New Market Gap sits at about 1,800 feet (about 550 meters), dividing Virginia's Massanutten range and connecting New Market (Shenandoah County) with Luray (Page County) via US 211. Bird Knob lies just a few miles south of New Market Gap, whereas the popular hiking destinations Strickler Knob
and Duncan Knob
can be found north of the gap.
After an initial steep section, a hike to Bird Knob offers a pleasant ridge walk with some westward views from rock outcrops, and then a short but fun bushwhack/scramble to the summit. There is also the option to visit a nearby spring-fed pond/swimming hole, if desired. One could also combine a hike to Bird Knob with an ascent of Big Mountain
(the high point of the next ridge to the east) and/or Short Horse Mountain (the high point of the next ridge to the east of Big Mountain).
From the parking area at the closed Massanutten Visitor Center, find the white-blazed Wildflower Trail.
Park here, at the crest of Route 211
Take the Wildflower Trail downhill about 0.3 miles to a junction with the orange-blazed Massanutten South Trail.
Turn right onto the orange-blazed trail. This is the steepest part of the hike. Curve up and around the mountain, eventually reaching the ridge in another mile. Continue about 0.4 more miles to an area of scenic outcrops.
Outcrop with a view to the west on a cloudy winter day
Looking southwest on an early fall day
Continue on the orange-blazed Massanutten South Trail another 0.8 miles to its junction with the white-blazed Bird Knob Trail.
Stay to the right here to follow the Bird Knob Trail
Bear right onto the Bird Knob Trail and stay on it for 1.5 miles, passing two unmarked trails coming in from the left. You will arrive at large clearing where the trail turns to the left. Bird Knob is straight ahead at this point, less than 0.2 miles away. Leave the trail here. Cross the clearing, enter the woods and enjoy a short scramble to the rocky summit.
Clearing just north of the summit of Bird Knob in early fall
Final scramble to the summit of Bird Knob in winter
If you wish, return the same way for a round trip of about 8.3 miles.
Alternatively, to do a loop hike and to visit a pleasant spring-fed pond, after descending from the summit and reaching the clearing again, turn right and head downhill on the Bird Knob Trail. The trail descends and soon reaches a junction with an old logging road.
Turn left onto the old logging road and in about 0.1 miles the pond will be on your left. Enjoy! Swim, if it’s a warm day.
Spring-fed pond in early fall
Eventually, return to the white-blazed Bird Knob Trail, turn left, and pass a closed gate in about 0.5 miles. At this point, turn left onto a Forest Service road that coincides with the orange-blazed Massanutten South Trail. Hike 0.4 miles to a place where the road makes a hairpin turn to the right.
Stay straight, passing a closed gate and continuing on the orange-blazed trail. In another 0.6 miles, you’ll reach an unmarked intersection. Keep right to remain on the orange-blazed Massanutten South Trail. In another 0.8 miles, pass through a small clearing and arrive back at the junction with the Bird Knob Trail.
Turn right onto the orange blazed Massanutten South Trail here. Retrace your earlier route, passing the outcrops with western vistas and then descending to the white-blazed Wildflower Trail.
Turn left onto the Wildflower Trail and hike the remaining 0.3 miles back to the parking area. This loop, including the detour to the pond, is about 9.4 miles round trip. With a slight deviation, one could also bag nearby Big Mountain, which is just 0.6 miles from Bird Knob (as the bird flies).
From Washington D.C. take I-66 west to exit 43A, then take 29 south to Warrenton. From Warrenton, take US-211 west to the town of Luray, Virginia. From Luray, continue west on 211. When the road crests at New Market Gap, look for the Massanutten Visitor Center (now closed) on the left (south) side. Turn into the Visitor Center lot and park there.
Bird Knob is on public land within the George Washington National Forest. There are no fees or permits required.
When To Climb
Bird Knob can be climbed in any season. Fall is very pleasant and scenic, but hikers might wish to avoid hunting season or remember to wear brightly colored clothing then. Winter is best for maximizing views while minimizing bugs and unpleasant undergrowth. The warmer months would be more conducive to swimming in the spring-fed pond near the summit.
Camping is free throughout the George Washington National Forest.
George Washington National Forest, Lee Ranger District