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.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left
Click the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Camp Hoover hike:
Reviews For The Camp Hoover Hike (5 Most Recent)
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.
Date of Hike: Friday, October 05, 2012
My friend took me on this hike today. Great workout! The tour of the house is opened until the end of October, but it is not opened on Tuesdays and Wednesdays due the volunteers having the day off. It's a 'Must Do' hike!
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Began our hike at the Big Meadows Amphitheater. Headed south towards Milam Gap Parking area. Beautiful fall colors starting to emerge. It had rained the evening prior to our hike, so there was a little fog which made some parts of the trail look like something out of a fairy tale movie.
Date of Hike: Friday, September 28, 2012
The downhill hike on the Mill Prong trail to the Camp was pretty easy and enjoyable, with 3 or so places you have to ford creeks. The tour of the camp is very interesting and one house is a museum with pictures, while the other is actually open for a guided tour. The long way back via the Laurel Prong and AT is a lot tougher than people are making it out to be. It goes fairly level much of the way, but towards the end, you climb pretty steeply for quite a while up the Laurel Prong Trail. The section after you connect with the AT is uphill for a while as well, although not quite as steep. At least the last portion is downhill, a great reward for toughing it out. We saw no one once we left the Camp Hoover area to go back the longer way, so if you like solitude, you will find it on that part of the loop.
Date of Hike: Friday, February 17, 2012
This was an incredible hike. The trails are in perfect shape (thanks PATC) and the creeks are alive. The info for the hike is right on, It took just over 4 hours with many stops at the overlooks and Camp Hoover. Thanks!!!