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.
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.
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. :)
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.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 28, 2012
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.