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Level: Advanced
Length: 15 mi (24.1 km)
Surface: Other
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +1,887/ -1,296 ft
Total: 98 riders

Mountain Biking Elizabeth Furnace

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#12 of 300 mountain bike trails in Virginia
#415 in the world

This was a tough ride over advanced terrain due to elevation changes, and frequency and types of obstacles. Terrain is a mix of doubletrack fire roads and singletrack with several, extended rock gardens, rock outcroppings, technical climbs and descents, and the distance will probably vary considerably depending on how you build your loop. It is in the Appalachian foothills (Shenandoah Range), so expect some serious climbing (well, at least for us East Coasters). The saving grace is that a good portion of this was on the initial fireroad section, so establishing something of a cadence was not impossible (loose gravel and sand in the climbs is not conducive to great speed, necessarily). I would suggest getting a trail map; the blue trail is extremely advanced, very rocky, and would most likely require even the more advanced intermediate riders to dismount and walk portions (admittedly, it was tough just hiking it with the rocks, and in bike cleats). There are 4-5 creek crossings that were encountered, 3 of which were significant due to depth and large, slick rock. It was a fantastic ride, and took us about 4.5-5 hours to complete. Bring plenty of fluids, food (nothing around for miles), first aid kit, and full suspension (you could do this on a hardtail, but rear travel made this a lot more enjoyable I think). I will definitely do this ride again, and possibly take part in the Shenandoah Mtn 100 race next year (I'd do it this year, but considering the shape I'm in, it would probably kill me).

First added by searsandrewj on Aug 4, 2004. Last updated May 2, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Trails Located in George Washington National Forest, approx 30 minutes north of Lurray Caverns off of Rt 340/522S from I-66W. From exit 6 off of Route 66W, proceed south and turn right at about 1.2 miles. There will be signs to Elizabeth Furnace Day Use area grounds. Also, check out www.more-mtb.org for more detailed directions. I'm not always the best person to ask for directions. :)
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  • RonMexico

    Awesome trail. Did it back in 2003. On my old GT Outpost hardtail. My teeth still hurt.

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  • Scott_Primrose

    Great, rugged trail system. Be prepared to do some hike-a-bike and bring a lot of water. There is a water pipe on the firewood near where orange and purple trails cross to fill up.

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  • Dylan Judy

    Returned to my home trail in May of 2016 after a decade of riding other parts of the USA. This is my favorite natural singletrack trail, period.. Hands down. If you like big rocks, steep and technical climbs/descents, then this is a place for you. The Signal Knob loop takes a lot of strength some trials skills to navigate without dabbing. I have cleared every section at least once, but never all in one day. Very challenging.

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  • dlnelson15

    This is a trail for advanced riders. Like the other reviews said you either are going to love or hate it is that simple. It has to be one of the most technical trails in the Northern Virginia area.
    This is very rugged terrain with lots of rocks. You can say it is nature at its best little human intervention but it is just plain rugged with a few fire roads mixed in. Be prepared to do some hiking in some areas near the top but the views and experience is well worth it. Let's just say you will have to hike-a-bike in some areas as the rocks are not rideable. The fire road up to Signal Knob is steep and will require everything you have to climb it. Expect your legs and lungs to be burning when you get to the top. Plan ahead and take plenty of water as it will be required. Expect to get your feet wet while crossing the several creek crossings or just dismount and cross on the rocks.
    Might I recommend the following route if this is your first time out here. Take a picture of the trail maps with your phone or camera and put your phone in airplane mode so your battery won't die as there is no signal out here anyway. Leaving the Signal Knob parking lot take the Orange Blue trail up to the Blue trail, then pick up the White trail on the left across from the Maneka Peak Trail sign which says it is 2.8 M This trail will take you to the Purple trail or Bear Wallow Trail. Never fear if you pass it there is a pink trail further up on the left that will connect you to the purple trail. Then stay on the Purple trail till you get to the Orange Trail/Fire Road. This will take you up past the Strasburg Reservoir. The Orange Trail keeps going to Signal Knob. About .8 M past the reservoir you can pick up the Blue Trail or continue up to Signal Knob. Once at the top after a rest and checking out the views you can continue on the Orange trail which is very technical/rocky and ride/hike to the White trail. Please note the Orange trail from here on is mostly un-rideable and will require much hiking. Trust me I learned the hard way. If you take the White trail up to Maneka Peak it is technical and will require some hiking but it isn't too bad. It connects to the Blue trail on the top of the Mt. Turn left and hike down the Blue Trail a little and then it becomes rideable. Then it is technical downhill fun from here on all the way down to the Signal Knob parking lot. Be careful on the switch backs as they are sharp.
    Finally, this ride is not for the faint of heart but will challenge your skills as a mountain biker. Plan for at least four hours or more for this ride/route. If you ride this route/trail it will require excellent physical condition and fitness because it will test your core strength.

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  • Tuga Rider

    This is a trail that you either going to love or hate it, that simple.
    This is rugged terrain, nature at its best and with very little human intervention, other than the fire roads.
    Plenty of climbing and downhill, in both it will include a good share of dismounting as you will be going through plenty of rocks that I seriously doubt anyone would be able to do it on a bike.
    There are some sections of fire roads, one in particular you will be climbing to the Fire Tower, it is long and the last portion is very steep, it will burn on your legs.
    It is best to with some one that knows the trail system well, you will be away from civilization, I mean away.
    Also lots of water will be required, there is a water hole with very good spring water, though again unless you go with someone that knows the trail system well, you will not find it and run out of water.
    There are several creeks crossings and some will also require to dismount.
    Not for the novice, this trail does require good physical condition and fitness.
    Overall a great combination of biking, hiking and nature!!!!

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  • wheeledgoat

    I pretty much agree with the rest of the reviews here, except I don't remember it being all *that* hard. It's a challenge, to be sure (and I too have gotten comments from hikers along the lines of "you're here on a BIKE??). I'm a casual rider, grew up on the east coast, and did this trail many times during my college years at Shenandoah. It was (and still is) my favorite trail, even after living in CO and now IL, and riding my share of trails including Fruita & Moab. Perhaps my attitude has an effect on my perceptions, though; my approach isn't "lets see how fast I can ride today" but rather "I'm here to enjoy nature, escape daily life for a while and have a good ride." Signal Knob's got a little of everything and is a great 1-day adventure. Even before you get to the top, there are legendary views of valleys and wonderfully rich forests. Sure, there's some tough sections, and spots that I cannot imagine any human being able to bike through (requiring a bit of bike portage) but the miles of only slightly technical downhill singletrack switchbacks make it all worth it in the end. All in all a really great day out, most certainly worth your time.

    UPDATE 9/22/14:
    The trail is much different now than what I reviewed above. Many, many more rocks than there were 15 years ago. I think erosion is part of it, but there is at least one section of trail I'm 100% sure has been re-routed from days of old and is decidedly less bike friendly now. I cannot recommend this trail for bikes anymore, at all, I don't care how advanced you are. It's not fun. (I'm talking about the loop that is "Signal Knob Trail" up and then blue "Bear Wallow" back down.) This trail USED to kick ass, but it's so different now it may as well be taken off of any "mountain bike" list. Great for hiking and back country camping, though! Several camping spots along Signal Knob Trail as you go up.

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  • dgh716

    My new favorite place to ride. The best technical rock riding area I've been to. Some of the trail has no dirt, just rock to rock. There is some hike-a-bike up over some unridable rock gardens. Some of those same rock gardens can be ridden if going down hill depending on skills and/or confidence. Beautiful views almost everywhere on the trails with many overlooks of the mountains and valleys. I'd say its more of a place for good experienced riders. New riders may get frustrated with all the technical stuff because it can be non-stop for quite a distance at a time. Be careful and have plenty of time to do the whole ride. Had a blast and will be back there for sure. 5 stars

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  • Alex NIN

    Great technical challenge with tough climbs and amazing downhill. Yes there is fire road to climb and the last bit up to signal knob is brutal but the reward of great steep rocky downhill is totally worth it. Take orange from parking lot to blue, left on white, Rt on purple follow fire road to it's end continue on purple to the Rt, follow stream five crossings total, then orange fire road to left on orange singletrack around reservoir back to orange fire rd all the way up to signal knob for an amazing view. Then take trail to menaka peak lots of hike a bike back to blue trail for epic downhill all the way back to parking lot. Clockwise in direction see map I uploaded in the photos section. Overall a great technical challenge with killer views

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  • John Fisch

    Here's the good--these are beautiful woods with a very remote feel, easily accessable from the interstate. Thre are some superb downhill sections and some great, technical climbs/descents and rock gardens on fairly level ground. Trail is usually not as crowded as you'd think, given it's virtues.

    Here's the bad--Lots of fire road required to make a loop. The last pitch of fire road is very steep with loose sand and loose rocks and will suck the life out of you're legs--many will walk the last half mile.

    Here's the ugly--unrideable rocks, and lots of them. Dismounts will be frequent and lenghty for anybody not named "Hans." It's like mother nature's observed trials course with jagged rocks everywhere seemingly placed at the most inconvenient angles. Even on the downhills, you will dismount from time to time and work hard for every mile of singletrack.

    Overall, this is a most worthy trail that will challenge even advanced riders. For those with strong technical skills (mostly low speed, not the downhill racer type), it will be worth the trip. Unfortunately, the high proportion of fire road and hike-a-bike make it hard to give this trail a top recommendation. Definitely worth doing once in a while--I don't think I'd make a habit of it.

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  • rjensrud

    One thing that I have to say about Elizabeth’s Furnace is do not get lost. We recently had an excursion (unguided) that ended up being a 10 mile hike-a-bike. I would suggest having a guide that is familiar with the trails and plot your travels on your GPS. I will return with a guide, and find what everyone is raving about. Suggestion, Bring more water then you think you will need and tell a friend or loved one where you’re going. That picture of all the boulders is not edited and was about ¾ of the trail I that we climbed/hiked.

    There is a little bike shop with an employee (Matt) that is willing to take tours out for the day for a reasonable price.

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  • Lawmaster87

    This trail area has a lot of fire roads and stupid climbs; many hills are unclimbable. The downhills and everything in the park = Rocks, Rocks, and more Rocks. Most of the trails are 98% rocks. Very technical and multiple hike-a-bike sections. All of the areas you spend hiking up are greatly rewarded by challenging singletrack downhill that gets endless at some locations. Come prepared, see how far you can climb, and enjoy the unlimited range of trail options. This is a trail area that is perfect to test the abilities of your bike and yourself. Strongly recommend a trail map and a lot of time to have a journey rather than a quick loop.

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  • *****

    There are many trails in the "Elizabeths Furnace recreation area. The trail the is probably the most well know and ridden is actually called Bear Wallow. It is a relatively challenging climb up to the ridge top, where you can return down to where you came from. Continue across Maneka Peak or descend to the resevoir. All riding in the area is what I would consider to be at least intermediate level. There are gravel fire roads around but the singletrack is rocky. I love it. It is where I learned to ride and have never felt very challenged riding anywhere else on the East Coast. To complete a very difficult loop from Maneka Peak you would descend Signal Knob trail which will bring you back to the parking lot that you started from. The Signal Knob parking area. A little plug for Half Moon Mountain Outfitters in Strasburg, VA I can get you maps of the area, take you riding, fix your bike etc. located just 5 miles from the trailhead. I sell Rocky Mountain and Kona bikes. 540 465-4435 or www.halfmoonbikes.com. There are many other trails to ride close by, even across the street. Shaw Gap is another great ride that can be made into a loop. Also very technical.

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    I started out at the Bear Wallow parking area and just rode uphill. No map, no idea of where I was going. Fun. Expecting merely a good fireroad workout, I was surprised when, on a fast downhill, the road ended suddenly and I found myself bouncing down some moderately technical steep short downhill singletrack. Riding by the creek and through it a few times was a blast and challenging due to wet, sandy, rocky conditions. Mudhole Gap Trail name is appropo. Took a right on gravel road and found Strassburg Reservoir. Cool. Kept going, looking for a way back to car. It was getting a bit late. Took a right at some trail: sign post partially destroyed. Up andup. Got too hard so I hiked a bike til I got scared I'd be overnight on the mountain. So, I backtracked the way I had come. Did not realise how much of my "out" ride was uphill untill the return ride. Awesome 15 mile ride. I will return soon to finish the loop like the last reviewer described. Can't give it a 10; that would be Douthat for me.

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  • mook21

    This is a great local trail. In fact, if you can ride this, any other trail around, especially those out west, seem rather easy. The best route it to park at the Signal Knob parking lot on the left, or South, side and ride up Bear Wallow (blue). Turn to the left on Sidewinder Trail (pink I think, but its a left after the second major creek crossing) and take to Mud Hole Gap Road. Go up road and through Mud Hole Gap (prettiest part of ride, great single track) to FS road. Take road to right (North) past Strasburg Reservoir. Turn right onto trail leading up mountain blue blazes again. This is a very long, tough climb. After this, the best downhill in the area awaits you! In the beginning, it's technical with some big drops that have serious consequences if you screw up. Then it is just plain fast if you like rocks. You're back on Bear Wallow and it leads back to the car.

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