One of the most difficult, yet still rideable, climbs on the Massanutten Trail
, Signal Knob is a favorite of riders looking for a challenge. There are multiple rock gardens that feature plenty of terrain for repeating, while the descent down Bear Wallow is one of the longest and most exciting in Fort Valley.
The climb up Signal Knob is not for the faint of heart. Even the most experienced riders will have to walk some sections, or at least try them multiple times before "cleaning" them. Plan on two hours for the round trip, longer if you like to session hard parts. Ride the loop counter-clockwise for a challenging climb and a fast, flowing descent, or clockwise for a mellower climb but rough descent. And believe it or not, all sections have been ridden at least once!
This version does the loop counter-clockwise, up Signal and down Bear Wallow. Start at the Signal Knob Trailhead, approximately 3.5 miles up Fort Valley Rd.
The trail starts promptly uphill along a narrow, bumpy singletrack lined with baby-heads. The trail will continue gradually uphill through several more challenging rock gardens until the first lookout, where the trail will take a sharp left turn uphill.
This next section will increase in difficulty through two more rock gardens until a gradual right turn at the Fort Valley Overlook. The third section is the most challenging, with multiple extended rock gardens requiring strenuous, large moves. After the third section, the trail will flatten out slightly along a ridge, before one last uphill stretch to the intersection with the Meneka Peak Trail
on your left.
Continue up towards Meneka Peak, smooth at first and then rockier with one or two uphill wall sections, until the peak with an overlook of the valley is to your left. Then take the bumpy descent down to the t intersection with the Blue Tuscarora - Bear Wallow Trail #405.2
. Now comes the reward!
Follow the blue blazes to the left down Bear Wallow. There are several large, challenging moves at first, which will then give way to faster, more flowing sections. About a third of the way, the trail will pitch up for a few hundred yards before heading down again.
Stay left at all trail intersections on the descent, heading slightly uphill before the ridge and stream crossing. Lower Bear Wallow will traverse then climb prior to the last descent along a newly-built section with banked corners and fast lines, before ending up at the Signal Knob parking lot.