This hike is very similar to the Little Sluice and has
nearly as much solitude. The big difference between the two
is the great vista you get by taking the short walk along Mill
Mountain to the Big
Schloss vista. This is one of the best
vistas in Virginia and shouldn't be missed.
Start by waking down FS92 for 0.5 miles to reach the Big Schloss
Cut-Off Trail (don't take the old faded trail but continue for
100 more yards and turn right
on the light blue blazed trail). Turn right and ascend on the Big
Schloss Cut-Off Trail for the steepest part of the hike for
1.9 miles to the ridge line.
At the ridge turn left on the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail for 0.9
miles then turn left again uphill on the lookout trail to go
to the Big
to the Big Schloss Cut-Off trail intersection to continue the
Now continue on the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail hiking along the ridge
for the next 3.4 miles and arrive at the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail that comes in from the right.
Turn right downhill onto the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail for 0.6 miles
to reach the four way intersection of the yellow blazed Stony Creek Trail
just past a great camping
spot on the right.
We turned this hike into a two day backpacking trip and it was fabulous! As suggested we did the hike backwards and started late friday night, hiking about 3/4 of a mile in to a nice camp spot by the creek. The next day we hiked the 8 or so miles to the summit of Big Schloss- this was our first time doing this type of thing so it was definitely strenuous but it was well worth it! The hike along the ridge was absolutely beautiful and the 8 miles with packs wasnt so bad. When we got to the top of Big Schloss there were ALOT of people there but we set up camp at an incredible spot at the peak and by 330 almost everyone was gone and we had the place to ourselves. It was a beautiful night and morning and a great spot to stay. The schlepp down in the morning was a little steep and monotonous but all around a beautiful and fun hike - I would absolutely recommend doing it backwards.
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 06, 2015
We did this hike as an overnight, going backwards and had a blast. We started mid-afternoon on the first day, following the creek a bit before ascending to the ridge. Doing the hike in reverse was really nice because we got most of the elevation gain out of the way the first afternoon. We made camp just beyond the intersection of the yellow Stony Creek Trail and the blue Tuscarora trail. The site was wonderfully spacious and we found plenty of firewood. We saw one family at a site just before reaching the PATC hut they were the only people we saw along the hike until we got near Big Schloss the next day. At the spring just before the yellow + blue trail intersection there was no water flowing. Luckily we brought plenty with us. We hit the trail fairly early the next day and enjoyed walking along the shaded ridge line, passing several more suitable camping spots. We passed what must have been water from Sandstone spring trickling over the orange blazed Mill Mountain trail a couple of miles in. We hydrated from a spot where the water emerged from the rocky soil right next to the trail in a pool deep enough to dip our mugs into. It was cool, refreshing, and delicious (and almost three weeks later none of us has fallen ill, fyi). As the sun rose and the air warmed we reached the intersection of the Mill Mtn trail and the Big Schloss cut-off trail. We put our backs down there and went along to catch amazing views on top of Big Schloss. It was a perfect one-nighter. To top off the weekend we stopped at a farmstand on our drive home for fresh peaches and apples.
Date of Hike: Friday, May 01, 2015
We started out at about 2 p.m. and took other reviewer's advice to go counterclockwise. We enjoyed the beautiful river at the beginning of the hike. I was surprised at the number of camping spots we passed. There was at least one on the first part of the yellow marked trail, one at the corner near the blue trail turn-off. We found 2-3 on the orange blazed trail. We got caught in about 30 minutes of rain as we walked, but we were prepared with ponchos. The campsite we chose had 7-8 spots for tents. It was about halfway along the orange blazed trail on the left going in the counter-clockwise direction. We didn't pass anyone hiking and thought we were all alone, but once we got out tents up, we heard a group in a nearby campsite. We dropped our packs before going to the Big Schloss lookout and enjoyed that vista a lot. There was a black rat snake near the intersection of the lookout trail and the blue blazed turn-off. I was grateful for sturdy shoes as the pathway was quite rocky. There were a couple pretty viewpoints. I also enjoyed walking along the ridge.
Date of Hike: Friday, April 17, 2015
A simple key to making any hike a bit easier, (or life in general a bit easier): Hydration. This should be emphasized and considered carefully on this hike. Early on the hike, on the light blue trail you will pass a spring. After you hit that spring, you will encounter the toughest part of the hike by far.
That spring also is your last good chance for refilling water until you get off the ridge line that you'll be hiking for about 5 miles. After enjoying the spectacular view and turning around at the Big Schloss, I actually doubled back, re-hiking the most difficult section of the hike to ensure I could fill from that spring. It paid off, because I didn't come across another acceptable water source until I starting hiking the last few miles on Stoney Creek. I would qualify the above advice by saying that I am a big guy and I sweat a lot, and I was with my dog, and we camped overnight. I believe if you did it in one day, and didn't have to share water with a dog, you might be ok to proceed on without the backtrack for refill.
Great views. Great solitude hike. Only saw five other groups the two days I was out hiking and camping it (on a weekend), and four of those groups were up at Big Schloss.
The only downside I would say was Stoney creek trail was quite muddy from all the springs that fed into it across the path. A lot of rock jumping was necessary to avoid a muddy boot. The dog loved it though! And overall, I did too!
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 09, 2014
Did this as an overnight. Went in the opposite direction, which I think is a lot easier to do. We did this last year in the spring as described and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top of the Cutoff trail. By going up the valley the climb is more gradual. We stopped at the cabin to eat lunch before heading up to Sandstone spring to camp. Clearly no one has used the Cabin in a while as there are rocks halfway up the door that people have piled up. The spring was running well, despite lack of rain in recent weeks. We had no problem pumping from the spring as it was deep enough. Rain was forecast for the weekend so we only saw one other camper. Saw some day hikers the first day, otherwise the hike was nice and quiet. Unlike the reviewer below, we did not get any ticks on us. We made sure to use DEET on our legs to keep them from climbing up our shorts if they got on us. Stony Creek was flowing nicely when we got back to our cars and it allowed us to "freshen up" before driving back home. I would love to do this hike in the fall or winter. I can imagine the views are great both in the valley and on the ridge.