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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just completed a three day 820 mile tour of the GWNF in the area south of Harrisonburg and west of Staunton. My goal is to drive every forest road in the GWNF and find interesting spots to wheel.

Since January I've done 85% of the open year round forest roads from just north of Hwy 55 (northern GWNF boundary) to about even with Staunton in the south (about 1200 square miles). I'll visit the seasonal roads in the Fall when they are open.

My observations so far.
- Touring the GWNF is great but don't expect to find much in the way of technical wheeling. The Flagpole steps and a water crossing on a VA public road are the only marginally spicy spots that I have found so far. For the most part you could do 95% of this in a Subaru Outback.
- What few seasonal roads I've done tend be a little rougher than roads open year round. I have hope that some of those seasonal roads turn out to be wheeling gems. I did find one seasonal road near Wolf Gap that was a true Jeep road and much better than Peter's Mill.
- Snow conditions are the best time to get out and wheel in the GWNF.
- Very long forest roads of more than an hour in length are uncommon.
- When planning a GWNF tour it's difficult to create a coherent driving circuit. There's a lot of in and out on dead end roads, pavement driving, and backtracking. Expect to spend most of your miles on pavement, although some of that pavement is very scenic country roads.
- Night driving can be fun.
- I have seen very few fellow wheelers in the GWNF. My guess is that most folks restrict themselves to the Flagpole run.
- Wheelers are probably the most underserved demographic of all the primary GWNF users. The pecking order goes something like hikers, loggers, hunters & fishermen, equestrians & mountain bikers, and then wheelers. Why can't we have one technical all day trail in the northern GWNF???
- The National Geographic Trails Illustrated maps are invaluable. The Forest Service Motor Vehicle Usage Maps (MVUM) are also important.
- There is a lot of private property in the GWNF.
- There are tons of roadside camping spots.
- Know where the gas stations are before you head out on a tour. I top off every chance I get. Plus I feel better about putting money into the local rural economy. Stop at those small country stores and given them your business.
- Pay the Forest Service $20 and get yourself an annual GWNF wood gathering permit. That way you can legally use a chainsaw to gather wood with the 'ancillary' benefit of clearing a blocked forest road. In fact, I would say that a chainsaw is necessity for winter forest road travel.
- Mechanical tire deflators are pretty sweet.
- A CB with weather radio is great to have.
- Winter weather advisory conditions seem to be the optimal time to get out on the forest roads as long as you can avoid ice conditions.
- Mud and snow tires are the way to go. Your gas mileage may suck but you can get into fun places.
- You can never have enough off road lighting. Especially when your night vision declines in your old age and decrepitude.

Favorite and/or long forest roads so far:
- FR 344 Squirrel Gap
- SR826-CR3/1 Camp Run Rd.
- FR 151
- FR 87 Rough Run to FR 72 Long Run Rd complex. This is probably the best bang for the buck since there are lots of side roads, even more so during seasonal road access dates.
- FR 549 to FR 547 link up.
- FR 85A-225 (Flagpole) Slate Mtn. complex. There are some fun side roads worth exploring.
- FR 85 (Reddish Knob) complex. There are lots of connecting roads. FR 64 was nice.
- SR 688-FR 77 complex and the connecting FR 82-381-382 complex.
- FR 173 Benson Run Rd. Very scenic.
- SR 612 & Swope Hollow Road. Short VA roads but interesting and steep.
- SR 627 Scotchtown Draft- FR 394 (the longest forest road I've found so far)
- FR 61 Clayton Creek Rd. Connecting F387 is seasonal. This looks like a classic ridgeline run.
- FR 465

GPS Track Logs and Waypoints: I have all my tracks recorded and many dozens of waypoints for road side campsites, gas stations, and forest roads. If you want a gpx file just ask.

Interesting facts from my recent 820 mile 3 day tour:
- Gallons of fuel burned: 55.
- Cost of gas: $204
- Cost of gas per mile: about 25 cents.
- Average MPG: I calculated 14.7 while my Jeep's Eco estimator says 16.2 MPG. Either way it really sucks.
- Average speed: 25 mph
- Total ascent: 50,000' feet
- Low temperature: 7 degrees.
- Having Reddish Knob all myself at sunset: Priceless!
- Wildlife seen: Deer, bobcat, fox, coyote, skunks, and hawks.
- Curious local wheeling activity: midnight convoy of about 10 trucks wheeling down south down Braley Pond Rd.





 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
At someone's request I just put together an easy but scenic day trip that hits Reddish Knob and some of the ridge trails. Once I get feedback I'll post it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks. I do plan on leading at some point. I'm still in the explore mode for the time being. Taking a week off at the end of the month and pushing further south in the GWNF.
 

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Just found this thread researching a road you mentioned.

Our interests are similar. I am a dual sport motorcycle guy - but also scout in my 97 Land Cruiser. The cruiser is locked front, rear and center.

I have some data that you might find useful - including extremely detailed GW & JNF geospatial road data. I have a pet project called the Blue Ridge Trail that might be of interest: The Blue Ridge Trail....... a work in progress - ADVrider

I am going to shoot you a PM and maybe we can connect over email and brain share.

David
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Pretty cool project. The only issue with making it a linear point to point is that you would have to give a lot of interesting "in and out" and parallel forest roads. There's also the issue of whether or not to include seasonal forest roads.

If I was going to pick a northern terminus it would be something like Star Tannery or Wardensville, WV.

I'm working to organize a 3 daynGWNF tour de forest orienteering outing once the seasonal roads open. The goal would be to drive to as many points as possible in 72 hours. It would be open to all types of vehicles.

Will respond to your PM.
 

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Pretty cool project. The only issue with making it a linear point to point is that you would have to give a lot of interesting "in and out" and parallel forest roads. There's also the issue of whether or not to include seasonal forest roads.

If I was going to pick a northern terminus it would be something like Star Tannery or Wardensville, WV.

I'm working to organize a 3 daynGWNF tour de forest orienteering outing once the seasonal roads open. The goal would be to drive to as many points as possible in 72 hours. It would be open to all types of vehicles.

Will respond to your PM.
Love the idea of the tour de forest.

I agree with you on the linear aspect - and glossing over gems that are not continuous. Motorcycles carry speed much better than 4x4s and the guys I made the BRT for are looking for long, faster adventure type trips - with technical trails mixed in. I make a point of exploring the dead ends whenever possible - especially those that lead to knobs or elevation in general.

Funny enough I am in Lost River right now and will be grabbing a beer in Wardensville this afternoon. Great riding in the area.

Here is FR WV355 Snyder Ridge from Saturday. This one is open year round and looked like it hadn't seen a tire in 6 months.

Will respond to your email shortly.



 

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I'm working to organize a 3 daynGWNF tour de forest orienteering outing once the seasonal roads open. The goal would be to drive to as many points as possible in 72 hours. It would be open to all types of vehicles.
That would be pretty awesome, especially for those of us new to the off-road fun in the area... I'm always busy weekends, but I'd definitely be interested if it somehow worked into my schedule...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
So the way I think it would work is that this would be an unofficial, unsponsored event. For folks that were interested I would provide a list of GPS waypoints 24 hours in advance of event to the best forest roads in the northern GWNF. Drivers would plot these waypoints onto their Nat Geo trails map and drive to them in any order they choose beginning Saturday morning. The idea being to hit the most points by plotting the most efficient route and being a good navigator. This would be an individual vehicle event although small groups would be ok. I'd establish a common link up point for Saturday night where we could all camp and cook. Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday. Probably looking at 500 miles of driving. This would a stock friendly event. Well known routes like Peters Mill and Flagpole wouldn't be on the list. Anyway, that's what I'm considering.
 

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So the way I think it would work is that this would be an unofficial, unsponsored event. For folks that were interested I would provide a list of GPS waypoints 24 hours in advance of event to the best forest roads in the northern GWNF. Drivers would plot these waypoints onto their Nat Geo trails map and drive to them in any order they choose beginning Saturday morning. The idea being to hit the most points by plotting the most efficient route and being a good navigator. This would be an individual vehicle event although small groups would be ok. I'd establish a common link up point for Saturday night where we could all camp and cook. Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday. Probably looking at 500 miles of driving. This would a stock friendly event. Well known routes like Peters Mill and Flagpole wouldn't be on the list. Anyway, that's what I'm considering.
Oh, I thought you were planning on playing tour guide, after all your recent adventures out there...that would be way more fun IMO :whistling:
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
All,

By request, I've posted a gpx track log for an all day tour of the main GWNF forest roads in the mountains west of Harrisonburg, VA and north of Hwy 33. This covers the Long Run, Second Mountain, Dictum Ridge, Feedstone Mtn, Peru Hollow/Gap and German Valley roads. I purposely left off the numerous side roads so that you can explore on your own. I've included several camping sites as well. You can easily make this a weekend outing. When the seasonal forest roads open, like 85-2, there will be even more road to explore.

You can pull the gpx file down from wikiloc at Wikiloc - GWNF Forest Road Jeep Tour trail - Preston Heights, Virginia (United States)- GPS track or gpsies at Motorradtour Harrisonburg | All-day wheeling tour of George ... | GPSies. Note: these websites tend to garble the waypoint symbols so if you want the native Garmin gdb file let me know. The tracks & waypoint locations are still accurate though.

This 130 mile drive starts at the Harrisonburg Sheetz and finishes in New Market on I81. This is suitable for a stock Wrangler. If you would like specific planning information or have questions please PM me.

I forgot to reflect it but you can get gas and food at the general store in Bergton. It's a cool, old time store so give the locals your business.



I've done all the tedious trip planning for you so go out and enjoy the tour. Tread lightly and consult the MVUM as the final authority on road access. :)
 

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Hi, thanks for making this information available. My buddy and I would really enjoy spending some time in the GWNF. I've downloaded the MVUM and will order the Nat Geo map. Can your data be downloaded into the 730N GPS or will I have to use a stand alone Garmin? My buddy has a stock Grand Cherokee, will he be okay? Thanks again!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi, thanks for making this information available. My buddy and I would really enjoy spending some time in the GWNF. I've downloaded the MVUM and will order the Nat Geo map. Can your data be downloaded into the 730N GPS or will I have to use a stand alone Garmin? My buddy has a stock Grand Cherokee, will he be okay? Thanks again!
The 730 is the factory navigation system, right? If so, I have no idea whether or not it will accept a gpx file. Many smart phone having downloadable mapping apps complete with topo maps. Those will accept a gpx file.

After watching a Mercedes SUV (M class, I think) navigate a very rocky road at The Cove your buddy should be fine. Just have him take it easy. I'd have him stay off of Second Mountain, Dictum Ridge, and Feedstone though unless he's willing to get a little pin striped. Carry a Bear saw (available at Lowes) for cutting back those stray pin stripers, too.

Let me know how it turns out. I have another all day tour report that I'm getting ready to post. It includes Shoe Creek plus some other roads.
 

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The 730 is the factory navigation system, right? If so, I have no idea whether or not it will accept a gpx file. Many smart phone having downloadable mapping apps complete with topo maps. Those will accept a gpx file.

After watching a Mercedes SUV (M class, I think) navigate a very rocky road at The Cove your buddy should be fine. Just have him take it easy. I'd have him stay off of Second Mountain, Dictum Ridge, and Feedstone though unless he's willing to get a little pin striped. Carry a Bear saw (available at Lowes) for cutting back those stray pin stripers, too.

Let me know how it turns out. I have another all day tour report that I'm getting ready to post. It includes Shoe Creek plus some other roads.
Thanks again. I will figure out how to get this loaded. I'm looking forward to doing some exploring. Have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I just posted a track log and waypoints for a 55 mile all day wheeling tour of GWNF roads east of Lexington, VA that we did on 5/11/13. The tour includes Shoe Creek. We had a very nice time exploring. There are camping spots along the way and cool things to check out. We drank from a spring just bubbling up out of the ground, explored an old homestead, and saw lots of little and not so little waterfalls. Some of these roads are only open seasonally from 4/1 to 1/10. The driving is non-technical for the most part and can be done in a stock vehicle (including Shoe Creek). We did not see any other vehicles when travelling off the main roads. Ditto for Shoe Creek. Shoe Creek is rocky and rough but still easy to negotiate. We had intended to check out Big Levels but ran out of day light. There's enough stuff in the area to explore over the course of a 2 or 3 day weekend.

Primary forest roads:
520
48
1176
246
1167

You can pull down the file at Gpsies.com: " Wheeling in the GWNF".
GPX file and trip planning recommendations available upon request.
 

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V - Just sent you an email with more maps.

How was 1167 - **** Bridge - from a width perspective? Better suited for narrow trucks or would a full size SUV get through with out pin stripes?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
V - Just sent you an email with more maps.

How was 1167 - **** Bridge - from a width perspective? Better suited for narrow trucks or would a full size SUV get through with out pin stripes?

1167 will be fine for a full size SUV. There was some deadfall but I squeezed by it in the Wrangler. I always recommend carrying a Bear Saw.

1167 was more or less a transition road for us. We spent most of the day goofing off on 1176 and blew through 1167 enroute to Shoe Creek. Don't get me wrong though 1167 is very nice, twisty and steep, with lots of waterfalls. My Garmin topo maps showed FR1167C which goes to The Cardinal. We never found it though.

Back to 1176, if you are riding a MC I highly recommend it. There are lots of places to explore. The camping is good and there is quite a bit to explore. I noticed quite a bit of abandoned road. The road wasn't gated or posted. Just lots of trees growing in the roadbed.
 
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