This is a great 12-mile loop around Ft. Yargo State Park! Visitors on foot are still welcome to use this trail, but must yield to mountain bikers, due to the purpose-built nature of the trail. However, keeping an eye and ear down the trail and stepping aside for the mountain bikers has never been a problem for me. The direction of travel for the mountain bikers changes, routing clockwise on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and switching to counter-clockwise on other days. I will typically hike in the opposite direction so I'm more aware to the mountain bikers and can quickly move out of the way.
The trailhead has immediate parking, and you start and finish right at your vehicle, which is a nice feature. The first 3 or 4 miles are long and winding as you'll experience an, optional, water crossing, small wooden bridges, paved road, etc. The first highlight section of the trail is called *3-Step Hill* which follows old farming terraces and makes for a fun hike on the downhill and a three-step climb coming back up the hill. There is a clearly marked bypass for this section.
Next, you continue on around the campgrounds with views of the lake and wildlife. At this point, the trail is mostly downhill until you reach the dam at which point, you begin a 160-ft ascent over 2 miles which, optionally, includes a trip through the 1 mile section dubbed the *Monster Mile* which has short and steep climbs and descents. There is a clearly marked bypass for this section as well; however, it is NOT on this GPS route but it is marked with BLUE blazes, same as the rest of this trail. You'll continue down a gas pipeline clearing and to the southern tip of the lake.
As you continue on the trail, you cross over a steel bridge and head into a section called *Deadwood Hill* which has a lot of dead and dying trees, a result of either lightning or disease... It's really cool to see the impact on this area of the park, and it's a fun route with lots of turns. This part of the trail also brushes closer to the lake and makes for some great views.
Moving down the trail, you come across the *Cemetery Hill* and *Horseshoe Drop* sections. The blue blazes are hard to follow in this area and there are some outdated markers along the route that are not on the map. Since I know this trail rides along the outside of the park, I followed the "bypass" arrows and always went left when I was unsure and was able to pickup the blue blazes after .5 miles or so. You can always use the Hiking Project mobile app
to make sure you stay on track.
You wrap up your loop after *Heart Attack Hill* which leads you to the Lake Loop Trail
until you arrive at the trailhead!