Heading out this morning, we tossed our hiking gear in the vehicle and hit the road. Today’s drive wasn’t a planned hiking trip. But, if the opportunity presented itself, we would take advantage of it.
Driving on US 33, through the George Washington National Forest, we noticed a beautiful overlook. Stopping to take a few pics, we saw that this was the trailhead for the High Knob Fire Tower Trail. Well, who wouldn’t want to see a Fire Tower? The trail was hard to spot. But, left to the trail information board, Heather noticed the vertical trail marker between two guardrails. We strapped Leo on my back and hit the trail.
At 4107 feet (1241 meters), High Knob sits on the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains, separating the states of Virginia and West Virginia. The trail is a beautiful 1.3 mile (2k) out and back. The difficulty is moderate, with a few steep and rocky inclines. At times, the trail utilizes an old access road, but this doesn’t make the trail stroller friendly. Thankfully we were using our backpack baby carrier. The access road winds around the mountain leading upward to the Fire Tower. From the observation deck of the Fire Tower, the views of the surrounding valleys and ridges are spectacular and breathtaking.
From the Eastern side of the tower, you can view across the expansive Shenandoah Valley and into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. From the Western side, you can see the vastness of the Allegheny Highlands of West Virginia and the former NSA & Naval Information Operations Command (NAVIOCOM) Sugar Grove Station rising above the forest floor.
Sitting on the edge of the observation deck leaves one to imagine what it would have been like not only to have worked and stayed in this tower during its time in operation. But, what it would have been like to have been one of the WWI veterans or CCC members who built it. The experiences they would have had, the views they would have seen, the weather they would have endured.
As the sun set upon the trail, it was time for us to leave. But, the trail still had more to show us. Winding down the Western side of the trail, you can see the sun slowly slip below the ridge of the Allegheny Highlands making for a beautiful sunset for the hike out. Next time, we may pack a lunch and watch the sunset from the tower and hike out in the dark. But, that will be for another day.
If you are ever on US 33, driving across the WV and VA line, give High Knob Fire Tower Trail a hike. You will not be disappointed by this National Historic Lookout.
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