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Kepler Overlook - Woodstock, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.6 mls
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3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,185
George Washington National Forest
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Park at the closed gate at the end of on Van Buren Rd. If the gate is open, proceed another 200 yards and park on the left at the permanently closed gate. 38.97137, -78.56316

This secluded hiking area near Van Buren Furnace has several nice campsites, a vista west from Tea Mountain, the panoramic Kepler Overlook on Little North Mountain, and picturesque Cedar Creek. It's also the perfect car camping spot, with several large camp sites on the banks of Cedar Creek. If you car camp, also consider following the Tuscarora Trail up Little Sluice Mountain and enjoy the vistas at White Rocks.


In the late Fall, Winter, and early Spring the lower gate on Van Buren Road will be closed. At these times park on the right next to a large campsite. Note: Backcountry camping in the National Forest is on a first-come first- serve basis. You can't reserve campsites, but there is no cost to camp. If it's open, feel free to camp there!

  • Mile 0.0 - From the lower closed gate follow the yellow blazed forestry road for 0.2 miles to the second parking area and permanently closed gate. That parking area, and second large car-camp site, is on a left turn out.
  • Mile 0.2 - Continue straight passing the closed gate and continuing on the yellow blazed forestry road. In 0.3 miles reach the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail.
  • Mile 0.5 - Turn left down towards Cedar Creek following the Tuscarora Trail as is passes another closed gate and then reaches the crossing of Cedar Creek.
  • Mile 0.7 - Cross Cedar Creek and pass a large camping area. Continue to follow the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail for 0.1 miles where the blue blazed trail turns left off the path it's been follow and starts climbing Tea Mountain. Watch for the double blazed tree that marks this turn off.
  • Mile 0.8 - After starting the climb up Tea Mountain the Tuscarora Trail becomes more narrow and moss covered for 0.3 miles, then widens back into an old forestry road. The trail passes a hollow on the right, then straightens and makes a hairpin turn left and leaves the forestry road. Again make sure to look for a double blazed tree that marks this turn.
  • Mile 2.1 - Turn left off the forestry road as the Tuscarora Trail continues to climb Tea Mountain making several switchbacks before reaching an unmarked side trail at another switchback. Follow the side trail 100 yards around the back of a rock outcrop for a panoramic view west towards Little Sluice Mountain. Return to the Tuscarora Trail to continue the hike.
  • Mile 2.7 - Continue up the Tuscarora Trail making one more switchback and reach the saddle between Tea Mountain and Little North Mountain. The trail will then make the short climb to the Little North Mountain ridge.
  • Mile 3.2 - Follow the Tuscarora Trail along the ridge for 0.1 miles to the panoramic Kepler Overlook, and a great ridgeline camping site.
  • Mile 3.3 - From the overlook and campsite retrace your route back to the parking area
  • Mile 6.6 - Arrive back at the parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Kepler Overlook Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Kepler Overlook hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, January 20, 2017
Decided to forego the inaguration shenanigans in DC and take the trail on this day. Mother nature rewarded me handsomely for this decision. Unseasonably warm at 45 degrees when I started from the trail head. I understand some of the sentiments on this review board about where the trail starts, but I basically set off down the road from the parking area (parking is on the right as you drive in, while a single creekside campsite is on the left, I parked at the campsite) and simply proceeded straight. You see a number of closed gates on the forestry roads but the one directly in front of me someone had conveniently wrote "Keppler" with an arrow on the left post of the gate. Bingo! Caught a touch of rain about an hour a third of the way up, but it stopped by the time I reached the top. Excellent campsites mere feet from the overlooks all along the ridgeline at the top. I had originally planned on camping up top, but accomplished my goal so early in the day, I set out for another trail elsewhere. That wind was really whipping up there though. Slight fog was hanging low, but you could still see back into most of Maurertown(sp?) and much of the valley below. Hiking in winter is already a pretty austere experience, but hiking up through a light fog was an especially eerie and fun experience. Knowing the area, I can confidently say that a mountaintop sunrise on a clear morning from the overlook sites would absolutely fantastic considering there is very little obstruction from the trees at the top from many spots. My favorite part of this my hike, over the 3.5 hours I spent leisurely backpacking it, I didn't see a single other person out there with me. Killer!

By: Group Hike Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 22, 2016
Great Hike! Like the person below said, walk back to the open gate (broken) and up that hill to start the Hike. Do not go through the "closed gate" right near the parking area. Pretty easy hike up, the last mile is a bit tough but not terrible.

We got the mountain around 10am and parking was already tough. We had 7 in our group and wanted to camp at the summit, but were nervous that all of the campsites may be taken. As we hiked up, we passed a few campsites but decided we would scope out the summit. Took us 2.5 hours to hike up. There are plenty of sites at the summit! At the main overlook, there's a really great campsite that actually has a grate over the campfire for cooking. This campsite was already taken so we kept walking about a 300 yards and found a nice spot for 3 tents. Plenty of rock-built campfire sites which helped contain the fire during the windy conditions.

overall- great hike and great camping. we even saw a black bear cub!


By: Zendog74 Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 10, 2016
Great hike. However, like others, we had trouble finding it in the beginning.

When you pull of to the left to park in the second parking area, there is a closed gate there. DO NOT take it like we did. Walk back to the road you were driving on and go through the gate continuing in the same direction in which you were driving. The gate there was OPEN when we went. It looked like it had maybe been broken, so it may be open or closed. You can't rely on directions that say the "closed gate." As someone else mentioned in their comment, there is also a sign there for Clear Creek.

Once we got on the right trail, it was great. Gentle incline up to a stellar overlook. It is one we will definitely do again!


By: Benji Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 24, 2016
This hike is awesome! Not too difficult or long but gets you to the top and the view is incredible. There are a bunch of great camping spots at the top.

There are trail maps posted at the base of this trail that do NOT include Kepler Overlook. Its not super long or difficult to figure out, but you will make a few turns. If you have a decent sense of direction you will be fine.


By: Balt Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 04, 2016
Really enjoyed this hike and the view at the end was much worth the climb.

The instructions posted here are a little unclear, since there are several forest road gates at the beginning. Be sure to begin your hike at the gated area that is accompanied by a sign for the Cedar Creek Trail. If there is no trail sign, you are starting in the wrong place.

Our group and two others were fooled by this the other day...we ended up hiking for over an hour before we figured things out.


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