The White Rocks hike, with the spectacular Opa Overlook, is our favorite loop hike in the
Great North Mountain area. This hike has streams, great diversity in flora,
sublime solitude. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Shenandoah
National Park from the Opa Overlook.
This area was originally settled by German's in the 1730's, with German and Scots-Irish migrants mainly moving from the Pennsylvania area. The Opa Overlook is also accessible from the Little
Mile 0.8 – In 0.25 miles cross Cove Run and continue following the
Old Mail Path as it turns uphill through short scrub and pine arriving at a wildlife clearing, and the intersection of
the orange blazed Racer Camp Hollow Trail/FS road.
Mile 1.6 – Turn right on the orange blazed Racer Camp Hollow Trail/FS road, pass two more wildlife clearings before the FS road ends, and the Racer Camp Hollow Trail continues into the forest. After entering the forest, the orange blazed trail will gradually descend for 0.4 miles to Racer Camp Hollow Run, and a large campsite.
Mile 2.8 – From the campsite, the trail heads up the valley crossing the run several times before arriving at a hunters campsite in 1.7 miles.
Mile 4.5 – From the hunters campsite continue 200 yards to the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail and purple blazed Little Sluice Mountain Trail. Turn left uphill on
the blue blazed trail (the immediate blazes you see are the
green deer study markings). After 1.4 miles
the trail will have crested the ridge then arrives at the white blazed White Rocks Lookout Trail on the right. There is no signage at this intersection, but has several small cairns.
Mile 5.9 – Take the white blazed trail for 0.2 miles
where you will pass a high mountain campsite on the right. Pass the campsite where shortly the trail will climb a steep rock scree. At the top of the scree stay left and continue around the knob to the Opa Lookout. Note: The white blazes on the top of the scree are faded and hard to see. Return to the blue blazed Tuscarora
Trail to continue the hike.
Mile 6.4 – Turn right on the blue blazed trail for 0.5 miles
then arrive at the intersection of the
Mail Path on the left, and the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail turns right.
Mile 6.9 – Turn left on the pink blazed trail for 1.3 miles
as it descends Little Sluice Mountain before arriving back at a clearing and
blazed Racer Camp Hollow Trail you were at earlier in the hike.
The view up top was awesome, looking out at Tea and Little North Mountains with Sheffer Gap between. From Opa Overlook, we were able to see the Blue Ridge/SNP in the distance behind both arms/ridges of the Massanuttens, and of course, the Great North Mountain complex in the foreground. We could see some of the taller peaks of the South District of SNP beyond the southern end of Massanutten Mountain. Awesome views.
This was a tough trailhead to find. Well, actually not. We found it just fine. It's just that there wasn't any signage or evidence on the ground that we were at the right place and here up at the tail end of Waites Run Road is pretty much the boonies with nobody to ask. Things I will note that may help you find the trailhead: Waites Run Road becomes a dirt road about halfway to the trailhead. You may see cars parked on both sides of the road where the Tuscarora crosses: trust your mileage and keep going. Where you want to be is where the dirt road makes a definite fork. You want the upper lefthand fork. If you go right and down, you're going to find yourself by a pond and you'll know you've gone slightly too far. There is parking where the road forks. Unsure of exactly where we were, we kept trucking up the left fork until we came to the upper parking area. The gate here was not closed and is not closed during hunting season according to the sign. Still not sure if we were in the correct place (no sign saying "You are here!"), we kept going and quite quickly saw the well-marked Old Mailpath trail. We turned around and parked, the only car there probably all day. From here, the upper parking area, our GPS had us at 9.45 miles for the day.
The pink-blazed trail was pretty muddy in spots with plenty of horse droppings and bicycle tracks. Though we were alone all day, you should be prepared to share the trail. I am thankful that most of the mud was still frozen when we encountered it in the morning. Coming back in the afternoon, we at least knew in advance where the gooey bits would be.
Blazes were infrequent, but these are the kinds of trails you can't miss except for a couple of less than obvious crossings of the creek on the orange-blazed trail. It is quite clear when you are on the wrong side of the creek, however, and easy enough to backtrack to find where you should have crossed the creek.
The character of the hike changed greatly once up on the blue-blazed Tuscarora and I really enjoyed that part of the hike, walking the VA-WV border. There aren't any blazes to speak of at the turn-off of the trail to Opa Overlook, but the trail is clear and clearly marked with stone cairns. I hadn't paid too careful attention to the map before the hike and I assumed that the overlook would be at the peak of the ridgeline. In fact, you cross the peak and start descending the north side for a few hundred yards before the side trail heads off to the east. The rock scramble at the end was fun and there is currently a well-marked white blaze on the rocks just where you start to climb. Once up, while you can get a decent view just to the right, go left and down about 6-7 feet over a mini-ledge and then back up to the right. Get ready to say "Oh, wow!"
Easy walk, easy climbs, a good bit of mud, varied ecosystems, some nice ridge walking, a tiny rock scramble, spectacular views.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, September 21, 2016
This is a really great hike! We parked at the base, heading the warnings about clearance, but certainly could have made it in my little car - the roads was fine. The trail was extremely well maintained but the blazes are infrequent and fading. Despite that, we didn't have any problems and the lookout is absolutely breathtaking!
Date of Hike: Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The parking coords were good. It brings you to an intersection of the lower (south of main road) and upper (north of main road) parking locations. I just think the start of the description might have meant to say "Park on the right...". I turned north (left) and shed about .3 mi of uphill FS Road travel.
The area was beautiful and quiet. There were many more campsites than listed in the description. All of them nice. There isn't any water on the Opa Lookout, but there is nice camping there. The climb is not too tough to bring an extra liter or three if you want to spend the night. The view from the rocks is gorgeous, especially at night with the lights of the city below. The trail was generally in very good shape. The blazes could use some work, but once you were on the trail, you didn't need them anyway. (The blue blazed trail had far more green than blue blazes.) I found it very strange that I didn't see a single small mammal. I ran across a deer, and that was it. No chipmunks, squirrels, mice, or anything.
The trail description was good, however the mileages were generous in the long direction. (Or else my GPS was bad and I hiked extra fast over my normal pace.) The total distance from the FS closed gate and back was about 7.5 miles. Add in the .6 from the lower parking and you get 8.1. No where near the 9.8 described. Easily doable in a day hike.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 27, 2016
This is a really nice hike along the WV/VA border. It started out a little rough for us, as we took the wrong forestry road and hiked a good distance before confirming we were on the wrong path. Make sure you take Waite's Run all the way into Wilson Cove. From where the GPS location from this site took us, we had to drive about 4 more miles down Waite's Run. Cell service is non existent on the road, so make sure you have a good idea of where you're going before you get there.
After finding the correct location, we drove the .3 miles up the service road in our FWD car, no issues. The hike itself was great. You start along a stream, get through some dense forests, very peaceful. We camped at the mountain campsite and there was one other couple camping there, but it was not crowded. The view is amazing. Make sure to watch both sunset and sunrise as well as some star gazing if you're up for it!! It's an easy hike down the next day.
Date of Hike: Thursday, April 21, 2016
We hiked this as a group of four over the course of a long weekend. We spent two nights at the Racer Camp Hollow campsite, and one at the high campsite by the overlook. Four days was too much, but we hadn't been hiking in a while, and wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable.
First, it's important to note that nowhere around the trail will it say "White Rocks Hike," or White Rocks anything for that matter. Also, if you use the coordinates on Hiking Upward site imputed to google maps, Maps will tell you that your destination is on the right when, in fact, you need to turn left onto the service road.
As noted, the first leg of the trail was indeed quite wet. Plan accordingly and pack extra socks, as it is hard to circumnavigate the wet spots with a full pack.
I would not rate this highly in terms of solitude. First, there was a horse race going on this weekend that was utilizing the trail. The trail is narrow, and many of the horses were young and/or not well socialized. This made passing difficult, as there is not a lot of room for hikers to clear off the trail and yield. Second, there were close to forty horses competing in the race, and their hoofs tore up the trail on Friday. It rained Friday night into Saturday morning, when the horses raced the race a second time. This made the trail completely impassible in parts. It was cool to see the horses, but I would advise that you do some research to see when they do this. I tried googling just now, but couldn't figure out who ran the races. Also, remember that hikers yield to horses. Horses aside, we still weren't alone. Thursday & Friday we had the mountain to ourselves, but Saturday we ran into four groups of hikers and another group on Sunday. Of other note was that the people that had campsites before us were not very clean. We packed out more trash that was left behind than we did of our own. If we were to do this again, I would plan for the middle of the week in order to have privacy.
Regarding the trail itself, there are not many switchbacks, and it is a healthy hike. There are many rocks, and poles are wonderfully useful for this trail. There is beautiful scenery, but it necessitates that you stop and enjoy the view it is difficult to take your eyes off the trail for fear of rolling an ankle. At the outlook, it is important to be careful on the scree and surrounding rocks, as the rocks are very slippery. There are no campsites past the high camp on the right, so you can drop your bags and head up the scree to save the load.
Make sure you fill your water bottles before you get to the hunter's camp (easily distinguished by the makeshift plywood table against the trees) as there is no water at the top, and it's a hike to get all the way down again.
The view from the overlook is amazing. Be careful on the rocks. Coincidentally, AT&T and Verizon work at the top camp if you're so inclined.
All in all, this was a beautiful hike and can be easily accomplished in a day. We enjoyed it and would come back in the future. Campsites are plentiful, with a total of roughly 10 scattered around the trail.