The House Mountain hike near Lexington Virginia is really two out-and-back hikes in one. Big House Mountain, with great views to the west from Goat Point Overlook, and Little House Mountain, with its spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley to the northeast. A major draw to Big House Mountain over the last several years is to spend time with the friendly goat. She took up residence on the ridge of Big House Mountain around 2011, and is known to join hikers up the last section to Goat Point Overlook, then asks for a toll tax of food ... which she normally receives.
Little House and Big House Mountains appear to tower out of the plains as they stand by themselves, separate from any other mountain range. The 950 acre House Mountain Preserve was purchased in 1989 through the efforts of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and many local residents, including Bill Stubbs a leader in conservation causes in the Rockbridge area for many years. The area is now owned by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, and managed locally by the House Mountain Management Committee representing RACC, W&L University, VMI, and VOF.
The saddle between Big House and Little House Mountains was originally a homestead, and more recently a orchard and pasture. With camping space for multiple tents, as well as a seasonal spring just past the shelter on Big House Mountain, this is a perfect place to take an overnight backpack.
From the parking area continue up unpaved VA643 and in 50 yards stay right uphill (private drive is left). Continue up VA643 for another 0.3 miles (please respect private property) to the closed gate and trailhead.
From the trailhead and closed gate, start up the unblazed House Mountain Trail. The trail passes private property on the left for the first 0.5 miles. The remaining hike to the saddle becomes steeper and more rutted.
Big House Mountain Out/Back - 1.7mls - 740ft gain - Moderate+
Return along the ridge to where the trail begins to descend, but continue to bushwack along the ridgeline for 100 yards where there is a boulder canyon. Just inside the boulders is Tabletop Rock. Return to the intersection down with the blue blazed trail and retrace your steps back to the saddle between Big House and Little House Mountains.
Return to the saddle by retracing your route.
Little House Mountain
Out/Back - 2.6mls - 940ft gain - Moderate
The new Little House Mountain trail is now fully marked with standard vertical blue blazes from the saddle (just behind the two signs) all the way to the incredible overlook. This new trail was the solution to the very strenuous, straight up trail before. This trail is not mountain bike/horse friendly.
From the saddle the Little House Mountain trail starts from behind the signs. Follow the blue blazes as it gradually ascends the south-west side of the ridge, before making several switchbacks and climbing the last half mile to the ridgeline.
At the ridge follow the trail through a thick section of Mountain Laurel before turning left back to the north. In 0.2 miles the trail passes to the left of the main summit before beginning its descent to the overlook in another 0.7 miles.
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Reviews For The House Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Great hike on a well-marked trail. I'm not a hiker, and I finished both in about 4 hours (plus time for pictures and food). I did Little House first, and despite warnings that it would be difficult, I didn't find it to be too bad. I actually thought it was a little harder to climb Big House, but that may be because I was tired at that point. I didn't see the goat, but it was a lovely day nonetheless.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 14, 2015
With 3 friends, we hiked the Big House Mt trail yesterday, it was a glorious November day. Started with a light rain jacket, but had to take it off. But was glad to not have the rain encountered on July 4, 2015, but on the earlier occasion we saw the goat, not this time. Got some great pix of my friends at both Goat Point Overlook, & at "The Guardian of the Mountain" formation. Climbing the last 50 yards up to the Summit Ridge was a real challenge for this 70 year old and reminded us of our caving days with the Girl Scouts of Hampton Roads. On the return, walking thru deep leaves, we had to be very alert not to slip. All in all, we got our moneys worth even for our friend who had driven up from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 24, 2015
We did this hike with our two dachshunds as an overnight trip and really enjoyed it! We started in the afternoon and opted to set up camp near the shelter before we tackled Big House Mountain on day one and then saved Little House Mountain for day two. Before setting out on Big House trail we were warned by a gentleman from trail maintenance that there is a goat who wanders around the summit who, though very friendly, has a tendency to head-butt people. Needless to say he told us to make sure we kept a safe distance from the edge if the goat was nearby.
While there were no goat encounters, the views were spectacular! We hit the foliage peak in the area so all of the leaves were gorgeous shades of red, yellow, and orange. Both trails were pretty steep in portions but the short distance made them very manageable.
Some notes about the campsites:
(1) There is a mid-size campsite when you reach the fork in the trail. You can fit approximately 4-5 tents in this area. When we got there a group was already set up so we had to look elsewhere.
(2) If you continue down the left trail (towards Big House Mountain) you will come across a shelter which offers another camp site. This is smaller, allowing for only 1-2 tents. This is where we camped for the night and found it to be wonderful!
(3)There is a beautiful campsite at the top of Big House Mountain which allows for one tent. If you are up for the challenge of lugging all of our gear up there the pay-off is definitely worth it! The downside is if someone has already occupied that spot you must then lug your gear back down the mountain.
(4)The map shows a camp site near the top of Little House Mountain. This site is very rocky and sloped. I would only recommend this for someone planning to spend the night in a hammock.
(5) If all of the established campsites are full, there is a lot of level-ground at the beginning of the Small House trail to set up camp.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 18, 2015
After looking at reviews on this site we decided to take a hike today. This was a fantastic hike and I agree with others that it is a moderate- plus difficulty level. We ran into Brian, Brenda, and their family today at the fork where you can go left to Big House Mountain and right to Little House Mountain. They were a wealth of knowledge and extremely friendly people! After a rest in the saddle and eating a couple of apples we picked from one of the apple trees, we headed up to big house mountain. The view from the overlook was exceptional. We stayed for about an hour at the top, taking pictures and hanging out. I decided to chill for a few minutes and read a book. Without warning, the neighborhood goat bounded past me and headed for my wife for a handout. (My wife may tell you that I jumped 4 feet in the air but don't believe her. She was busy looking at the view and did not have a good eye on things). The goat was extremely friendly and has a deep affection for chicken sandwiches and apples!
We are fairly experienced hikers but this was a spur of the moment hike for us and we did not pack our hiking boots. Tennis shoes were adequate but the downhill trek would have been safer and more pleasant if we had more stable shoes. As usual, bring plenty of water and some snacks. The last part of the hike to big house mountain involves a scramble up some rocks. Pay attention to the blue blazes marked on the trees going up and coming down the rock scramble. This part of the hike is not for people with orthopedic problems or who are not in adequate physical shape. We are from Florida and were very impressed with how friendly and helpful Brian and Brenda were and the other hikers we met on the trail. Unless you have an aversion to incredible views and crazy goats, this is a great hike! We'll be back!
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 17, 2015
Getting to the trail: The directions and GPS coordinates are spot on. The gravel road, Road 643, is well maintained and easy for any type of car to get to the parking area. We parked between the signs near the power line crossing.
Route: The Saddle Ridge Trail was well maintained jeep trail. There are a few white signs that say “Trails” with an arrow to help navigation. About a mile or so into the hike, the trail forks, but both trails go to the same place (37.820816, -79.538699 to 37.821644, -79.539144). And then another half-mile or so, the trail appears to fork again, and the logical choice was to go to the right more uphill, rather than left, more downhill. The trail has a few loose rocks which can be slippery with the leaves, but overall, the hike up to the Saddle took about an hour and 10 minutes for my wife and me. At the saddle, there are some nice signs talking about the history of the area. We even got to meet Brian & Brenda who were out doing some trail maintenance.
We decided to do Big House Mountain first since the distance was a little shorter in case it was too strenuous and we couldn’t do both. The Big House Mountain trail is well maintained double-track, and only took us about 50 minutes to get to the top. The views were expansive and beautiful. This time of the year was very near peak for autumn color, and next weekend may be good too. We wandered around the ridge of Big House and bouldered around Tabletop Rock. We tried to find some overlooks in this area, but really couldn’t find anything safe and easy to get to. Also, there were no resident goats to be found. The return back to saddle was really quick, taking only 25 minutes.
We ate lunch at the saddle and decided to hike Little House Mountain too. The trail is well maintained and manicured, with easy to follow blue blazes. The trail is easier for the first half, but the walk along the ridge does seem long while navigating through the mountain laurel. And then the trail descends down through some interesting rock formations, some requiring some tight squeezes and stable footing. It was a little more technical than I expected, and definitely took longer than I expected as well. I think the elevation gain is correct as you descend quite a ways to get to the overlook. The views aren’t quite as impressive as Big House, but it is definitely a beautiful 180 panorama. It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the overlook from the saddle, and about 50 minutes to get back. And then the hike back down from the saddle to the parking area was about an hour for us, going slower from being tired.
Overall, this hike was definitely a 5 on the difficulty. The views were great though. I would definitely recommend working your way up to this hike with some shorter, lower climbing hikes before trying this one. I went with my hiking boots, but I think my hiking shoes would have been fine, too. I definitely recommend some hiking sticks/trekking poles to assist in balance and getting uphill and for going downhill, as there are some steep sections. The total hike took us about 6 hours, plus an extra 30 minutes for lunch and sightseeing. Thanks to Brian & Brenda for taking care of the trail!