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Kepler Overlook - Woodstock, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.6 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
George Washington National Forest
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Park at the seasonal closed gate at the end of on Van Buren Rd. If the gate is open, proceed another 200 yards and park on the left before the seasonal closed gate. 38.97003, -78.56509

This secluded hiking area near Van Buren Furnace has several nice campsites, a vista west from Tea Mountain, the panoramic Kepler Overlook on Little North Mountain, and picturesque Cedar Creek. It's also the perfect car camping spot, with several large camp sites on the banks of Cedar Creek. If you car camp, also consider following the Tuscarora Trail up Little Sluice Mountain and enjoy the vistas at White Rocks.

In the late Fall, Winter, and early Spring the lower gate on Van Buren Road will be closed. At these times park on the right next to a large campsite. Note: Backcountry camping in the National Forest is on a first-come first- serve basis. You can't reserve campsites, but there is no cost to camp. If it's open, feel free to camp there!

  • Mile 0.0 - From the lower closed gate follow the yellow blazed forestry road for 0.2 miles to the second parking area and seasonal closed gate. That parking area, and second large car-camp site, is on a left turn out.

  • Mile 0.2 - Continue straight passing the seasonal closed gate and continuing on the yellow blazed forestry road. In 0.3 miles reach the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail.

  • Mile 0.5 - Turn left down towards Cedar Creek following the Tuscarora Trail as is passes another closed gate and then reaches the crossing of Cedar Creek.

  • Mile 0.7 - Cross Cedar Creek and pass a large camping area. Continue to follow the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail for 0.1 miles where the blue blazed trail turns left off the path it's been follow and starts climbing Tea Mountain. Watch for the double blazed tree that marks this turn off.

  • Mile 0.8 - After starting the climb up Tea Mountain the Tuscarora Trail becomes more narrow and moss covered for 0.3 miles recrossing the creek where a former wooden bridge crossed, then widens back into an old forestry road. The trail passes a hollow on the right, then makes a hairpin turn left and leaves the forestry road. There is a sign here indicating a spring. Again make sure to look for a double blazed tree that marks this turn.

  • Mile 2.1 - Turn left off the forestry road as the Tuscarora Trail continues to climb Tea Mountain. Pass a spring that was put in by PATC volunteers in 2018 then make several switchbacks before reaching an unmarked side trail at another switchback. Follow the side trail 150 feet around the back of a rock outcrop for a panoramic view west towards Little Sluice Mountain. Return to the Tuscarora Trail to continue the hike.

  • Mile 2.7 - Continue up the Tuscarora Trail making one more switchback and reach the saddle between Tea Mountain and Little North Mountain. The trail will then make the short climb to the Little North Mountain ridge. There is a large camping area on the left.

  • Mile 3.2 - Follow the Tuscarora Trail along the ridge for 0.1 miles to the panoramic Kepler Overlook, and a great ridgeline camping site.

  • Mile 3.3 - From the overlook and campsite retrace your route back to the parking area

  • Mile 6.6 - Arrive back at the parking area.

Hiker Reviews For The Kepler Overlook Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Brad Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 24, 2019
Fun hike. Not too strenuous and nice views from the top.

Be careful about the sign for the spring though! When you get to a fork in the trail, there's a sign that says the spring is 140' down a wide, muddy forestry road to the right. That sign is wrong. Instead, go left, following the Tuscarora Trail and you'll find the spring.

By: Emily Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 13, 2019
The campsite at the view is really phenomenal. There's nothing like waking up to a pink, misty sunrise over the mountains and valley without having to get out of your sleeping bag to enjoy it! That said, the viewpoint isn't as nice as some of the others in the area. I didn't realize until I did the hike that the campsite is the viewpoint--it would have been disappointing and a little awkward to make the hike and then find that someone was already camping there. There are a couple of other clearings in the area where people could camp, but none with quite the same view (they are great for stargazing though!) We didn't see any other people on this summer Sat-Sun trip.

The signage around the improved spring is a little confusing. It's right off the trail, not down the muddy side-path. Don't get your feet muddy for nothing, just stay on the Tuscarora and you'll see it!

As expected, the ridge is pretty dry so fill up at the spring and bring enough water to the top for the night and morning.

By: Eddie M Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 2, 2019
Backpacked to Kepler overlook and stayed the night on 2/2/2019. The trail was very well marked. THANK YOU to the volunteers/rangers that put up the new signs. The trail was icy in spots so we had to be cautious carrying the extra 25+ pounds on our backs. We were fortunate to have a clear night and the stars and valley lights did not disappoint. Winter camping takes a little more preparation and warmer gear but totally worth the effort.

By: Eric W Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 22, 2018
Overall, really enjoyed this hike on National Public Lands Day! Trail was waterlogged in places around the stream portions due to all the rains we've had, but the views from the Kepler Overlook were great and the leaves around the top of the mountain had a hint of fall to them! Took us 4 hours and 15 minutes with picture/snack breaks. A few notes:

1) As another commenter noted, they have new signs that make finding things pretty easy.

2) Maybe due to this new attention, the trail was less secluded than we anticipated - still not busy, but we did run into several groups (especially with dogs).

3) If the Kepler Overlook is crowded or already has campers, there are also a few rock outcroppings a bit further down the trail that provide similar, more secluded views as well.

By: Darren Cambridge Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 28, 2018
I took my nine-year-old son on his first backpacking trip on this route, and it was perfect for that purpose. There are signs, which appear new and aren't mentioned in the description, at several points that combine with the blazing to make the well-maintained trail very easy to follow. Two of the signs pointed us to springs, close to the main trail about a mile from the top, that were flowing well (mid-summer, after a week with substantial rain). Even the steepest parts are moderate, at best. We came across a huge black rat snake and a tiny rattler, but no other significant wildlife. The campsite at Kepler's Overlook has the most memorable view of anywhere I've camped in in the region. We were treated to a huge, incandescent harvest moon.

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