George Washington National Forest
The George Washington National Forest covers more than a million picturesque acres of mountains and valleys in northwestern Virginia and West Virginia. It is steeped in American tradition having been a travelway for Indians, a passageway for pioneers and a battleground in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Today the forest offers an assortment of recreation experiences for the many who visit each year. Among the activities available are picnicking, camping, sightseeing, hiking, hunting, swimming, fishing, and boating.
The borders of the George Washington National Forest are not much more than 10 miles from Staunton, both to the southeast (below the Shenandoah National Park) and to the west. Much of the forest, which stretches 140 miles through western Virginia and into West Virginia, is located in Augusta County. Hiking trails in the Forest total 900 miles, including over 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail and offer many attractionshistoric sites, rare wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, and geologic formations, among many others.
The Forest contains six designated wildernesses totaling just over 32,000 acres. Rich Hole Wilderness (6,450 acres) is located on the James River Ranger District. Rough Mountain Wilderness (9,300 acres) is located on the Warm Springs Ranger District. The 9,835-acre St. Mary's Wilderness , on the Pedlar Ranger District, and 6,518-acre Ramsey's Draft , in the western portion of the county, reward visitors with views of mountain streams, river gorges, and virgin forest.
Small portions of Barbour's Creek (20 acres) and Shawver's Run (95 acres) are also within the boundaries of the Forest but are primarily on the adjacent Jefferson National Forest . These areas are generally characterized by rugged and remote mountain terrain. They contain no developed facilities and are accessed by a few low-standard trails.
In addition to a wide variety of wildflowers, trees, shrubs, ferns and mosses, visitors are likely to encounter abundant wildlife. Game species include bear, deer, turkey, grouse, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, quail, and waterfowl. Non-game bird species include 160 kinds of songbirds, owls and hawks.
Information about recreational opportunities and forest service activities is available at the Massanutten Visitor Center. Five environmental interpretive trails near the Center offer forest walks of different lengths.
Three miles of new trail and four observation platforms provide excellent views of Crabtree Falls, five cascading waterfalls that are the highest in the Virginia Blue Ridge. The Appalachian Trail follows the crest of the mountains through the Blue Ridge section of the forest for about 50 miles.
Hiking, Camping, Boating, and More
Hidden Valley a campground in an open valley area of cultivated fields and pasture crossed by an excellent trout stream, presents one of the loveliest views in the George Washington. On the site is Warwick Mansion, built in 1850, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Gathright Dam/Lake Moomaw is the largest lake on the forest (2,500 acres) and offers swimming, boating, fishing, water-skiing and sailing. Two boat launch ramps are available.
Blowing Springs Mountain spring producing strong gusts of cool, underground air. Located on Back Creek, one of the forest's finest mountain fishing streams.
Bolar Flat Boat Ramp and Picnic Area Located on the northern shores of Lake Moomaw. Boating, fishing, water skiing, boat launching ramp and picnic shelter available.
Bolar Mountain Camping and Picnic Areas Located on the northern shores of Lake Moomaw. Camping, picnicking, swimming, boating, fishing and water skiing. Picnic shelters available.
Braley Pond The four-acre lake is stocked with trout and warm water fish. Small stream on access spur must be forded.
Brandywine Lake Ten-acre lake (Hawse Run) swimming (capacity of 500), small playfield. Rowboats allowed, bathhouse is available. Water turned off early due to freezing temperatures.
Bubbling Springs Large open springs are only source of water. Scout and hunter-type camp.
Camp Roosevelt Site of first Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in America. Small playfield. An excellent central basecamp location from which mountains, valleys, caves and rivers may be explored.
Camp Run Primitive forest setting. Access road may be rough.
Coles Mountain Picnic Areas Located on a ridge above Lake Moomaw. Picnic shelters available. Fishing nearby.
Elizabeth Furnace Flush toilets at campground. Washrooms and cold showers. Vault toilets at picnic grounds. Organization campground (capacity of 75 people). Forest naturalists on duty June-September. Historic iron furnace. Trail to historic Signal Knob. Campfire amphitheater, playfield and picnic shelters. Reservations for group camping required.
Elkhorn Lake (E-4) This is a public water supply. No swimming or camping permitted. Boat launch ramp. Fishing and hiking. Gasoline powered boats not allowed.
Greenwood Points Primitive camp accessible only by boat. Located on the shores of Lake Moomaw. Boating, fishing and water skiing.
Hawk Quiet isolated woodland campground. Group camping facilities (capacity 50).
Hazard Mill Campground is on bluff above the river. Road to this recreation area is narrow and sometimes dusty. Campers with sewage holding tanks are not permitted because sewage dumping stations are not available.
Hone Quarry Attractive forest setting. Good hiking. Picnic shelter. Fishing in spring.
Little Fort Often used when Elizabeth Furnace is full. One-mile hike to Woodstock Tower, scenic observation point. Playfield. Spring fishing in Peters Mill Run, a small mountain stream. Campers with sewage holding tanks are not permitted.
Locust Springs Small camp or picnic spot. Camping shelter (capacity 6 people). Hiking into Laurel Fork Area.
Longdale Small swimming lake with sand beach. Picnic shelter (capacity of 20).
Morris Hill Campground and Picnic Area Located in a wooded setting on a ridge above Lake Moomaw. Fishing, boating and water skiing within 1/2 mile.
Mountain House Located in Ramsey's Draft. Many varieties of native herbs, trees and flowering plants can be observed. No camping facilities. Civil War historic area nearby.
New Market Gap Picnic shelter. Roadside stop along U.S. 211. Located near Massanutten Visitor Center.
North River Campground Overflow camping area for Todd Lake Campground.
North River Picnic Located by Staunton Dam, City of Staunton public water supply. Fishing below dam only.
Sherando Lake Swimming, boating and hiking. Outdoor recreation and education programs led by Forest naturalists. Campfire theater programs. Reservations for group camping required.
Shenandoah Mountain Picnic A small picnic area on a mountain top provides a cool spot for an outing.
Todd Lake Attractive recreation development in heart of North River country. Swimming beach (capacity 300) and playfieid. Cold water showers available for campers. Water turned off early due to freezing temperatures.
Tomahawk Pond Picnicking and fishing are the major attractions. Two-acre pond.
Trout Pond Camping and fishing are the major attractions. Hiking trails around lake. Picnic shelter available. Group picnic reservations taken at Ranger District Office. Swimming beach (capacity 300).
Wolf Gap Three mile hike to the Big Schloss Geological Area. A cool retreat for camping and picnicking. Campers with sewage holding tanks are not permitted.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication