Tuscarora Trail (Beacon Trail to High Rock)

Beacon Trail, with the familiar blue blaze of the Tuscarora Trail

Beacon Trail, with the familiar blue blaze of the Tuscarora Trail

In the Martinsburg, West Virginia area, we are blessed with some great hiking opportunities.  In regard to popularity, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Appalachian Trail lead the way, but for a peaceful walk in the woods, it’s hard to beat the Tuscarora Trail.  The Tuscarora is a 250 mile-long spur trail of the AT with trailheads near Luray, Virginia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Locally, the trail is maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), and it is well-marked and relatively obstruction free.

Much of the 33 miles in West Virginia is located within the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area, and the light blue blazes in the Tuscarora Trail system are located along a number of footpaths, including the Meadow Branch Trail, Old Still Trail, Beacon Trail, Pee Wee Point Trail, and Brush Creek Trail. It’s all a little bit confusing, but the PATC’s The Tuscarora Trail: A Guide to the Southern Half in West Virginia and Virginia makes things a whole lot easier to follow.  The volunteer organization also has a guide for the northern half, which runs through Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Beside trail maintenance and guidebooks, the PATC has also built shelters along the Tuscarora and even owns some of the land the trail passes through.  That sounds like one really busy group of people!

Fire tower on Beacon Trail

Fire tower on Beacon Trail

The Beacon Trail is located on the Hampshire Grade Road (on the left) about a mile past the sign for Sleepy Creek Lake.  It’s a short walk to the fire tower up a rugged stretch of trail, and from there, the path winds along until it reached the Pee Wee Point Trail, which is partially in the Tuscarora Trail system.  Pee Wee Point is a picturesque setting at the end of the mountain, but following the blue blazes leads away from it.  The Tuscarora, instead, heads downhill toward Brush Creek Trail.

Our friend Jane is in the process of training for a long hike on the Camino de Santiago this summer, and we’ve been taking her all over western Maryland, northern Virginia, and West Virginia in search of hikes with varying degrees of difficulty.  This section of the Tuscarora Trail has its ups-and-downs, and I would describe it as being a moderately difficult hike.  Nevertheless, much of it is along Jeep trails, and a lot of care has obviously went into marking the trail and keeping it passable.

Pee Wee Point Trail/Road

Pee Wee Point Trail/Road

After leaving Beacon Trail, the blue-blazed section of the Pee Wee Point Trail goes on a fairly long downhill course.  It’s a nice stroll to the next road and a left-hand turn that leads to High Rock.  This part of the Tuscarora is, once again, something of a Jeep Trail, and it’s about another two miles to the large rock formation.  On the way, we encountered three people on horseback traveling between WV Route 45 and the Hampshire Grade Road, but, otherwise, everything was pretty quiet.  That has generally been the case with all of our hikes on the Tuscarora Trail.

The walk was an out-and-back affair, but heading straight back on the road to High Rock would have led us to Hampshire Grade Road shortly after passing the Pee Wee Point Trail sign.  From there it would have been a scant .7 miles of easy walking on a paved road to the car, and this would have cut at least thirty minutes off of the total time of the hike.  In all, anybody looking to get away from the crowds on many of the local trails would enjoy this hike, or several other stretches of the Tuscarora Trail in West Virginia.  There is some great scenery and plenty of quiet time in which to enjoy it.

A partial view of High Rock

A partial view of High Rock

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex on June 5, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    This is one of my favorite hikes in the area, although It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there. I like your fire tower picture. I have always wanted to climb it, but can’t muster the nerve to try! Great post–even better website!

    Reply

  2. Posted by LevelWalker on June 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Alex,

    Thanks. The Tuscarora Trail is one of my favorites. I also like the lake to Hampshire Grade Road and the Devils Nose hike. My hiking partner and co-conspirator on this site prefers the AT, but I say…BAH!…it’s too crowded! I’m getting a little carried away, but the Tuscarora is a good, quiet place to hike.

    About the tower…

    From one acrophobic person to another, there isn’t enough gold in Fort Knox to get me to climb it I’ve heard it’s popular with birders, etc.

    Reply

    • Posted by BikerChick on June 8, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Seriously? The AT is too crowded?

      Reply

    • Posted by Devin on May 11, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Me and 3 of my good friends actually just climbed the fire tower took us about 2-3 tries to make it to the top but by god it was the most beautiful view I have ever seen it overlooks the berkeley county Berkeley springs mountain and then the lake in the middle it’s breathtaking

      Reply

  3. Posted by Eric on October 28, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    Can someone tell me how far you walk from the beginning of Beacon trail to get to the fire tower. i couldnt find it

    Reply

    • Posted by LevelWalker on November 5, 2015 at 11:27 pm

      Sorry, Eric, I haven’t checked comments in a while. It’s right up at the top of the hill. It’s definitely less than a mile.

      Reply

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