Molly’s Knob and Lake Loop

  • Highlights: Mountain and lake views
  • Distance: 7.4 mile loop
  • Elevation Change 1,350 feet
  • Trail Surface: Dirt with some gravel and paved sections around the lake
  • Difficulty Level: Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Lake Drive parking area
  • Website: AllTrails and Hungary Mother State Park
  • Beer Pairings: 36° Fifty Brewing—American Pale Ale & New England IPA 

Trail Map:

The Hike:

Molly’s Knob is a Virginia classic. This hike turns the climb up Molly’s Knob into a loop around the lake. The 3.4 mile Molly’s Knob Trail is a shorter, direct out and back to the summit.

Hungary Mother State Park is one of our favorites. It was one of the original state parks dating back to the 1930s. This hike combines several shorter hikes. Stop by the park visitor center to get a trail map or download from AllTrails. The trails are well marked and well maintained.

From the parking area, follow signs to the blue-blazed Lake Trail. Hungary Mother Lake was created in the 1930s when the Civilian Conservation Corps built a dam on Hungary Mother Creek. Today the 108-acre lake is popular for swimming, boating, and fishing and hikers get some great views.

This section of the Lake Trail passes through rhododendrons and majestic pines. Bear left at the trail junction and follow the green-blazed Ridge Trail for a short (but steep) climb as it joins the white-blazed Molly’s Knob trail. 

Molly’s Knob

The climb to Molly’s Knob is steep with several switchbacks. In the spring, flowering dogwood, rhododendron, and a variety of wildflowers add seasonal color. At 1.9 miles, reach a trail junction. Bear left on the purple-blazed Vista Trail which leads .4 miles to the summit of Molly’s Knob. 

The summit has great views to the west and south. Two benches offer a scenic resting spot. Mount Rogers, Virginia’s tallest peak, is visible to the left (south). This is a popular destination so you may not have the views to yourself.

Enjoy a snack and the views. Retrace your steps down the Vista Trail to the junction with Molly’s Knob Trail. Bear left and follow the white blazes as you continue a gradual descent down to the lake. At the trail junction, bear left on the orange-blazed CCC trail. 

The CCC trail honors the young men who helped create the park nearly 100 years ago. The trail passes through a ravine and then beside a small stream. More wildflowers and several small stream crossings make this trek through the forest even more enjoyable.

Lake Loop

The trail joins the blue-blazed lake Trail loop. Stay left here and pass through an open meadow with lake views on your right. A small footbridge leads over a over a stream. The trail soon enters the forest with some partial lake views through the trees.

The trail passes the spillway before reaching the beach area. This is the most popular section of the park. Several original buildings from the CCC days remain and signs tell their history. Continue to follow the blue trail around the lake and through a small parking area. Pass historic cabin #2 and then take a sharp left to return to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

36° Fifty Brewing in Marion is about 15 minutes from the trailhead. This micro-brewery has indoor seating, occasional food trucks, and six taps. They are only open on Saturdays.

These guys brew some fine beer. Pete really liked their flagship American Pale Ale (5% ABV). Nice balance of hops with a smooth finish. Kathy enjoyed a pint of the New England IPA (5.2% ABV). Hazy with some fruit notes from the hops.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.