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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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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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: VAHiker Rating: 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.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Did as an overnight backpack - worked very well to camp at the spring, a natural half-way point at least two large, excellent campsites with room for multiple tents. Climb up the cut off trail is the only hard part - rest is largely level or downhill, with almost no tricky terrain. Some trails a bit overgrown but not too bad. Forest roads also in very good shape - looked like fresh gravel. Big Schloss view is fantastic, rest of trails nice but not spectacular.

By: M&D from VA Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 07, 2014
The view atop Big Schloss is amazing and panoramic.

My wife and I were looking to do the Mill Mountain hike as an overnight trip, leaving the parking lot at about 3pm, aiming for the Sandstone Springs for a water refill, and the camping area by nightfall. We took the scenic overlook trail to Big Schloss and found the peak about 5:30pm and liked the view so much we abandoned the plan, instead camping at one of the overlook sites. Had to play a bit judicious with water since there were no areas to refill on the Big Schloss Cutoff trail, but the view was stunning. Watched the sun set over mountains to the West in the evening, then watched the sun rise over mountains to the East in the morning. Stunning location.

There are two camping sites atop Big Schloss that each hold two small tents and one additional site has an area for three or four hammocks total. A light breeze kept us company on the overlook camp site (looks East about 20 yards before the bridge), but the lower two sites were better sheltered and would do better when weather rolls in. The intersection of Big Schloss Cutoff and Mill Mountain trail is at a flat area that would hold probably seven tents, though it is about an hour to the pinnacle from there.

To note, the Big Schloss Cutoff trail was a reasonable 4 for difficulty. Steep in places and a steady huff up the hill, but no rock scrambles or slippery spots. Solitude, at least this early summer weekend, was a good 5. We saw just three other small groups both Saturday and Sunday and had the pinnacle to ourselves until a pair of day hikers walked up about 8am.

The hike up from parking to Big Schloss took us 3.5 hours and the hike down took 2 hours.

Found six common ticks and one deer tick on the hike the Mill Mountain trail between Big Schloss and the intersection with Schloss Cutoff was a bit overgrown and had overhanging vegetation. Looks like someone trimmed the path on the summit trail though.

Definitely one of the best views we've seen in the Northern sections of the GWNF and will be a repeat trip for us in the future.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 19, 2013
Hike with a friend and made this trip a day hike. SNP was just opening this day and I knew there were two large groups planning to hike in this area...that is why we set out EARLY. We did this hike in the opposite direction as described by hikingupward. They were calling for rain and we wanted to see the views. I have hiked Big Schloss from Wolf Gap before (easy 4 miles) but I loved this route. There are so many camp sites in this area. We ran into the group hikers which reminded me on how I like to hike with 6 or less people. The summit of Big Schloss was beautiful. Great time of year. Beautiful woods. Please don't litter on the trails or leave trash at your campsite, please take it with you. :)

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 28, 2013
A group of 5 of us did this hike starting around 9:45 in the morning. We parked one of the cars at the FR 92 parking at the Stony Creek Trail and then loaded up our friend's truck with the 5 of us and drove down the fire road to the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail where we parked the truck on the side of the road across the trailhead to be picked up the next day. This saved us a half mile of walking the fire road knowing it was going to be a miserably hot and humid hike.

We were completely drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top of the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail. I personally drank about a liter of water on the way up (and at breakfast before hand I drank probably a quart of water to make sure I was hydrated). It wasn't as bad (steep) as I thought it was going to be (in fact, I thought it was easier than doing the hike to Big Schloss from Wolf Gap Recreation Area.

We had wanted to hike to Big Schloss for  lunch, unfortunatley, the path from the cutoff trail down to Big Schloss was completely overgrown with weeds and brambles, and not wanting to have to bushwack, the decision was made to turn around and  skip Big Schloss. After having lunch at the top of the cutoff trail, we continued on to to Sandstone Springs. Lots of high grass on the way up the trail which is pretty overgrown and a downed tree was cut up by one of our group that was blocking the trail. Just a note: no one found any ticks on them the entire hike and the bugs weren't really bad.  We decided to make camp at the springs for the night (there were several great spots to camp), and we picked the biggest one with a nice fire ring. Thought we might get rained on as there appeared to be a front passing through so we set up a tarp, but all that happened was we ended up with a beautifully cool evening that was perfect sleeping weather. There was plenty of water at the spring to replenish our water.

The next morning we continued up Mill Mountain Trail to the Tuscarora, then to Little Stony Creek, stopping by Sugar Knob Cabin for a snack break. The weather was perfect, in the low 70's with a nice breeze. The hike down Stony Creek was easy, we left Sandstone Springs campsite a little after 8 am and took 2 long breaks and were back at the truck parked at the end of the trail head by about 1140.

In all it was a great hike, not too strenuous, and as the whole purpose of the hike was just to have fun and camp out for the evening, this hike definitely fit the bill.

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Early August
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