North of Roanoke and west of Clifton Forge in the George Washington National Forest, the North Mountain Trail is a 12 mile hiking route. The most popular section is the 9.5 mile stretch from Longdale Recreation Area to the North Mountain Summit.
In its entirety, the blue-blazed North Mountain Trail makes for a 24 mile out-and-back trek with 2,400 feet of vertical. It is generally a double-track through red oak and spiderwort with some views of the Shenandoah Valley below.
To reach the trailhead from US64, use Exit 35. Head west on SR269 for 2 miles. Turn left heading south. Stay to the left at intersections. The trailhead is less than a mile south of SR269.
The trail can be accessed in three ways. One access is to exit I-64 at the Goshen exit and proceed south on FDR 447 to the trailhead. Another access is available from Longdale Furnace by taking the Longdale Furnace exit off I-64 and turning onto west U.S. 60. Then turn left onto the State Route 770. Continue up 770 to the trailhead at the intersection of FDR 447 and Route 770. The third access to North Mountain Trail is from the Longdale Recreation Area. Parking is available at the intersection of FDR 447 and State Route 770 and at the Longdale Recreation Area in the first parking lot. Parking is also available on FDR 271 if the recreation is closed.
From the beginning to its end, North Mountain Trail travels nine and one half miles through terrain that varies in elevation from 1,700 to 3,200 feet. It starts on North Mountain at the intersection of FDR 447 and State Route 770 just south of the radio tower. The trail heads southwest along North Mountain and offers occasional views to the east and west. Brushy Mountain and Mill Mountain areas visible to the west while Collierstown and Lake Robinson are visible to the east.
At mile 3, narrow rock stairs descend between huge boulders. There is a wide view of the surrounding landscape from atop the boulders. This trail offers an opportunity for some great pictures of the surrounding landscape. The views from the top of North Mountain are spectacular especially on clear, cloudless days.
The trail takes a sharp right turn to head down off the mountain and into Longdale Recreation Area. It drops down off the ridge and follows a drain for a short distance until it intersects with the end of an old skid road. Then it turns south to go around the nose of a ridge and drops down into Bob Downy Branch. Soon after reaching Bob Downy Branch the trail crosses FDR 271. (Tri County Road). The trail follows Bob Downy Branch to the intersection with Yaccr's Run Trail. Yaccr’s Run Trail and North Mountain Trail share the rest of the hike into Longdale Recreation Area. The entire hike should take four to six hours and can be hiked in either direction.
The trailhead at FDR 447 and State Route 770 is difficult to access in the winter months because of snow and ice accumulations on the road surfaces.
Overall, North Mountain Trail is the 15th most popular hiking trail of all 23 hikes in Virginia.