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.
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.
Date of Hike: Saturday, February 06, 2016
I did the loop as an overnight two weeks after an epic snow storm in the east coast. Most of the 3 feet of snow had melted with a hard crust remaining on about a quarter of the trail.
I had initially planned to camp at the overlook, but there were two hikers ahead of me that went that way, so I made the turn up Racer Camp hollow instead to go a different way. I was thinking they would take the overlook campsite. Turns out they were day hiking the loop, and I met them between the two campsites in Racer Camp Hollow. I camped at the hunters camp on a saddle between hollows directly on the crusty snow. I had to dig snow out of the ring ring to get a fire going. My German Shepard and I slept good and woke to about 20F.
I did the return trip up Little Sluice and sat at the overlook taking in the view for a while. The hike both up and down Little Sluice was easier than I expected being very gradual accents/descents.
Of the three rather large campsites, the one I chose was probably the least attractive but still not bad. All of the campsites were a little too heavily used for my taste. I like a small existing fire ring and little if any other signs of use. my site had a plywood bench built between two trees and numerous nails in trees and chopped tree stumps. I never understood cutting down live trees. They won't burn well, it's illegal and it's way too much like work.
My favorite part of the trail was between the campsites on Racer Camp Hollow. It was more wild and less developed than other parts of the loop.
I plan on going back with a friend later this winter and stay at the overlook doing the loop the opposite way.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Awesome trail. Not too bad a drive from DC considering how remote and more 'untouched' the trail is in comparison to the Shenandoah AT trails and a lot of the trails in NoVA.
There were more people along the trail and especially at the camp-sites along the peak near the overlook than expected for this time of year - probably because it's one of the last weekends before it continues to get to freezing temperatures up there. Regardless it was totally worth it, everyone we met were very friendly and pretty much minded their own business.
The blazes can be hard to see at times, there was only one instance where we didn't see the Orange blaze cut to the right across a creek and found ourselves along a very rocky area for a bit until we luckily saw some guys coming down on the trail.
There are a couple of tricky transitions. Getting onto the white overlook trail took much longer than I expected from the blue - after peaking you descend for a good bit before the turn and then you go along the white trail for a while descending further until the overlook campsite and overlook itself is apparent.
Getting to the overlook is not straight forward but fun scaling up some boulders and then veering left to get to an amazing view of the forest below and valleys beyond. There's actually a few places you can get out onto the edge to have a great view so be sure to explore.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 15, 2015
One of the few hikes this time of year where did not see anyone! I was very surprised at the frequency of campsites along first-half of route. View from White Rocks is one of few where immediate valley floor has pristine forest no man-made structures (Woodstock is miles away in next valley). This is a beautiful lunch spot, bring your binoculars.
This time of year, grab a trail-side spider-stick, many "Spiny-Backed Hermit-Crab or Spiny-Backed Orb Weaver spiders (Gasteracantha Cancriformis) [I think] had stung webs across trail.
Excellent route description I would augment slightly, after "From the campsite, the trail will head up the valley crossing the run several times before reaching another campsite in 1.6 miles." add... " If you find yourself bushwacking left of the creek, cross back over to right side to find trail." Glad I had poles during my bushwacking foray.
G & A
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 02, 2015
A great hike in one of our favorite areas in GWNF. There are very conspicuous trail maps posted at many of the trail intersections, which is great for your peace of mind if you're unsure that you're on the right track or for improvising extensions to your planned circuit. We ended up by-passing the Old Mail trail on the way back and instead looped back to Wilson Cove via the Racer Camp Hollow Trail to Wilson Cove Trail (both grassy fire roads), adding about 2 miles to the original route. We got a few ticks in the tall grass on the forest road, so be sure to check yourself before you get back in the car.
The hike is relatively flat, with a few gradual climbs here and there but nothing too arduous so the miles pass fairly quickly. It was a beautiful day, not too hot for early August, but and there were a few cars on the approach road, but we only saw two hikers returning to their cars as we were setting off. Only one very small stream crossing with a wide board conveniently bridging the stream.
Only one true lookout at the end of the short white-blazed spur... but it's a doozy of a lookout! We saw several hawks soaring and swooping impressively very near where we sat.