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 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.
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.
M&D from VA
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.