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Mill Mountain - Columbia Furnace, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.6 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
7.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,340 ft with three different ascents
George Washington National Forest
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From Wolf Gap Rd: VA608/Johnston Rd 2.4 miles, Left on FDR92 for 3.3 miles park on left.
Note: The gate entrance to the GWNF where VA608/Johnston Rd turns into FDR88/Johnston Rd intermittently closes in the winter to traffic due to road deterioration. This adds an additional 8.0 miles to the hike, 4.0 miles out/back to mapped parking area. Check with the GWNF for gate status at 540-984-4101. 38.93795, -78.64623

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 Schloss vista. Return to the Big Schloss Cut-Off trail intersection to continue the hike.

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.

Turn Right on the Stony Creek Trail as it follows Little Stony Creek down the valley for 3.4 miles back to the parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The Mill Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Mill Mountain hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: David M. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Thankfully the fire roads are open now, last year when we did this hike they were closed, and the hike in was brutally boring. If you are thinking of doing this in the late fall or early spring, definitely call to make sure Fire Road 92 is open!

We did the hike detailed here this weekend. The Big Schloss Cut Off trail is no joke, tons of elevation gain in a short amount of distance, and not a spring or water source to be found. Pack your water in if you are starting in this direction. I cannot stress this enough. We got to the intersection of the cut off trail and Mill Mountain trail (there are definitely a few campsites here, but close to the trail), and headed southwest towards the Big Schloss lookout trail. This is a fantastic ridge-line hike. Very grassy, TONS of flowery trees out right now, and not a lot of elevation gain. You get the most fantastic view from below of the Big Schloss peak, it looks fantastic. Get to the lookout trail and it is 0.25 miles to the summit. Keep an eye out for camping spots, we spotted two on the right hand side about halfway to the summit, and upon further hiking, found the sites listed here in other reviews. The spot to the right of the walkway is epic, but probably catered to the hammock set, or maybe a one person tent. Since we got there late in the day (7:00pm), all of the sites near the summit were taken, so we backtracked to the initial site we found upon our hike up the lookout trail. Almost all sites have fire rings, but do use caution with your fire, it got quite windy while we enjoyed our dinner with the small fire we had. Did not experience any wildlife activity all evening.

Waking up and experiencing the sunrise atop Big Schloss is a must do. Very pretty and serene. Getting the rest of our day started, we headed back down the Mill Mountain Trail towards the overlook (great stop for a snack or lunch, especially if for some reason, you don't go to Big Schloss itself). Afterwords, you start your elevation gain up Mill Mountain trail which seems to take longer than it looks on the map, but eventually you get to the Spring, the first water source on the ridge. The spring was running fantastic this weekend, fill up here! Other than the Spring, and the few campsites you'll see moving north along this trail, it is incredibly rocky, straight, and in my opinion, boring. Green tunnel, anyone?? Literally no view of anything, and the trail is insanely narrow. Couldn't wait to get to the intersection of the Blue Blazed Tuscarora Trail, which looks like an old fire road. Make sure you turn right here, there is a trail facing ahead you blazed blue as well, do not take this, turn right. There are a TON of campsites in this stretch, with fire rings. So many good options.

Once you hit Stoney Creek Trail, well, it is a heck of a long descent. At least at this point you start to the see ridge-lines to the north, and start passing some very small (but running) springs. It is rocky, it is boggy at times. Once you get down to a more level grade, there are some great sites to camp, a few look like they could hold 2 - 3 tents with ease. With these sites, the trail runs close to the creek, take some time to hang out here. In warmer weather, I could see hanging out in some of these pools.

Saw a few folks day hiking, a few backpackers heading the opposite way, but otherwise, a solitary hike.

By: Natasha Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 29, 2016
Quick overnight backpack while the weather was warm and our weekend was free. Did this hike counterclockwise as we find that the best way to tackle the elevation. We tried clockwise the first time and the near 2mi climb up was too much. We also wanted, like the other reviewer, to have our views near the end as a reward for our hard work. Fall colors were past peak but still quite beautiful. Wish it was about 10 degrees cooler for the climb up the Stony Creek Trail. Spring at cabin and at sandstone spring on Mill Mountain were running, though not fast. Ran into a group of six mountain bikers on our way up as they were coming down. It was cool to watch them maneuver around the rocks on their way down. Saw a few day hikers but it was an otherwise quiet trip. Camped at the spring and was surprised no one else was there other than a small group we heard but did not see during the night. With the leaves off the trees, the views were fantastic in both directions and especially nice from the western signed overlook. We opted not to visit Big Schloss since the leaf color was past peak and it was hazy looking east. We'd been two other times so it wasn't like we were missing much. Descent of course was a little rough on the knees and fun with all the leaves and acorns! :-D This circuit has always been a favorite and we would love to return in the winter sometime.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 16, 2016
Of all the hikes we've done this summer, this one resonated with the both of us. We really enjoyed the variety of terrain and the spectacular views. The moist wooded creek bottom trail, the open and arid Tuscarora, the dry wooded ridgeline trail, and the rocks at the summit were all different and that appeals to us. Never did we get the long green tunnel feeling that we often get on the AT.

Like most of the other reviewers, we hiked the loop counterclockwise starting from the parking area on FS 92 following the Little Stony Creek Trail north, then working back south to Big Schloss on the Mill Mountain Trail, up to the summit, then backtracking to the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail, and finally back to the car with a half mile on FS 92. We chose to do it in this direction because we wanted the payoff (the outstanding views from Big Schloss) near the end of the hike rather than at the beginning.

All told, the GPS had us right at 13 miles hiking the loop and with a few side excursions to overlooks along the way. There was plenty of elevation gain, but it was all pretty gentle. The steepest part of the walk was on the blue-blazed Big Schloss Cutoff Trail. We were coming down that hill so it wasn't a factor except that my knees don't really like downhills.

The trail was in great shape. Nothing overgrown anywhere at this time of year. Beware of freshly fallen acorns though. The crop is large this year and they are by far more slippery than wet leaves.

On the downside, we didn't get the solitude we were looking for on this trail. We leapfrogged a 14-person group all day. Even though they were polite and respectful, a group is a group. The situation was worse when we hit the summit about 3:00 in the afternoon. The beautiful views are just a bit too close to the Wolf Gap parking area. Lots and lots of people up top.

Still, the views are wonderful and this is a hike not to be missed.

By: Rainchell Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 13, 2016
Completed as an overnight on 8/13/16.

We did this hike in reverse (Stony Creek first) with the yellow-blazed trailhead starting across FS92 (opposite of parking lot). Steady climbing and a beautiful trail for 3.5 miles. Stony Creek was running and there were plenty of pools to cool off in.

The trail opens up once you reach Tuscarora (blue-blazed - fireroad?) which is a short distance from Mill Mountain (orange-blaze). Mill Mountain trail was a bit choked, and seemed tight, but it is August. Sandstone Spring was beautiful! It was amazing to find such fresh cold water on top of the ridge. Just behind the spring is a large camp spot on the left, able to fit many tents. Just beyond THAT spot there is a smaller, more private was a lovely camp. A thunderstorm did roll in and the ridge felt pretty exposed. LOUD and a bit scary.

Working our way down Mill Mountain we stopped at the smaller overlook on the right. It was beautiful. There is a tree down near this spot that is navigable but tight. Once we reached the spur trail to the Big Schloss Vista, we started climbing again and almost made it to the overlook when a small black bear dropped from a tree in from of us and we decided to cut our losses and let that bear (and its mama) have that spot :) I'm glad we chose to stop at the first overlook.

We headed down the Big Schloss Cutoff trail (light-blue blaze) which was pretty technical in spots (with weighted packs) but I thought it was gorgeous! We hit FS92 and made a left for a short jaunt back to the car.

Some Notes:
- You are going to get some good climbing (in either direction) this hike.
- ALL SPRINGS WERE RUNNING WELL on 8/13 - 8/14/16, and we were able to filter plenty of water.
- The trails were marked very well.
- We were sure to make noise when visibility was cut short. I carried bear spray.
- This would not be an ideal hike in thunderstorms.
- We ran into only one day hiker the entire time.

By: LillTrooper Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 12, 2016
Great hike for a quick backpacking trip close to DC.

Parking: As of the hike date, the gate was closed on the western end of 92. I couldn't find info on the gate status online or on the ranger's recorded message. That was annoying, but my fault for not calling during the week. It is 3 miles from the gate to the Big Schloss shortcut trail. There were 1-2 pull off parking spots at the cutoff trail. We didn't hike past the shortcut trail on 92.

The shortcut trail was moderately steep but just short enough that it ended right when the uphill got annoying. I wouldn't call it difficult or overly rocky, but that's in comparison to West Coast desert hikes. There is no water between the shortcut trailhead and the Big Schloss summit. The mile from the top of the shortcut trail to Big Schloss was the best section of the hike. The trail was lined by brilliantly green grass and clovers making it feel like a majestic fairy forest.

The Big Schloss summit trail had about 5 campsites that we saw. The first two were overgrown but looked clearable. The third looks great with an awesome fire ring tucked underneath a rockwall corner, but was only level from maybe 1 tent (mentally noted for hammocks). The fourth was taken by a group with 4 tents, though I was shocked that they managed to cram that many tents in there. The fifth was just before the wood bridge and the best by far with a great fire ring and spots to fit 2-3 tents. It had views off both sides of the mountain. Firewood is abundant further away from the summit.

We decided to make do with the minimal water we had since we didn't want to walk the 3ish miles to Sandstone spring and back, so we can't report on status. We ended up sharing the campsite with two awesome nurses from Baltimore which made killing time much more fun.

Overall, excellent backpacking destination. From gate to shortcut trail to summit and back was 12.25 miles and maybe 2k ft of gain. With the gate open and parking at shortcut trail it would be 6 miles less. Next time we'll do the trail counter-clockwise and be sure to fill up on water before the summit.

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Early August
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