Bucktail Trail-Halfmoon Lookout Loop


Description: 9.9 mile, moderate circuit hike to an outstanding view of Trout Run Valley, Mill Mountain w/Big Schloss, Tibbet Knob, the Great North Mountain and Long Mountain. One very steep but short climb (See elevation profile.).


Directions to Bucktail Trailhead fromI-81:

  1. Take US 55 West.
  2. Travel approximately20 miles. Turn left at the junction with Rt 259, remaining on US 55.
  3. Turn left onto Trout Run Road. In5.8 miles, just past Trout Pond Rd, on your right, come to a forest service road on the left with 521 painted on the back of its stop sign. There will be yellow blazes on trees going along the right side of Trout Run Road and Orange blazes on trees going up the forest service road. Turn left onto the forest road and drive up to the forest gate on the right. Park on the shoulder but do not block the gate.

Google Custom Directions

Look for a forest service road on the east side of Trout Run Road with 521 painted on the back of its stop sign. There will be yellow blazes on trees going along the west side of Trout Run Road and Orange blazes on trees going up the forest service road. Turn left onto the forest road and drive up to the forest gate on the right. Park on the shoulder but do not block the gate. ________________________________________


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Trail Notes: From the intersection walk up the service road following the orange blazes through the gate on the right to the official trailhead of the Bucktail Trail. As you climb, the trail/forest road will bear to the left and soon pass pink-blazed Bucktail Connector Trail (your return route) on the right. As you reach the crest of the hill, Rocky Ridge to your left and the hills surrounding Waite's Run at your front will come into view.


Descend quickly to a bridge crossing Halfmoon Run. (This marks the terminus of purple-blazed Capon Furnace Trail.) DO NOT CROSS THE BRIDGE!!! Turn right, remaining on Bucktail trail, crossing the stream several times before leaving it and reaching its terminus (forest gate).


Turn right on to another forest road, passing through another gate and on to pink-blazed German-Wilson Trail. In a short distance the forest road splits. Bear left and almost immediately turn left off of the road onto a steep and rocky foot path. This is the steepest part of the hike and is littered with blow-downs. Fortunately it is short- lived. This marks the last of the major elevation gains. Reach the intersection with white-blazed Halfmoon Lookout spur trail.


Turn right on to Halfmoon Lookout trail. There will be a pink-blazed trail to your left. Pass it and soon climb steeply to the ruins of and old forest tower for a grand view. Mill Mountain with Big Schloss is to the left. Long Mountain is to the right. Tibbet Knob with Devil's Hole Mountain and the continuation of the Great North Mountain beyond it are straight ahead.


Return along the Halfmoon Lookout spur trail, passing the German-Wilson Trail on your left. Turn right onto yellow-blazed Halfmoon Trail and descend to a stream crossing. DO NOT CROSS!!!


Turn right and follow pink-blazed Bucktail Connector trail for about2 miles as it weaves in and out, up and over the coves at the end of Halfmoon Mountain.


Turn left at the intersection of the orange-blazed Bucktail Trail and return back to your car.

Critique this outing!




Name: Steve Appler                                                                                                  Hike: Halfmoon Lookout
Date: May 4 - 6, 2012                                                                                               Rating: 4

Critique: Halfmoon Lookout Backpack.

The directions on here to the trailhead are great. We - Lisa, Greg, Austin and myself, parked and headed up the trail at about 4:30pm on Friday, May 4. We wanted to set up camp before dark, so we went in the opposite direction from that described here since it is about a 1/2 mile shorter that way. It took us almost 3 hours to get there, but the trail was open, well marked and a long gradual climb that wasn't too difficult for our first backpack of the season. We found the very nice, grassy open campsite below the lookout, but still climbed up with packs on just in case there was a better site up higher. There was a very small site up there, but we went back to the large grassy site just below and set up. It was a wonderful site with it's own overlook, though the short climb to the lookout was well worth the effort and we climbed up a bunch of times.

The only negative is that there is no water anywhere close. You have to pack in enough for the first night. Saturday morning Austin and I headed off to re-supply. From the point where the white-blazed Halfmoon Lookout Spur Trail meets the yellow-blazed Halfmoon Lookout Trail we walked 1.7 miles staying on the white-blazed trail until we crossed two wooden bridges and found an active stream where we loaded up with enough water to last into the next morning.

We spent the day lounging at the campsite. Very lazy. The whole loop is fairly short, so we saw no point in moving on when we clearly had the most spectacular site to ourselves. Beware of snakes in the rocky overlook area. While everyone else lounged around napping on Saturday I headed up with my book and upon spotting the perfect reading rock I headed down only to find a nice rattlesnake basking in the sun. After making like Roadrunner and bashing my knee in the process I retreated to the campsite and napped. That area must be home to a whole bunch of whippoorwills because Friday night one started singing and kept appearing in various places around the camp. It was as curious about us as we were about it. Its eyes glowed in the light of our headlamps and it allowed us to approach as it sat on a rock about 2' off the ground. We got to within about ten feet to study it until it finally flew off. It hung around all night and others nearby answered its call frequently. It was a
novelty at first and then we begged it to please go to sleep. It was very noisy and was still quite noisy Saturday night. There's cell service (AT&T, but no Verizon) up there, so (forgive us) we Googled and found that whippoorwills are active at night and eat insects. They also nest in the ground, so they are susceptible to predators and are not often seen.

We also happened to be at the site on the night of the "Super Moon" which was vivid when not shrouded in haze. We had rain Friday night, off an on on Saturday and some Saturday night. Regardless, it was a great relaxing trip. Very unlike our usual camp, move camp, camp, move camp marches.

On Saturday Lisa, Austin and I left Greg napping and headed down the German Wilson Trail to see what awaited us on the hike out the next morning. It's VERY steep. We hiked down a good way, saw no reason to keep going, turned around and climbed back to camp, headed back up on the overlook, said "hi" to the rattlesnake who was also napping (and Austin had to sneak down and get a picture of it) and that was that for exercise for the day. We had a fine dinner (packitgourmet pizza), slept great and then headed out early and wet the next morning returning the same way we went in so we didn't have to slide down the German Wilson Trail.

We didn't see anybody else up there the entire trip. We saw a tent on our departure hike next to the stream at the intersection of the Halfmoon Trail and the Bucktail Connector Trail, but no humans. The hike is like normal mountain woods. Not particularly exciting and no overlooks until you get to the top. But once you get to the top the view is glorious. The rain went away in time for us to get some beautiful sunset photos. It would be a great day hike and, as we found, a very relaxing backpack.


Name: Keith Lehman                                                                                                 Hike: Bucktail Trail-Halfmoon Lookout Loop
Date: 4/4/09 - 4/5/09                                                                                             Rating: 5

Critique: I did this loop in reverse from the directions given and I think that made it a bit easier than it would have been going the other way. The climb to the peak is more gradual and the sun was more hidden on the last few miles on Bucktail Trail. Going in on the Bucktail Connector offered a few nice views since the trees hadn't budded in early April when I did this trip. One note, be sure fill up on water at the intersection with Halfmoon Trail (yellow blazes). There is a nice campsite there if needed and the stream will be the last water you see until you come off the peak on the other side.

There is a wonderful campsite at the "Cliffside" area about 200ft from the peak. The site at the peak is really only suitible for a bevy tent. Even in high winds (gusts to 40mph) the Cliffside site was shielded well due to the terrain deflection.

Heading out the German Wilson Trail was very rocky and you need to be very careful about rolling a rock under your boot. But it is definitely easier going down than up. The blow-downs mentioned in trail notes are cleared with only about 4 or 5 to negotiate. There are plenty of springs and streams for water on this half of the loop.

The first half of Bucktail Trail following the creek was very muddy and torn up with horse prints. The stream crossings were mid-calf level and you'll definitely have some wet feet by the time you get to the bridge at Capon Trail. After that it's an easy amble back to the start point with only a very gradual climb and then a gradual descent.

Overall, I recommend this hike if done in the direction I went. I definitely would have liked it less the other way around. This loop would be suitable for a nice family excursion especially in Spring or Fall.


Name: Cham Green                                                                                                   Hike: Bucktail Trail - Halfmoon Lookout Loop
Date: 7/22/06-7/23/06                                                                                          Rating: 5

Critique: I did not perform the entire circumnavigation of the Trout Run Valley, but crafted a 10 mile loop consisting of Bucktail Trail, German Wilson, Halfmoon and Bucktail Cutoff.  I was really impressed with the German Wilson segment which rises 1200 feet in 1 mile and is very rocky.  Halfmoon Lookout peak is probably the best campsite in the GWNF, although I hate to let the secret out of the bag.  This site can only accommodate really small tents. The good news is that there is no easy route on to Halfmoon so I don't expect a crowd.  

Name: Tony                                                                                                                   Hike: Bucktail Trail-Halfmoon Lookout

Date: 4/6/2005                                                                                                          Ranking: 4

comment: Got to give this hike a high 4 rating just for the diversity. Start out passing open fields and views to the north before descending into the first of two valleys and a wonderful hike along Halfmoon Run. After climbing the only really strenuous section of the route, the German Wilson Trail, reach the top of Halfmoon Mountain and enjoy the best vista of the entire Trout Run Valley with views of Big Schloss, Tibbet Knob and Great North Mountain. On the way back down, the abundance of Laurel on Halfmoon Trail should be spectacular in June. Have to thank MRHyker here for recommending this one!


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