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.
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.
Giving it five stars. Well-recommended!
Date of Hike: Friday, July 03, 2015
Nice secluded hike in overcast conditions- perfect for an August overnight trip. The trail is a gradual slope and easy hike, and my first trip with a 35 pound pack was not a problem. Trails were very muddy in spots, but not overall. The overlook is a must see, and worth the detour. The only people I saw were locals running hounds after bear- I never saw any bear.
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 28, 2015
I'll try not to repeat my review from just below, but I admit I must be lucky, a cool breezy day, clouds streaming across blue skies (they were moving fast!) and I did see the butterflies: fritteraries/black swallowtail(?) on the thistles again. I think my biggest point this time is that we had a front move through the previous day with torrential rains, with plenty of flooding (at least further east where I live in Howard Country MD) but the trail just wasn't that bad. Oh sure, wear your hiking boots, yes you'll cross the creek several times and the trail can be a stream bed, but most of it is over slate and rock, not mucky leaves so not impossible to get around. Another issue was finding the road out of Wardensville, it's well hidden, but just follow the signs to the "city park" it looks like a residential road but ends up being way through. I drove my sedan to the upper parking lot with no problem, but a little more scraping going back down. The road is one lane w/ no room to spare so as the article recommends perhaps park down the hill on busy days. (Albeit I meet few hikers on this trail). My other piece of advice is that as you head up Waite's creek, the trail crosses the creek from R to L then crosses back from L to R but it is hard to see the latter b/c it looks like a creek instead, the trail bears left quickly, just hard to notice at first. Anyway, have breakfast ad KA-KA-PON restaurant, country breakfast, (not real cheap though) grab some subs and water up at the KERR's and have a grate hike. I saw another bear cub driving out.