Furnace Mountain stands at the northern end of one of the smaller ridges in Shenandoah National Park. Although it is in the South District of the park, which is much less visited than the North and Central Districts because of its distance from Washington DC, Furnace Mountain still gets respectable amounts of traffic. This may be because of the relatively short hike to the summit and the views of other mountains in the park.
From the Furnace Mountain Trail, views to the south and west are available, which include Hall Mountain and Abbott Ridge. From the summit overlook, views are to the north and east, which include Austin Mountain and the main ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park.
Furnace Mountain is a worthwhile destination by itself, and is also a nice side trip for a hike to its neighbor Trayfoot Mountain.
From Elkton, follow US Route 340 south until reaching SR 659, which is a little north of the town of Grottoes. Make a left on SR 659 and follow it until you pass SR 708, which will be on the left. At this point SR 659 ends and becomes a fire road.
There is parking on the side of the fire road. Hike about 0.2 miles on the fire road before making a right onto the Furnace Mountain Trail. Cross Madison Run and follow the trail for 1.6 miles until reaching the junction with the Furnace Summit Trail. Turn left on the Furnace Summit Trail and continue for 0.5 miles until you pass over the summit and reach an overlook.
Round trip: 4.6 miles, with an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet.
SP member Bob Sihler
pointed out that Furnace Mountain is also accessible from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. To get there, follow US Route 33 east from Elkton until reaching Skyline Drive. Go south on Skyline Drive and follow it until reaching the Blackrock Summit parking area and trailhead, which is about 0.3 miles north of MP 85 (miles are marked in ascending order from north to south).
Hike about 0.5 miles on the Appalachian Trail until reaching the summit of Blackrock. From there, follow the Trayfoot Mountain Trail for 0.6 miles (using Blackrock Spur Trail to connect from AT to Trayfoot Mountain Trail). Turn right onto the Furnace Mountain Trail and follow the trail for 1.8 miles until reaching the junction with the Furnace Summit Trail. Make another right on the Furnace Summit Trail and continue for 0.5 miles until you pass over the summit and reach an overlook.
Round trip: 6.8 miles, with an elevation gain of about 500 feet (with about the same gain on the return).
Entry to Shenandoah National Park is free from the boundary. The $15 entry fee is only applicable if you come in via Skyline Drive.
Please do not block the fire road and remember to respect private property on the left side of the road.
When to Climb
Furnace Mountain can be climbed all year round. The mountain laurel blooms on the trail in June, and fall colors arrive in October and November. Summer is the worst time for mosquitoes, ticks, and other hostile little critters. The heat and humidity are also at their worst in summer, and views tend to be more limited by haze. The best time for a summer hike is early in the morning.
Free backcountry camping is allowed throughout Shenandoah National Park. The required permit can be obtained through mail or at entrance stations, park headquarters, or visitor centers. Campfires are only permitted at pre-constructed fireplaces at backcountry huts and day-use shelters. There is a good campsite at the summit of Furnace Mountain.
If you enter the park via Skyline Drive, the nearest campground to the Blackrock Summit parking area is Loft Mountain, which has showers, water, flush toilets, and a store. The access road for the campground is located at MP 79.5. The Loft Mountain campground is open from mid-May through October. Reservations can be made, but only 10% of the sites are available (see Shenandoah National Park link for more details). It will usually fill on holiday and October weekends even though it is the park's largest campground. The campsite fee is $15 per night (it may be higher if you reserve).
External LinksShenandoah National Park
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
maintains the trails in the Shenandoah National Park, and provides maps, guidebooks, and other information.