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, and Little House Mountain, with its punishing direct climb to the ridge, and spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley to the northeast.
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.
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), pass the last house in 0.2 miles. 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 1.1 miles to the saddle becomes steeper and more rutted.
Big House Mountain
Out/Back - 1.7mls - 740ft gain - Moderate
Continue to the west uphill on the unblazed Big House Mountain trail and in 100 yards pass a shelter and privy on the right. Just past the shelter the trail will split, remain right uphill as it becomes steeper then makes a hairpin turn to the right in 0.5 miles. At the hairpin turn, stay straight on the blue blazed trail where it becomes narrow, steep and rocky for the short 90 yard climb to the Little House Mountain ridgeline. Turn left at the ridge line following the faint trail for 30 yards to passing a small campsite, then arriving at the first vista to the west. Continue for another 25 yards to the main panoramic view on Little House Mountain.
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 - 2.4mls - 940ft gain - Strenuous
Although the Little House Mountain out/back is shorter than Big House Mountain, it's significantly more strenuous because the blue blazed Little House Mountain Trail heads directly uphill to the ridge without any switchbacks.
From the saddle pass into the meadow where the road splits. Turn right uphill before leaving the meadow and head into the treeline. Once in the treeline look for the blue blazes.
At this point the trail is almost indiscernible. Follow the blue blazes as the trail starts uphill towards the ridge and in 0.2 miles pass through a rock slide. From this point to the ridge the Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron becomes more dense.
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.
Once passing around the main summit, the trail descends passing through a rock scree, then shortly afterward reach a small campsite. The blue blazed trail continues downwards and ends at the panoramic Little House Mountain overlook. Return to the saddle by retracing your route.