George Washington National Forest: Halfmoon Mountain

Halfmoon Mountain in West Virginia may sound like it’s far away from Washington, DC, but it’s not. The distance is comparable to many trailhead locations you can drive to in Shenandoah National Park – about 2 hours.

This hike was quite enjoyable a pleasant surprise for me and my husband, as we usually stick to Shenandoah National Park for our hiking. We did a shuttle hike to the top of the mountain and back, totaling 6.6 miles, instead of the 10.6 mile loop trail.

It was near the end of October, so we could still see the fall foliage.

The trail starts out wide and climbs up slowly, but steadily.

It was still hunting season in George Washington National Forest and we saw a hunter going into the woods to collect something. We couldn’t see what it was. We did see what looked like shotgun shells on the trail, though. With most of the leaves gone, you can see why it might be a popular area to go hunting – the trees are far apart and there is much open space. Remember if you go to George Washington National Forest during the autumn and winter months to at least always wear bright orange hats.

The foliage was still lovely in late October.

Southern Ground Cedar

Southern Ground Cedar, or Diphasiastrum digitatum, otherwise known as Fan Clubmoss, Running Pine, or Running Ground Cedar, is a member of the Clubmoss Family (Lycopodiaceae). It is native to eastern and central North America and grows all the way from Georgia up to Quebec and Ontario.

We’ve seen these plants growing in Shenandoah National Park as well.

Even though it was late October and I was no longer expecting wildflowers to be blooming much, we came upon these lovely Asters on our way up the hill.

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The view from the top of Halfmoon Mountain is beautiful.

The broad smooth sides of Trout Run Valley and expansive air in-between make for an impressive view. There are two viewpoints as well as two camping spots at the summit.

It’s good we came early and directly to the summit. We had the area to ourselves for a good half hour before a crowd of hikers came in waves at lunchtime. I don’t blame them – it’s an amazing place to come!

The hike back was straightforward and quick. We’d seen everything on our way up the mountain, so we didn’t stop much to observe things and just focused on walking at a good pace.

We haven’t been to many places in West Virginia yet, but this hike was my favorite so far.

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