Big Bald Knob is more of a high point along a ridge line than it is a mountain summit. Without my altimeter, it would have been difficult to determine the exact high point. There is a naturally occuring cleared area at the high point which is personified by the fact that leading up to the summit, the trail passes through some of the thickest mountain laurel I've ever seen.
Big Bald knob is located in the Shenandoah Mountains and is a part of the George Washington National Forest. Big Bald Knob is part of Ramsey's Draft, a designated wilderness area establihed by Congress in the 1980's.
The Hemlocks shown in the photo below are destined to die in the near future. There is a disease known as Wooly Algid which is working it's way across the east coast killing all Hemlocks. It has a 100 % mortality rate. It is thought to have come from Europe. It is very unfortunate as this particular forest is virgin, having never been timbered. Trees have been dated to the1400's.
From Washington, D.C., take Interstate 66 west to Interstate 81south. Follow Interstate 81 to it's intersection with State Route 250 west (at Staunton). Follow 250 through the town of Staunton (numerous turns so stay aware) and follow 250 for about 1/2 hour until you see the parking lot for Ramsey's Draft on the right hand side. Go beyond the first parking lot (bathrooms available here) to the second parking lot about 1/4 mile futher up the creek / road Park here and follw the somewhat marked trail to the summit.
There are no fees associated with the use of the trails, parking, or camping.
When To Climb
Year round access is OK.
There are numerous camp-sites along the trails to Big Bald Knob. These are backpacking sites and do not have facilities.
Big Bald Knob is located in the Ramsey's Draft Wilderness Area and is administered by the United States Forest Service. Deerfield Ranger Station is responsible for the area and may be contacted at 540-885-8028.
Ramsey's Draft Trail
Starting at the parking lot, follow the trail along Ramsey's Draft Creek. This trail follows the creek for approximately 6.2 miles. There are numerous creek crossings (33 to be exact) along the trail. Do not try to avoid the crossings. Each crossing is there to avoid the steep cliffs on each side of the creek. At times the trail appears to go up the cliffs, but these are only from others who have tried unsuccessfully to avoid the crossings. This trail is poorly marked so stay alert as to the route location.
At 6.2 miles there is a juncture in the trail. Make a right hand turn and follow this trail for 1.5 miles to another trail juncture. Once again, stay to the right and follow this trail for about 1.2 miles and the summit.
This is a long hike for one day. The creek crossings make it a difficult hike both ways.