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Camp Hoover / Rapidan Camp - SNP, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.6 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,320 ft
Shenandoah National Park
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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Park at the Milam Gap parking area. 38.49985, -78.44556

Camp Hoover, also known as Rapidan Camp, is a scenic and historic hike that passes the retreat of former President Herbert Hoover, and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. The circuit is a moderate hike and passes Big Rock Falls, which is a small pool and stream cascade where the trail crosses Mill Prong.

From the parking area at Milam Gap, cross Skyline Drive and follow the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) for 100 yards to the intersection of the blue blazed Mill Prong Trail. Turn left downhill on the blue blazed trail as it descends into the valley, then in 0.5 miles crosses Mill Prong for the first time. Continue to follow the trail for another 0.4 miles where it crosses another small creek that feeds Mill Prong, and in 100 yards arrive at the intersection of a horse trail that leads to the Rapidan Fire Road.

Turn right downhill on the now yellow blazed Mill Prong Trail, from this point to Camp Hoover, backcountry camping is not allowed. In 0.3 miles from the previous intersection, the yellow blazed Mill Prong Trail will cross Mill Prong and pass Big Rock Falls. Continue downward on the trail for another 0.4 miles where the Mill Prong Trail ends at Camp Hoover. Turn right on the access road, then immediately left down the footpath passing "The Creel" house. "The Creel" was occupied by two of President Hoover's chief aids. Larry Richey, a former F.B.I. agent assigned to guard the President who also acted as his personal secretary; and Joel T. Boone Jr., the Presidents personal physician.

60 yards past "The Creel" house is the presidential main quarters known as the "Brown House". The rear deck on the "Brown House" is a great place to enjoy the same view former President Hoover and world dignitaries enjoyed back in the 1920's. When he left office, Herbert Hoover, and his wife Lou Henry Hoover, donated the land to the government to become part of the newly created Shenandoah National Park.

From the "Brown House" continue on the yellow blazed Laurel Prong Trail, that starts at the Camp Hoover turn around. The yellow blazed trail will initially follow an old forestry road for the first 0.4 miles, then the forestry road veers right uphill. Remain left on the narrower yellow blazed trail for another 0.5 miles to the intersection of the yellow blazed Fork Mountain Trail. Stay straight on the now blue blazed Laurel Prong Trail for 0.4 miles, then pass a spring and only good camp site on the hike. Follow the trail uphill for another 0.8 miles to the saddle, and junction of the Cat Knob Trail.

Turn right on on the blue blazed Cat Knob Trail as it continues uphill for 1.1 miles to the intersection of the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). Turn right uphill on the AT crossing over the hike high point, and Hazeltop Mountain, in 0.4 miles. From the high point, the AT now heads downward for the remaining 2.3 miles back to Skyline Drive, and the Milam Gap parking area.

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Hiker Reviews For The Camp Hoover Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, December 30, 2013
The Camp Hoover has been the favorite of four hikes my sons and I have taken so far for their hiking merit badge.  We followed the path described here.  The hike had a nice mix of features.  We enjoyed hiking along the stream for the beginning two or so miles of the hike.  There was a small cascade on the stream that we enjoyed.  Camp Hoover provided a nice historical aspect to the hike.  We very much enjoyed the section of the Laurel Prong trail from the Cat Knob trail intersection to the intersection with the AT.  There were some very nice views along the trail.  We also enjoyed a nice viewpoint on the AT just after starting on the down slope, about 2 miles from the parking area.  The viewing area was to the left, from a rock outcrop.  We completed the hike in four hours including a lunch break.  We also headed down the AT a bit further to get our required distance in and visited the Tanner Ridge Cemetery.  All in all this was fun hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 13, 2013
loved this hike.  I was looking for something a bit longer, but I wanted something with variety in it, and decided on this loop.  We hiked it as described.  We had the trail to ourselves nearly all day - met one man at a creek crossing, and passed another group heading in the opposite direction.  This hike had a bit of everything - hardwood forests, several fern groves, 3 creek crossings, nice climb from the Hoover camp to the top of the ridge, a nice ridge-top trail with up and down and rocks, several great views, plus great wildlife.  we hiked right after several days of rain, so the trails became creekbeds in several places, plus one tricky creek crossing out of the three.  At the top of Hazeltop, there's a short  trail off the AT to an outcropping of rocks, from there you get a fabulous view.  Camp Rapidan is kinda cool, would have been better to walk in the buildings, it makes for a nice stop anyway.   Depending on your conditioning, you might really like the last 1.5 miles or so, a slow descend along the AT.  nice finish.  My son and I finished in 4 hours, 10 minutes, with 40 minutes of breaks. 

By: DaveB Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 05, 2013
Nice Hike .... did the circuit hike ... returning on the Laurel Prong was very interesting ... and quiet ... only met 2 or 3 people. Great lookout on the Appalachian Trail.

Hoover Camp is interesting also. It was open but I didn't wait around for a tour. I took my flyrod but it didn't look interesting enough for fishing to I came back the circuit route instead.

By: JoeS Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 02, 2013
Great hike-The Hoover camp is worth the visit!!!  Check with the rangers at Great Meadows to find out if the Camp has a volunteer to open the exhibits.  Don't just turn and go back up the Mill Prong Trail-go the Laurel prong and Cat Knob trail-take the circuit lloop.   Some great hiking on the loop, good views from up on the cat knob trail and once on top of Hazeltop, take the side trail out to the overlook-great!!!!  You get to see a variety of SNP topography.   Did not see another person on the Laurel Prong trail.

By: Kate Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 14, 2012
This was a beautiful hike all around! I arrived at the Hoover Camp just in time for a tour of the house. The NPS volunteers shared some wonderful stories of the Hoovers. Allow extra time to enjoy this area.

In getting back on the trail, a concrete post for the Laurel Prong Trail seemed to point toward a faint trail into the woods, but yellow blazes were visible nearby on both an old woods road and the gravel access road. As the directions state, take the woods/forestry road.

While overall the directions are good, a couple of miles later, the directions are a bit confusing with respect to the Cat Knob Trail. The first sentence of last paragraph should be corrected to read,"Turn right to stay on the Laurel Prong Trail as it continues ..." to the AT.  This hike does not use the Cat Knob Trail, which is reached by turning left instead of right.

Save some energy for the final third of the hike on the AT as it goes up a grade (not steep) on Hazeltop Mountain. After Hazeltop the AT is mostly level and an easy downhill coast back to Milam Gap.

This hike really deserves a higher rating for views there are some nice views along the final stretch of Laurel Prong and an impressive panorama of the Shenandoah Valley from Hazeltop Ridge Overlook, located just steps off the AT.  The short spur trail to the overlook is very visible this is a not-to-miss highlight of the hike!

Hiking time was 4.5 hours for a combination of brisk- and moderate-paced hiking, leisurely camp tour, multiple but brief stops to enjoy Big Rock Falls, views into the valley, etc. Next time I would allow additional time for exploring the Rapidan/Hoover Camp and sitting on the back porch of the Brown House.

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