By Ron Knipling
Someone has cleared and marked a spur trail to Strickler Knob off the MMT 100 course near Luray and the southern end of the Massanutten Loop Trail. My wife Leslie, brother Gary, and I chanced upon it while hiking in the area over Labor Day. We were surprised and delighted to discover the new trail, which previously had been a wicked and formidable bushwhacking route, as immortalized in the 1998 VHTRC Report and more recently by Tom Corris in 2004.
For those not familiar with Strickler Knob, it is the rugged promontory at the south end of Middle Mountain that dominates the skyline north of Rt. 211 as you drive west through Luray. It is named for Abraham Strickler, an early pioneer who established a plantation and settlement called "Egypt" circa 1730 at the eastern base of the mountain on the South Fork of the Shenandoah. The best map of the area is PATC Map G (Massanutten Mountain – North Half), although the new spur trail is not shown on it. Older versions of Map G do show a dotted “X” line for a bushwhacking route, however, and it is also described in older editions of the PATC Guide to the Massanutten Mountain booklet.
The new, magenta-blazed tail begins on the Massanutten Trail at the top of Middle Mountain and proceeds south along the ridge top for one mile to Strickler Knob, a site with several magnificent rock formations and lookouts. Along the way are other rock outcroppings with scenic vistas to the west and east. Much of the deadfall along the way is still charred from the Cardinal Fire that enveloped Middle Mountain in early May, but the foliage is still thick and most trees alive and green. A small campsite is found about halfway along the path, tucked in amid the slabs of Massanutten Sandstone. Much of the spur trail is over bare rocks and the last section requires non-technical rock climbing, somewhat like Old Rag Mountain. When dry the trail is not dangerous, but when wet it is slippery and potentially hazardous. At the knob itself, panoramic views include the southern Massanutten, South Fork Shenandoah River, Page Valley, and the Blue Ridge.
The spur trail can be an add-on to a Scothorn Gap/Gap Creek loop or as an out-and-back from Scothorn Gap. The out-and-back from Scothorn is 5-6 miles round trip and takes 3+ hours if hiking, including time to savor the splendor and exhilaration of the final redoubt.