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Kepler Overlook - Woodstock, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
6.6 mls
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3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,185
George Washington National Forest
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Park at the closed gate at the end of on Van Buren Rd. If the gate is open, proceed another 200 yards and park on the left at the permanently closed gate. 38.97137, -78.56316

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 permanently closed gate. That parking area, and second large car-camp site, is on a left turn out.
  • Mile 0.2 - Continue straight passing the 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, then widens back into an old forestry road. The trail passes a hollow on the right, then straightens and makes a hairpin turn left and leaves the forestry road. 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 making several switchbacks before reaching an unmarked side trail at another switchback. Follow the side trail 100 yards 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.
  • 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.
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Hiker Reviews For The Kepler Overlook Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: garcia Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 06, 2017
Kepler overlook Overall:3 Difficulty:3 Solitude:4 Streams:2 Views:3 Camping:3. Found the right closed gate (the one just before the 4-car parking space at the end of the road), despite somewhat confusing directions. Gated fire road leads to yellow-blazed Cedar Creek Trail, which crosses blue-blazed Tuscarora Trail. Take Tuscarora to the left. It's then a mostly moderate uphill all the way to Kepler Overlook (which has some poison ivy, btw). There is a trail-marking rock cairn about half way up I think that trail goes more steeply down the mountain, ending at some dirt roads. When you reach Kepler, there are good views and some flat camp sites if you keep going, the trail continues downhill, I don't know where. One other thing: if it hasn't rained recently, bring enough water, Cedar Creek was low and there was no other clean water crossing the trail. Trail was moderately rocky, saw 4 groups (2-6 people), camp sites were clean. No cell coverage.

By: Colin S Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 10, 2017
This is a very nice hike. We did it as an overnight for training purposes (climbing Rainier in two months). We continued down the blue trail past the overlook to add mileage, the trail got very overgrown however.

Getting there is dicey as other reviewers have noticed- the locals FLY on those tiny windy mountain roads, very unsafe (surprisingly I am not a cranky old man either- that's just how risky they were driving). Plenty of parking, if you keep going down past the first 2 campsites on the road to the trail head there is a turn off spot that could handle plenty of cars.

Great trail- not too steep (albeit with a 50 lb pack it was a good test) and not too rocky. Plenty of water as well. The view is spectacular. The lower camps were somewhat trashed, people certainly did not respect them (beer cans, cigarette butts, etc). The main excitement came after we set up shop at a beautiful campsite we found about halfway down the mountain. After setting up our tents and unpacking all our materials, we discovered a lovely 5' Rattler sitting 15 feet from our tent. He was in defensive mode and had zero intentions of moving on, so we took the hint and packed up and left! We moved down the mountain about a mile to another camp site and had a great night. No ticks to speak of as well. Saw maybe 10 people all day, most of them from the same party that was moving up to camp on the top ridge overlook campsite. This trail connects with many other trails at the base and would be a great addition to a longer backpacking adventure.


By: Charley Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 11, 2017
This is a great hike! Weather today was incredible and I didn't see a single person the whole time.

Agree with everyone else that the directions are rotten. Hopefully Hiking Upward can spruce them up. Basically, you can park anywhere, but the hike starts at the trail that says Cedar Creek Trail. Someone also scratched "Kepler -->" on the post of the gate as well. Then go straight on the yellow flashed trail, take a left on the blue flash trail, then it's all blue from there.

And for the campers out there kvetching that only one site has good views: if you keep going past that first campsite with good views there are a few additional campsites that also have amazing views.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, January 20, 2017
Decided to forego the inaguration shenanigans in DC and take the trail on this day. Mother nature rewarded me handsomely for this decision. Unseasonably warm at 45 degrees when I started from the trail head. I understand some of the sentiments on this review board about where the trail starts, but I basically set off down the road from the parking area (parking is on the right as you drive in, while a single creekside campsite is on the left, I parked at the campsite) and simply proceeded straight. You see a number of closed gates on the forestry roads but the one directly in front of me someone had conveniently wrote "Keppler" with an arrow on the left post of the gate. Bingo! Caught a touch of rain about an hour a third of the way up, but it stopped by the time I reached the top. Excellent campsites mere feet from the overlooks all along the ridgeline at the top. I had originally planned on camping up top, but accomplished my goal so early in the day, I set out for another trail elsewhere. That wind was really whipping up there though. Slight fog was hanging low, but you could still see back into most of Maurertown(sp?) and much of the valley below. Hiking in winter is already a pretty austere experience, but hiking up through a light fog was an especially eerie and fun experience. Knowing the area, I can confidently say that a mountaintop sunrise on a clear morning from the overlook sites would absolutely fantastic considering there is very little obstruction from the trees at the top from many spots. My favorite part of this my hike, over the 3.5 hours I spent leisurely backpacking it, I didn't see a single other person out there with me. Killer!

By: Group Hike Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 22, 2016
Great Hike! Like the person below said, walk back to the open gate (broken) and up that hill to start the Hike. Do not go through the "closed gate" right near the parking area. Pretty easy hike up, the last mile is a bit tough but not terrible.

We got the mountain around 10am and parking was already tough. We had 7 in our group and wanted to camp at the summit, but were nervous that all of the campsites may be taken. As we hiked up, we passed a few campsites but decided we would scope out the summit. Took us 2.5 hours to hike up. There are plenty of sites at the summit! At the main overlook, there's a really great campsite that actually has a grate over the campfire for cooking. This campsite was already taken so we kept walking about a 300 yards and found a nice spot for 3 tents. Plenty of rock-built campfire sites which helped contain the fire during the windy conditions.

overall- great hike and great camping. we even saw a black bear cub!


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