Little Schloss is just one of the many beautiful circuit hikes in the Great North Mountain area. Only 1.7 miles east of the more popular Big Schloss, the Little Schloss overlook is nearly all but forgotten. The panoramic vista from Little Schloss is spectacular, however the rock scramble to to the summit does require some skill. But this hike isn't just about the summit, 0.3 past the overlook there are several beautiful vistas on the trail, as well as a clearing with mature spruce. Little Stoney Creek is also a favorite with backpackers, and has many camping sites along its banks.
Mile 0.0 - From the parking area cross FDR92 and start up the purple blazed Little Sluice Mountain Trail. The trail will increase in steepness, then in 1.0 miles turn down its eastern side before heading steeply back towards the ridge. At this point, there are also several good views of Stultz Gap to the southeast. The trail will make switchbacks near the ridgeline and become increasingly steeper.
Mile 1.8 - After the last switchback the trail will split. Stay left to go to the overlook. The 70ft rock scramble to the Little Schloss overlook is a very steep, so if you decide to tackle the climb use caution as some of the rocks are loose.
Mile 1.9 - From the Little Schloss overlook Big Schloss is visible to the west, as well as the the ridge of Little Sluice Mountain to the north, and Woodstock to the east. Return back to the trail split from the overlook and head north on the purple blazed Little Sluice Mountain Trail passing several vistas. 0.3 miles along the ridge the trail will pass the first good campsite.
Mile 2.5 - Enter a high mountain meadow with a campsite and stand of mature spruce. On the east side of the clearing in the woodline is camping area with one of the largest backcountry fire rings we've seen.
If you are doing the shorter out/back
hike this is the turn around point.
To continue on the 13.2 mile loop hike, the purple blazed Little Sluice Trail follows a wider seasonal forestry road (FR), then gradually descends before reaching the intersection of the orange blazed Bread Trail/FR in another 0.9 miles.
Mile 3.4 - Stay left along the purple blazed trail/FR for 2.5 miles, where the purple blazed trail ends at the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail, and orange blazed Racer Camp Hollow Trail that continues straight.
Mile 5.9 - Turn left uphill on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail as it passes over Sugar Knob, then descends and arrives at the intersection of the yellow blazed Little Stoney Creek Trail in another 1.0 mile.
Mile 10.7 - Turn left and walk the remaining 2.5 miles along FDR92 back to the Little Sluice Trail parking area.
Mile 13.2 - Arrive back at the parking area on FDR92
Little Schloss Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 22, 2019
The trail and scramble were awesome. No rattlesnakes this time. The view from the tops is spectacular and there is not too hard path up. There were a couple parts that were overgrown but that's expected on any trail over 5 miles in the area. Overall the trail was well marked and the directions here were spot on. There was some pooling of water, including a couple of puddles that had tadpoles they were so big but most of them were easily traversed. The last bit, the walk on the fire road back to the parking lot is even pleasant for hiking on a road with ample shade.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 8, 2018
Hiked this and the Mill Mountain trail over the weekend of Oct 6- 8, 2018.
Started up Little Sluice trail to Little Schloss (great view), turned left onto the Tuscarora Trail, turned left again onto Mill Mountain Trail, side hiked Big Schloss (all fogged in -- no view at all), then down the Big Schloss cutoff trail back to the car. All told about 15 miles over two nights.
Great hike. Trail was not crowded at all (saw maybe a half-dozen people all weekend). Great weather, nice trails, although parts of the Little Sluice trail were muddy and wet (due to recent rain? Hasn't been like that on past trips). Lovely area to hike in.
The spring on Little Sluice trail was running well (38.9573, -78.6200). Sandstone Spring (38.96901, -7864256) was running very strong with plenty of water.
(Posting this under the Mill Mountain hike also).
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Overall, a really great one night backpacking trip close to DC. I knocked off one star because I could not for the life of me find the trail split to go to the Little Schloss overlook. It could be possible that the recent wind storm obscured the entrance with downed trees, but I didn't see any markings of any kind. I'll definitely keep a sharper eye out next time I do this loop. Even though I missed the official overlook, there were still plenty of nice views from the trail after passing Little Schloss.
Also important to note that FR88 was closed about a mile from the intersection with FR92, so that added an extra 1.5 miles each way to my hike to get to and from the Little Sluice trail head. The hiking was very easy, but it was irritating to finish the loop on 4 miles of fairly featureless forest road. Won't knock off a star for that though, since it's not really the trail's fault!
There is a great campsite just past the intersection with Little Stoney Creek Trail on the left, which is where I spent the night. The spring is marked with a wooden sign nailed to a tree a ways down the trail from the PATC cabin. It was running freely in mid-March, which was lucky as there weren't any water sources before that. Between my parking spot on FR88 and my campsite took me about 4.5 hours including breaks.
The second day of hiking was much easier, as it was mostly downhill and about half on a forest road. Took me about 3.5 hours (including the 1.5 miles between the Little Sluice parking area and where I actually parked). There are some really beautiful campsites on Little Stoney Creek Trail too.
Date of Hike: Saturday, November 4, 2017
We did the loop and it was a good hike but your on a fire road 50% of the time with four wheel drive vehicles trying to pass you. We didn't mind but the solitude factor was gone. Good views and great camping by the stream.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 1, 2017
Made a fairly last minute decision to go her for an overnight trip on Saturday. Gorgeous weather and I really enjoyed hiking up to the meadow with the campsites, in the last hour before sunset. I didn't realize I passed the 'split in the trail after the last switchback' as there was a log across the left trail that goes to the rock scramble, and I thought it was a false trail. I set up camp in the meadow and back tracked the next morning. Not early enough for sunrise, but it was still pretty.
Those first 2 miles have numerous great views and are good fun, but the rest of the hike is a tiny bit boring. I didn't even walk the last 2.5 miles of forest service road, as an fellow hiker gave me a ride. Overall, I really enjoyed the great weather and the wonderful views from the ridge before descending though, but next time I'd probably just do a short out-and-back.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 9, 2017
I took my girlfriend and her Adventure Dog on this hike for their first ever backpacking/camping trip on the first weekend of Fall weather for the year. We took the longer loop (hiking as instructed in directions, so going counter clockwise) and really enjoyed it but there were some things I wish I'd known before we went -
*Overlook:* Someone has very helpfully tied little blue ribbons to mark the trail up to the overlook, which isn't as intuitive as you might expect. The actual rock scramble itself isn't that bad - Adventure Dog was able to do most of it, but we carried him for parts because he has short legs. We did, however, trip over a rattlesnake sunning itself up at the top. The view was stunning. Be careful to note where you went in when you get up there - you can also go down the other side of the overlook, which is a significantly more dangerous and disorienting rock scramble.
*Difficulty and timing:* I usually feel the HikingUpward difficulty and timings are a little inflated, but this trail was spot on. The initial 1.8 miles up to the overlook is very steep and the trail never really levels off aside from some of the forestry road walking on the Little Sluice section. The blue blazed Tuscarora Trail section is a pretty grueling incline after you've already finished the switchbacks. With a stop for lunch and for extracurricular rock scrambling at the overlook, it took us 6 hours from start to get to the first campsite on the yellow blazed Little Stoney Creek Trail. From there to the car, it was about 1.5 hours.
*Water:* There was no water source for us until we reached the first campsite on the yellow blazed Little Stoney Creek Trail, 6 hours in. The "seasonal water spring" near the Sugar Knob Cabin would have marked about the 5 hour point, but it was dry for us in the Fall. There are campsites along the purple blazed Little Sluice, but if you plan to camp there make sure you pack in plenty of water.
*Campsites:* We camped at the first (northernmost) campsite along the yellow blazed Little Stoney Creek Trail. The camp was massive, could have easily accommodated three or four tents, and had Creek access although you had to hike down a bit to get to it. Plenty of firewood. Had trouble finding a tree to hang the packs - eventually hung them on a downed tree. The next campsite south is in view of the first, so could have been annoying if someone was camped there. We checked out the other campsites on the way out, and the BEST CAMPSITE is probably the third one as you walk south (so second-to-last campsite as the hike is written/second campsite if you were walking from the Little Stoney Creek parking/trailhead). It's smaller but has easiest water access.
*Road walking:* Other reviewers have complained about the FDR92 road walking, which is fine it's just... boring. If I did this again, I would probably park one car at the Little Stoney Creek parking lot and another at the Little Sluice trailhead to just skip the road walking entirely.
*Brewery:* After we were done, we were dying for a beer and discovered a local farm brewery, Swover Creek Farms, about a 10 or 15 minute drive away from the car. Great pizza, decent beer, dog friendly. Looks like they're only open Thurs-Sun.
Overall, excellent hike for first-time backpackers as long as they're in good shape - this one definitely earns its 4-star difficulty rating.
Date of Hike: Friday, May 19, 2017
I came back to do the loop as an overnight trip (Friday - Saturday) with a friend! We decided to hike CW (backwards from written), and parked at the Little Sluice trailhead in order to get the road walking out of the way. We set out around 2:30pm and arrived at the intersection of Tuscarora and Little Sluice trails around 8pm (including a couple of breaks). The creek was lovely and there were plenty of water sources up until the Little Sluice Mountain trail. It had recently rained so there were lots of puddles and mud in spots on the trail, but if you're careful it's still possible to keep your feet dry.
We didn't encounter many people on Friday, just at the Stoney Creek trailhead and the first camp along the creek. Nobody near our campsite all night, just lots of frogs and birds. We even got woken up in the middle of the night by a pair of barred owls calling to each other right outside our tent, which was awesome. Saturday we crossed paths with 6 or so more hikers along the Little Sluice trail, but still had Little Schloss to ourselves.
The side trail to Little Schloss is way more obscured now that the greenery has grown up - if I hadn't just been there a couple months earlier we might have missed it! If you're hiking CW like us - where the side trail branches off is where you have the first switchback going downhill on the main trail. It's kind of faint but the grass is flattened just enough to make out. The grass is pretty tall in parts of the trail, so be vigilant for ticks. With liberal bug spray and frequent checks, we didn't find any.. did get a few mosquito bites though.
I'm glad we did the road section first, and felt the uphills CW were less difficult. Plus, we had the rock scramble to look forward to the next day! Overall a fun hike with good amounts of solitude.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 9, 2017
Was looking for a quick backpacking trip close to DC last weekend, so chose this one because we could do a short hike in Saturday, camp at the creek, and then do most of the hike Sunday (couldn't get out to the mountains until late afternoon).
We parked at the Little Stoney Creek trailhead, and at first went the wrong way (took the trail toward the reservoir - which leaves out of the parking lot instead of the correct trail across FR92). We went about a half mile before figuring out this wasn't the right way (although the trail is nice!).
After correcting ourselves, we were able to grab one of the really nice camp sites along the creek, about a mile in. It was a really nice site with plenty of firewood, space, and the creek near by.
Got up at dawn and packed up by around 0830. The hike up to Sugar Knob Cabin was pretty rocky, but never steep so it wasn't too bad (although we were passed by some mountain bikers who biked up it - crazy). The next couple of hours were spent on the forest roads. Most of it was actually nice, although after awhile it became a bit tedious and boring. By the time we reached the Bread Road intersection, the sun was fully up and there was no shade this time of year with the leaves not yet out.
The area around Little Schloss is really nice, I think I may come back and camp up there some day. The scramble was kind of tricky but short - we got up it with our dog and full packs, so really not bad. Only a couple people up there, but one was flying a drone so that was rather annoying. The views were great.
From here to the parking lot was the worst part of the hike - the sun was warm, there was no shade, and it was incredibly dry on this side of the mountain. The 2.5 miles on the gravel road was terrible as well...just because of that I don't think I'll ever do this loop again. But it was nice to dip our feet in the creek back at the parking lot!
Overall, it was a good backpack - some nice parts (the creek, Little Schloss, and the area around Sugar Knob) but also some boring to tedious parts.
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 4, 2017
I did the short version of this as a day hike, but instead of doubling back I decided to take Bread Road Trail (orange blazes) downhill and then follow Johnstown Rd back out to my car. Johnstown was closed maybe half a mile before the intersection, so I had to park there instead of FS 92. I do not recommend my loop version though, unless you enjoy trudging along a forest road for the last two hours of your hike.. lesson learned! I still gave this five stars because when I was following directions it was great :) The forecast was 40 degrees and sunny, and I'm very glad I wore layers + windbreaker. On the uphills when it was calm and the sun was beaming down I got toasty, but up by Little Schloss it was very windy and cold, still some snow on ground. The view was awesome!! So cool to be able to pick out Big Schloss and Little North Mountain. The rock scramble wasn't that hard, just take your time with your footing. Also glad I wore hiking boots as the trail is very rocky. Loved the meadow campsite with spruce, a nice place to eat lunch. I only ran into four people all afternoon: two guys with a dog who thought they were going to Big Schloss, and a couple up on top of the ridge. Already planning to go back and do an overnight version!
Date of Hike: Saturday, February 18, 2017
My friends and I (a group of three) along with our intrepid dog decided to tackle Little Schloss during what we anticipated would be the best February weather we'd ever seen. Traveling from Maryland, we did the hike as a one night backpack forecast called for temperatures in the high 60s with partial cloud cover day 1, a possible passing shower overnight, sunshine and warm temps for day 2.
We did this hike as directed (counterclockwise).
The access gate along Johnstown Road was closed and there were three vehicles parked at the small pull-off right before the gate. Other vehicles can park along the opposite side of Johnstown road without much problem -so don't be discouraged if you see a small handful of cars at the gate. From the gate it's a 1.6 mile hike to the trail head -take your first left onto FDR 92. The purple trail blaze is visible on your right, across from a small grassy area (the parking "area" in the directions -which, as previously noted, is little more than a camp site sized grassy area).
Follow the purple blazes (you will make short descents while traversing the side of Little Schloss -don't be fooled, you haven't missed the rock scramble to the summit). Eventually you will come to the last switchback and the left leads to the scramble and the trail continues to the right. You may be confused as to whether this is actually the "left to the summit" -as my group was. You can quickly confirm this by continuing on the trail and eventually finding yourself near the false summit -realizing you missed the rock scramble, and arguing amongst yourselves whether to double back or not. We were hiking in February without any brush or tree cover -and we still had difficulty finding the best route to the scramble due to several other rough bushwack trails toward the rocks (until we passed it entirely).
It didn't matter. The views, both while doing the push up Little Schloss and while on the ridge of Little Sluice Mountain trail were awesome. In the late spring, summer and early fall, many of these views would not exist. The brush and tree cover along this route would easily render most of the views nonexistent during warmer months.
Something no reviewer has mentioned as of yet is that the the "uphill turn" on the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail which passes over Sugar Knob is arduous. After the elongated ascent to Little Schloss this felt like a rather unexpected challenge. Additionally, the yellow blazed Little Stoney Creek Trail required good footwork over very rocky downhill terrain. Our party was tiring after a long drive, a longer than expected hike, a second unknown uphill segment -and we didn't really anticipate these rock skips along what was essentially a goat trail. Very fun for sure, but also not where you want to find yourself loosing energy, concentration and daylight.
We pushed it the first day and made it to a camp along Stoney Creek thus covering 11-12 miles. This was not an easy or pain-free trek. However, we were rewarded with a truly stunning camp. Beautifully secluded despite being close to the trail, the camp sites along the second half of this hike are, without a doubt, wonderful.
Interestingly enough, we found plenty of water all along this trial. Long before the first noted spring, we found two additional natural springs putting flowing water into the divots of Little Sluice Mountain Trail. We must have skipped over two water overflows along Tuscarora Trail, and an additional five small water runs/springs along Stoney Creek Trail before reaching the campsites near the actual stream.
The fire access road to finish this hike is easy. For us, it was very enjoyable. This was entirely due to the fact that there was no tree cover at this time of year. There were several picturesque spots even along this road.
My evaluation of the hike overall:
4 -The difficulty of this hike is a four under the circumstances in which we found ourselves. Namely, an additional 1.6 mile hike-in to the trail head, the carrying of 30+ pound packs and having done this trail counterclockwise as the directions indicate. If you do this as a day hike with a light pack, don't have to park 1.6 miles out, and/or are in exceptional shape (we're not newbs/kooks by any stretch of the imagination) perhaps the difficulty may vary.
3 -At least. We found lots of good water sources throughout, although I imagine some of these sources, if not most, are dry for considerable periods as noted by others.
4-5 -We had many great views that have hardly been noted by others. Go during winter. Even walking along FDR92 back to the parking area is enjoyable when you can see the surrounding mountains.
4 -The weather this February weekend was spectacular, we would have been disappointed in humanity (but somewhat stoked) if we hadn't seen others along this beautiful trail. That being said, we ran into a couple out-and-back hikers at Little Schloss. We passed a couple at the Sugar Knob Cabin (an absolutely amazing spot by the way), a group of four mountain bikers, a couple day-hiking along Stony Creek and a group occupying one of the campsites along Stoney Creek Trail. We were alone and unaware of any other persons for 85% of this hike or more.
5 -It's just that good. There are several campsites along the ridge area of The Little Sluice Mountain Trail (purple blazes) that are great. You can camp among the impressive spruce tree stand or get closer to the ridge. And the spots get better from there. Our chosen spot along Stoney Creek was, well, basically perfect.
I strongly suggest doing this as an overnight backpack in the winter and in the way the directions suggest. It would be difficult to enjoy this trail as a one day route in my opinion. Perhaps it's as easy as others suggest when you're not carrying weight, or when you're doing it backwards. For us, it was challenging and quite rewarding.