Great Eastern Trail across Bath County, Virginia

Proposed Trail Reroute

Walatoola was the Indian name for the Cowpasture River, meaning "winding waters," after the way in which the Cowpasture River meanders along the valley floors.

From the Cowpasture River on the east to the mountains above Lake Moomaw on the west, this section of the Great Eastern Trail (GET) winds across Bath County, in the Warm Springs Ranger District of George Washington National Forest (GWNF), creating a link from the Shenandoah Mountain Trail across to West Virginia trails that lead on to Lake Sherwood and the Allegheny Trail. Connecting trails also lead to Douthat State Park and to Lake Moomaw. Detailed directions for the current GET route in this area, including several long roadwalks on paved highways, are available in the draft Guidebook for the GET from I-64 to Hancock Maryland.

The information presented on this page is a working draft for a possible route that would move more of the trail into the national forest, particularly on Tower Hill Mountain and on Back Creek Mountain. While this uses several existing official trails, and the Muddy Run Trail extension to US220 has already been planned and approved, other sections would require further planning and approvals before they might be officially incorporated as part of the GWNF trail system. The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #791 Staunton Shenandoah Mountain provides a good overview of many of the trails in this area, with more detailed, but older, information available on the 1:50,000 topographic maps for Bath Alum, Warm Springs, and Mountain Grove Quadrangles. 

This proposed route includes some sections on unmarked informal trails, old woods roads, and offtrail areas, which at present would only be suitable for experienced trail users prepared to carefully use topographic maps, GPS, and skilled judgement.

View west from Back Creek
              Mountain, with hawk

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From the Shenandoah Mountain Trail this route for the Great Eastern Trail would go west on Scotchtown Draft Road,  VA 627, an unpaved, lightly-traveled road, down to and across the Cowpasture River. There is a primitive campsite (no facilities) on the eastern side of the river, to the north of the bridge. The trail would turn left onto Indian Draft Road, VA 678, and then almost immediately turn right onto Campbell Hollow Forest Road, FR 281. The lower gate on FR 281 is closed February-March and June-August.

An alternate route from the Shenandoah Mountain Trail would descend from a saddle about 1/4 mile west of VA 627 into Foxtail Hollow and follow old roads down the hollow and then cross over to VA 627.
Cowpasture River

COWPASTURE TO DRY RUN: Tower Hill Mountain Trail

From the upper gate on Campbell Hollow Forestry Road, this route would follow the old "jeep trail" shown on the topographic maps and then climb up to the ridge. Along the ridge, the trail passes a series of rock formations. If the leaves are off the trees, then there are good views to the east and west. Near May's Mountain, private landowners have posted the ridge trail at the national forest boundary. 

An unmarked detour could go through a corridor of national forest land on the western slope of Tower Hill Mountain, starting down an informal but well-established trail, and then turning south to cross a dirt road and go under the powerline. The route then follows the trace of less-used trails in places, winds along hillsides filled with mountain laurel, and finally reaches an old woods road. Where the old woods road turns sharply downhill, the GET route would go up the mountainside to join the northern end of the current Tower Hill Mountain Trail.

Near the end of the ridge, a spur trail leads off to the spectacular view from Chimney Rocks. The main trail descends steeply to Westminster Chapel Road. Limited parking space is available near the trailhead, and more space is available down the road next to the bridge across Dry Run.
Tower Hill
              Mountain Trailhead South, on VA 624

DRY RUN TO MUDDY RUN: Piney Mountain Trail

From Westminster Road, the current route follows VA 609 south and turns right at the county dumpsters, across from the the entrance to the county shooting range. The GET goes up FR 1325 and turns right on Bath Alum Ridge Road, FR 465, to where the old Piney Mountain Trail goes up from Walnut Tree Hollow. (If there were a private landowner on the west side of Edison Roberts Road, VA 609, willing to give permission for the trail to cross their land, then a more direct route west to Walnut Tree Hollow might be possible.)

The old Piney Mountain Trail is somewhat overgrown, but the trail route is still obvious and easily followed up to where it joins the blazed and maintained Piney Mountain Trail coming from the trailhead on Jordan Run Road, FR358

The Piney Mountain Trail crosses Jordan Run Forest Road, FR 358, (lower gate closed February-March and June-August.), makes a relatively steep ascent up the western slope of Warm Springs Mountain and then turns left. After a short section along the ridgetop, the trail turns right (west) and descends, steeply, to Muddy Run Road, VA 614, turning left to go to US 220.
Trailhead sign for Piney Mountain
              Trail on VA 614, west side of Warm Springs Mountain

MUDDY RUN TO HIDDEN VALLEY: Muddy Run Trail and extension to US220

On US220, just north of the village of Muddy Run, near the red fire hydrant, across from the shale pit parking area, the trail would turn left into national forest. A planned extension of the Muddy Run Trail would go steeply uphill, across the powerline right of way and up to the ridge and westwards. There is no blazed or established trail on this section, parts of which are steep and rocky. Further along, a large "devil's backbone" rock formation walls off most of the possible route west, so the trail would need to go around the lower, southern end of this formation. The route would then generally follow the contour west, passing through two smaller devil's backbone formations and then descending to meet the Muddy Run Trail, slightly west of where the trail fords Muddy Run. Muddy Run Trail follows the stream down to near the Jackson River and turns left onto the Hidden Valley Trail. Hikers have the option to turn right to cross the Jackson River on a suspension bridge and then go left (south) on the Jackson River Trail, with some lovely views looking down to the river. The Hidden Valley Recreation Area is located about half a mile further south on FR 241.

JACKSON RIVER TO BACK CREEK: Bogan Run Trail and Back Creek Mountain Ridge.

From the Hidden Valley flood bridge across the Jackson River, the route goes north on FR 241 to the trailhead for Bogan Run Trail. This trail gradually ascends the eastern side of Back Creek Mountain. The proposed GET route would then turn left to follow FR 121 along the ridge of Back Creek Mountain. At the uppermost hairpin road where FR 121 leaves the ridge, an informal trail heads southwest along the ridge, following an old fireline across a powerline right of way and then following old woods roads generally along the line of the ridge, crossing two saddles. After the old road ends (or in summer becomes impassable due to overgrowth), the route continues along the ridge. At the southern end of the ridge, the route bears right, southwest, and goes downhill to a level spot and then follows a series of old forest roads down to VA39. Above the trailhead, the old road up from VA 39 has been blocked by earthen berms. The Blowing Springs Recreation Area is about a third of a mile to the west, with parking, toilets, camping, a scenic trail along Back Creek, and swimming holes.
Trailhead for Back Creek Mountain
              South (informal) trail, at hairpin turn on FR 121

BACK CREEK TO LAKE SHERWOOD: VA 600, High Top Fire Road, and Meadow Mountain Trails

After crossing Back Creek on VA 39, the GET route would turn left (south) on VA 600 to the Gathright Wildlife Area, where the High Top Fire Road leads up the mountain to West Virginia.  At the ridge, the GET enters the Monongahela National Forest and follows the Meadow Mountain Trail, Connector Trail, Meadow Creek Trail, Lake Sherwood Trail, and Upper Meadow Trail to join the Allegheny Trail on the crest of Meadow Creek Mountain, as described in the draft GET Guidebook, Section 7C.


DOUTHAT CONNECTION: Jordan Run Road, Little Mare Mountain, Brushy Ridge, and Middle Mountain Trails

From where the old Piney Mountain Trail comes up from Walnut Tree Hollow and Bath Alum Ridge Road, FR 465, a route goes south to the trails in and around Douthat State Park and further trails lead on to Covington. From the intersection where the GET joins the Piney Mountain Trail to go over Warm Springs Mountain, the connection would instead go south on the Piney Mountain Trail to the trailhead on Jordan Run Road, FR 358, follow Jordan Run Road to VA 39, turn left and then go right on Little Mare Mountain Road, FR 364 and follow a spur trail that connects to the Little Mare Mountain Trail. The route then follows the Brushy Ridge Trail to the Middle Mountain Trail, which runs along the western edge of Douthat State Park, with several connections to the dense network of trails in and around the park.
View NE, from Flag Rock on Warm Springs
              Mountain, Piney Mountain, Tower Hill Mountain, and
              Shenandoah Mountain in background

WARM SPRINGS MOUNTAIN CIRCUIT: Piney Mountain Trail, Warm Springs Mountain Trail, Bear Rocks Trail, and Jordan Run Forest Road

The old Piney Mountain Trail goes up from Walnut Tree Hollow on FR 465, Bath Alum Ridge Road, to join the Piney Mountain Trail and then climbs up the western side of Warm Springs Mountain Trail. After reaching the ridge, the GET continues to the left (south), while a right turn goes north to House Rock. The old Warm Springs Mountain trail shown on the topographic maps continues north, generally running near the western side of the ridge. The old Warm Springs Mountain Trail is not blazed, some areas are heavily overgrown, the trail fades away in several lengthy stretches, and some rocky sections require hopping from boulder to boulder.At a saddle in the ridge, the old Warm Springs Mountain Trail meets the upper end of the Bear Rocks Trail, which descends the western side of Warm Springs Mountain and then runs near to the woods road (closed to motorized traffic) that continues from the upper end of Jordan Run Forest Road. Jordan Run Forest Road, FR 358, can be used to make a circuit hike looping back to the Piney Mountain Trail. This loop is also accessible from the Jordan Run Trailhead of the Piney Mountain Trail, and from the Bear Rocks Trailhead on Bath Alum Ridge Road, FR 465.
              Rocks Trailhead on FR 465, Bath Alum Ridge Road

BACK CREEK MOUNTAIN CIRCUIT: Neal Run Trail and Spur, Forest Road 121, and Bogan Run Trail

Coming up from Hidden Valley, the Neal Run ATV Trail and Spur go southwest up the western side of Back Creek Mountain. From the upper end of Neal Run Spur, an old fireline and logging roads can be used to reach FR 121, passing through some regrowth areas. FR 121 goes up to the ridge of Back Creek Mountain and then runs north to where the Bogan Run Trail crosses. If the leaves are off the trees, then there are some views from the ridge to the east and west. Meadow areas near the road are kept open for wildlife, providing some variety as the road runs along the ridge. The eastern section of Bogan Run Trail then descends, at a relatively gradual slope, to FR 241 and Hidden Valley.
Bogan Run Trailhead sign, in the
              mist, on FR 121, on the ridge of Back Creek Mountain


From VA 600 about two miles south of where the GET goes west on the High Top Fire Trail, the Bolar Ridge Fire Trail goes east across Bolar Mountain to Lake Moomaw


  • Be careful
  • Plan your hike
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Have good footgear and clothing, along with food and plenty of water
  • Be ready for rain, wind, and colder weather
  • Be prepared for emergencies, with the "ten" essentials
  • Stay alert, and enjoy the hike
Information is provided here "as is," with no guarantee of reliability.
Use this information at your own risk

Welcome to
                Bath County, on VA 39/VA42 west of Panther Gap

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Walatoola: GET across Bath County, VA by Bryan Bruns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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