worth the effort. There are many campsites along this unofficial trail right along the cliff-side.

We made it!

We made it!

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

Next, we backtracked to get back to the Massanutten Trail. We walked down into the valley before climbing back up to get to the blue blazed Gap Creek Trail. We stopped at a few campsites to snack along the way and we also saw a bear cub in the trees! Thankfully we did not encounter Mommy Bear.

The scramble to Duncan Knob

The scramble to Duncan Knob

To get to Duncan Knob, we took a right onto the white blazed trail off of the blue blazed Gap Creek Trail. This leads you 0.3 miles up a boulder field to get to the view point. It is somewhat difficult to follow the blazes in the scramble, but as long as you stay along the ridge line you should be able to pick it back up again. The campsites along the white blazed trail were some of the most elaborate ones along the whole loop. Next time, I’d like to stay at one of these.

View from Duncan Knob

View from Duncan Knob

Duncan Knob provides another great view. Although, we all agreed that we enjoyed Strickler Knob a bit more. From Duncan Knob, we headed back along the yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail to our car parked at Crisman Hollow Road. This whole loop is only about 12 miles so it is great for an overnight beginner trip. We only saw one possible water source along the trail, so I recommend just carrying all of the water that you think you will need. You can also keep water in the car ready for when you get back. We saw virtually no one else on the trail the entire trip in late November, but I imagine that this loop can get pretty busy in the summer months. The trail offers some challenging climbs, descents, and rock scrambles, but the highlight of this loop is definitely the view. What are you waiting for? Get outside!

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