Wild and Wonderful Locations: Chimney Top

Photo Credit: Sarah Giek

Written By: Christine Zurbuch

Hello, Wild and Wonderful readers,

My name is Christine Zurbuch and I am one WWLSC’s Brand Ambassador’s! I love sitting by a crackling fire with a cup of coffee in my hand after a long night’s rest under the stars. My winters are filled with snowboarding, snowshoeing, and schoolwork.  West Virginia has and always will be my home. If you want more information about the blogs I’ve written or have a request for a future blog you can message me on Instagram @christinezurbuch

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Good ole Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee? Well not quite, but we do have Chimney Top WV!  Chimney Top is an overlook area along the North Fork Mountain Trail that winds atop the mountains for 24.5 miles from Franklin to the Smoke Hole Caverns Area.  This trail makes for a great two day backpacking trip if you have the time to hike the full trail.  However if you only have an afternoon to hike, this trail is still for you.  This is also known as a great mountain biking trail if that’s your cup of tea.  So much so that in 2000 Bike Magazine dubbed North Fork Mountain Trail as the “crown jewel” of West Virginia mountain biking.


For this trail I recommend backpacking it south end to north end.  I recommend this because the first couple miles on the north end of the trail gain on elevation of around 2000 ft.  The only water source on the trail is 12 miles into the trail from the south end.  So if you are like me and like to not have to haul all your water in having this water source around your camp site is great.  My favorite backpacking food to have on one night backpacking trips is lovingly referred to as Camp Stew.  I grew up always eating this on my summer camp backpacking trips so it holds a special place in my heart and I believe always will.

Day Hiking

Some days we just don’t have time to go on backpacking trips, but worry not because this modified trip will give you a taste of the North Fork Mountain Trail without all of the mileage. If you start at the north end of the trail you can make it up to Chimney Top in 1.5-2 hours depending on how fast you hike.  However this route does have a very steep elevation gain of 1900 ft which can make it challenging for some.


North Fork Mountain Trail: North Trailhead

Luckily Google Maps can get you to this wild and wonderful location. You will need to search for North Trail Trailhead in Union, WV.  If you are driving from the Seneca rocks direction you will be making a right on Smoke Hole Rd which is immediately before you reach the Smoke Hole Cottages.  If you are driving from the Moorefield direction you will take a left onto Smoke Hole Road.  After a short time on Smoke Hole Road you will see the small parking area and the North Fork Mountain Trail Trailhead.

North Fork Mountain Trail: South Trailhead

The directions to this trailhead are a little more vague than the directions to the North Trailhead.  I recommend searching this hike on hikingupward.com.  On their website they have a map which has very detailed instructions to this trailhead.  The trailhead parking is located off the side of the road beside a radio tower, but make sure not to block access to the radio tower.

Shuttle Service

Smoke Hole Shuttles offers a shuttle service that drops off at one end of the North Fork Mountain Trail and will pick you up at the other end of the trail the next day.  This shuttle service is perfect for backpackers wanting to hike the North Fork Mountain Trail as a two day backpacking trip. The shuttle will leave from Petersburg or Franklin around 6 am and drop you off at one end of the trail.  The shuttle will pick you up at the other end of the trail the next day at a time you decide individually with the shuttle service.  The costs are $50/1 person, $75/2 people, $100/4 people.  There website is https://smokeholeshuttle.weebly.com/about.html.