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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: Saturday, September 19, 2015
This was my first overnight backcountry camping experience and it was a great loop to do it on! We started on Saturday at 9:30 am from Milam Gap parking, and went the Laurel Prong trail first instead of the Mill Prong. I would recommend this route. The AT stretch was not strenuous with a lovely lookout. It was not busy.

We set up camp at about 1pm on the Fork Mountain Trail next to the stream where there was a perfect spot for a small tent and good places to hang our bear bag. Once we set up camp, we headed the .5 miles to Camp Hoover at 4 pm, and were able to speak with the rangers and get a tour of Hoovers getaway. It was a lovely and informative tour that changed my mind about Herbert Hoover altogether! Seemed like a very kind man. It was nice exploring the camp in the dwindling daylight.

We awoke on Sunday morning and set off at 9 am. We allowed ourselves 2 hours to get back to Milam Gap via Mill Prong (2.8 miles) since it was entirely all steep uphill. About .2 miles from Big Rock Falls, we spotted a very large black bear 20 ft. to the left of the trail staring at us on its hind legs. We made lots of noise and blew our whistles and eventually it turned and ran away. Needless to say, we were back at the parking lot by 10 am, practically running the rest of the uphill.

All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable trip. I loved the solitude of the camp, and the quietness of the entire hike. I would definitely do it again as an overnight or a day hike!!!

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Five stars for historical significance and work out...Five stars also to the weather...a glorious day... Must say that I came across a lazy Rattlesnake on the AT at Hazeltop...waited and waited for it to go...finally it crossed the trail...did not go far at all...must've been full from a meal...ran past him and no more trouble... There is a side trail to a nice view as you begin your descent back to Milam Gap...only 50 yards so do it.... Especially after the work you had to do to get there... All together a pleasant hike but understand the climb from Camp Hoover to Laurel Gap is not a walk in the woods...and subsequently up the AT to Hazeltop...

By: Ken D Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
This is a nice hike. It's pretty easy to Camp Hoover and it was nice to have lunch on the deck of the Brown House and stroll around the camp. The Laurel Prong trail was okay with not much to see until it intersects with the Cat Knob Trail. The last half mile or so before the intersection are the toughest of the hike since you gain ~500 feet. After that it's some ups and downs, and the trail is much more fun to walk until the AT. The climb up Hazeltop isn't steep, just constant, and then it's very easy downhill the rest of the way. Putting this on the list for a family hike.

By: doobie Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 07, 2015
going to hike it tomorrow with son and a couple of his friends.. been wanting to do this one for a a while. to answer question about trees. Sounds like there was a burn in that area a some point. Used to fight wildland fires and lots of times you can see burn marks on the base of old dead trees on the downhill side.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 04, 2014
We loved this hike - Wratboyz's description is pretty accurate, especially the part about it being more strenuous than expected. This hike has a little bit of everything: streams/waterfalls, history at the Rapidan camp (with a nice deck for eating lunch), different types of (mostly hardwood) forest on the way back up, hiking the rocky ridge with huge boulders/rock faces and amazing views through the trees, and a few miles of the AT as the "recovery" leg. At one point on the uphill from Rapidan, there was so much water across the trail that we though we had lost it we had to look behind us for the blazes to confirm we were on the right path, since the ones in the uphill direction were few and far between. There was even a tree that looked like it had been down for a while we had to scramble over that obstacle to keep on going. It was a fairly windy day, and watching the trees sway in the wind was magical. If you do this hike, don't miss the short side trail off to the left once you're on the AT there's a rock outcropping with wonderful views.

Question for other readers: There was one part of the forest on the way up the Laurel Prong trail which was quite different from the rest all of the trees looked quite young and thin, and they had a lighter, smoother bark than the rest of the forest. The few trees that had any width to them were dead. Does anyone know why that part of the forest is so different than the rest?

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Mid September
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