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 altered this loop a bit to make it an overnight backpacking trip. Overall it was a beautiful circuit. The view from Big Schloss is amazing, and there is some fun terrain changes throughout which keeps things moving and interesting.
We drove into Wolf Gap late on Friday, stayed the night, and headed up Big Schloss the next morning. We made the turn off the ridge and the Mill Mntn trail and headed down the Cutoff, doing the circuit in reverse. After hoofing it up to the Sugar Knob cabin, we found a great campsite where the Stony Creek Trial intersects the Tuscarora Trail, and then returned the second day along Mill Mtn trail that runs along the ridge connecting the Tuscarora Trail with Big Schloss.
It would have been more of a challenge to do the steeper ascent up the Cutoff (instead of heading down it), but I'm glad we saved the ridge line for the second day - it was more relaxing that way and the terrain changes on the Cutoff and teh Stony Creek Trail make sure you don't get bored the first day. If you packed light, traveled fast and left earlier in the morning, its possible to do this circuit in a summer day when the daylight lasts longer.
There's plenty of places along Stony Creek to refill your water - but the water sources are a bit scarce along the Mill Mntn Trail unless its just rained recently. It was a little buggy in July, so def bring your bug spray!
Apart from around Big Schloss, we didn't run into another soul the entire time. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend!
I've been waiting months for the fire road access gate to be opened for the season so that I could do this hike, and in the end was glad that I was forced to wait until spring, because the colors were beautiful in every direction. My hiking buddy and I did this loop counterclockwise and finished it in 4.5 hours plus lunch, glad it didn't actually take the 7.5 hours suggested here. We saw about 6 or 8 other people on the trail today, most of them coming in from Wolf Gap. It was a beautiful hike, not particularly strenuous, though we were glad not to have come up the pretty steep 1.9-mile trail, which wasn't much fun to come down either.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 28, 2009
I don't know what to say about this hike that hasn't been said before. The rating of 5 for difficulty is way too high. Other than the mileage, a relatively straightforward walk in the woods. Nothing terribly exciting on the hike. A walk in the woods and nothing more. Big Schloss was cool but it took almost 10 miles to get there. At that point, the monotony of the hike had killed my enthusiasm. Ending the hike with half a mile on the road is not a way to remember it well either. It might deserve a one star but it was nice to get outside before it gets too cold. The ever presnet hunters and shotgun blasts did nothing to add to the beauty of the hike. Definetly didn't want to be mistaken for a deer. If you are thinking of doing this hike, try another. There are better around. The only postiive was the amount of camping spots and the frequent springs to get water. Maybe the hike is better during the spring/summer.
Date of Hike: Friday, October 30, 2009
Set out to do the Little Schloss Hike but ended up doing this one on accident. Started out on Little Stoney, this part was the most difficult part of the whole hike. The stream had alot of debrie with many fallen trees so wasn't as I had anticipated. The hike was good as far as the challenge but there were barely any views in my opinon. In all on the whole hike I made it to 3 or 4 overlooks, only one of which actually had a sign that said overlook this way. If I had to rate the views as far as for the whole hike I'd give it a 2 for views. There were able sites for camping on the otherhand and only saw maybe 8 people the whole time. I went to college in the smokey mountians and may have been spolied by all the great views Western NC had to offer. Also I have found some really good hikes for views near Roanoke VA on the AT. I most likely won't do this hike again, it seemed like just another walk in the woods only difference was I was walking up a mountain. I wouldn't reccomend this hike either.
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 07, 2009
This hike is one of those hikes that looks great on paper but lacks a key element: the wild. On the plus side, the Mill Mtn. trail boasts great views at intermittent points from Big Schloss all the way to the FAA site. Water flowed amply at Little Stony Creek, Sandstone Spring, and Sugar Knob Spring. Furthermore, cleared campsites dotted the trail at generous intervals. The Sugar Knob Camp includes a snug one-room stone cabin (a former fire watcher's hut) with a stove that PATC rents for $25/night. The Tuscarora sandstone even revealed some nice fossils in places. Sounds great, right?
Yet the hike failed to evoke wilderness enough for my tastes. Scads of people covered the Schloss. Some of the campsites were littered and bore signs of hard use. What little wildlife I saw -- a pair of grouse, two does, a squirrel, woodpeckers and common back-yard birds -- seemed sparse given that I hiked over twenty miles over two days. The 4-mile hike to the starting parking lot on Fire Road 92 (from Johnstown Road/Va. Rte. 608) passed two major clear-cuts (Your National Forests: Lands of Many Abuses) of at least 50 acres. Hikers must share the trails with horseback riders and mountain bikers frequent horse plops, and moss scarred with knobby tire imprints, distracted from the natural beauty. And of course, the rocks along the trail showed ubiquitous scores from metal hiking poles. (Are hiking poles on this simple trail really necessary? I've been hiking over 30 years in all kinds of terrain and weather, over all kinds of distances, and never needed or wanted them. If I need a staff for a stream or river crossing, I scavenge wood from the forest floor. Nothing looks sillier than suburbanites affecting the "AT" look with those poles.) In short, this hike left me even more wistfully hungry for wilderness than when I headed out. I felt like I was camping in a museum.
Enough of the griping. Here's some possibly useful info.
1. I hiked in solo from Va. Rte. 608 to the parking lot mentioned as the starting point for the hike by hikingupwards.com. Started Sat. 3/7/09 at 9:15. I hiked the route suggested by hikingupwards.com and stayed at the "great camping spot" near the intersection of the yellow blazed Stony Creek Trail. (This was just an "ok" spot, not "great" it was overused, littered and directly on the trail, but it was near the Sugar Knob spring.) On Sun. 3/8 I hiked to the parking lot following Little Stony Creek and then hiked out along FS 92/Va. 608, returning 11:15. Saturday was hazy but cleared in the late afternoon, high in the 70's, breezy. Very windy that night, low in the 40's? Sunday was overcast, in the 60s-70s.
2. If you're hiking in from Va. Rte 608 (the Johnstown Road), the USFS gate barring the road during the winter is about 1.5 miles in from (North of) the turnoff from Va. Rt. 675. At the gate, there's a small turnout where you can park, and there's also room to park on the side of the road. About a mile north of the gate along Va. Rte. 608, you make a sharp turn to your left onto Fire Road (FS) 92. This appears as a hairpin turn on the Google map. There's a stop sign for FS 92 at that point it has "92" carved into the signpost. This is the first left turn you'll see after you leave the gate hiking northward. Turn left at the stop sign onto FS92. A large clearcut will be on your left as you hike from the gate to FS92. The same clear cut remains on your left as you turn onto FS92. About a mile further up the road you'll see another large clear cut on your left.
3. At about mile three from the gate you'll pass a concrete parking lot on your left. There's a sign on the FS 92 road frontage at the lot that says "Timber Sale Area." This is NOT the parking lot that serves as the starting point of the Mill Mtn. Hike as described by hikingupward.com. That starting point for the hike is about another mile down the road, at the floor of the valley formed by Little Stony Creek. See the topo map.
4. The other commenters are right about sturdy boots for the ridge of Mill Mtn. It's not a difficult hike, but your toes will thank you if you protect them.
5. Another hiker familiar with the trail advised me that Sandstone Spring has Girardia. I drank filtered water from it with no problem.
6. Just to the east (upstream/uphill) of the Sandstone Spring is a large hemlock - what passes for enormous in these days of the wooly adelgid. It's impressive. There's an attractive campsite at its base with a fire ring and stone chairs, but the ground seemed pretty boggy. I'll bet it's pretty buggy as well once the weather warms up. There was a LOT of water pumping out of the ground around the spring.
7. The Hiking Upward directions are accurate. A few minor notes: when the directions say "Start by walking DOWN FS92 for 0.5 miles," that actually means "walking southwest, heading uphill." See the topo map. Also, the FAA site is not a tower. It's just a shed.