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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: 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?

By: D&G Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 04, 2014
Addendum to our previous review: If you turn left at the bottom of the horse trail before heading into the camp and cross the bridge, there's a toilet on the left hand side (more than a port-a-john, less then plumbing).

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 27, 2014
I did this as a circuit, starting with Mill Prong at Milan Camp to Camp Hoover, and then back on Laurel Prong to the AT to Milam Gap. The hike on Mill Prong to Camp H is mostly downhill (which should warn you about the hike back).  The way down is very nice, you go by the creek,  nice relaxing water noise, quiet, peaceful.  The camp itself is well documented and interesting, great place to hang and eat lunch or something.  If you go back on the Mill Prong, it will be mostly uphill.  If you do the circuit, the Laurel Prong trail is muddy in some spots for the first mile or so, then opens to a moderate uphill climb through a forest meadow.  But after that, you start straight uphill through mtn laurel.  IMHOP, this is fairly brutal until you reach the junction with Cat's Knob trail.  Cat's Knob takes you uphill a bit more until you junction with the AT north.  More uphill uphill until you reach the crest of Hazeltop.  After that it's thankfully all downhill.   All in all a good hike if more exerting that I suspected. 

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. 

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Mid September
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