Either done as a longer day hike or overnight backpack, this circuit includes Big Schloss, Mill Mountain, and Stony Creek. The views from Big Schloss are spectacular, and there are also nice views of Trout Run Valley from the Mill Mountain trail. On the hike down Stony Creek you pass the PATC Sugar Knob Cabin, then camping options abound with multiple large campsites along the banks of Stony Creek. If you're looking for more solitude check out the Little Schloss hike that also descends Stony Creek but follows the Little Sluice Mountain ridgeline instead of Mill Mountain.
Mile Summary and Highlights
3.1 - Big Schloss Overlook with 270° views including Trout Run Valley and Little Sluice Mountain 6.0 - Sandstone Spring and campsites 8.0 - Sugar Knob Cabin with tent camping area and spring 10.0 - Start of good campsites along Stony Creek
Mile 0.0 - Walk west on FS92 towards Big Schloss for 0.5 miles to reach the Big Schloss
Cut-Off Trail (don't take the old faded trail but continue for
100 more yards.
Mile 0.5 - Turn right and ascend the Big
Schloss Cut-Off Trail. Roughly 0.5 miles from the ridgeline the trail becomes much steeper and makes several switchbacks before arriving at the Mill Mountain Trail. The Big Schloss Cut-Off Trail gains over 1,100 feet in lest than 1.5 miles.
Mile 1.9 - At the ridge turn left on the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail for 0.9
Mile 2.8 - Turn left uphill on the white blazed lookout trail to go
to the Big
Mile 4.3 - Continue north along the ridgeline and orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail. There are views through the trees of Trout Valley to the west as well as campsites along the trail.
Mile 6.0 - Pass Sandstone Spring with good campsites and the top of Gutter Run. Continue for 1.4 miles passing over the high point of Mill Mountain to the intersection of the Tuscarora Trail and end of the Mill Mountain Trail.
Mile 7.4 - Turn right downhill onto the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail for 0.6 miles
and arrive at the intersection of the yellow blazed Stony Creek Trail
just past a great camping
spot on the right.
Mile 11.8 - Arrive back at the parking area on FDR92.
Vista from Big Schloss
Mill Mountain Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 13, 2018
Went in to this hike going the opposite direction of the Hiking upwards recommendation. Hiked about 3.4 miles uphill and camped just beyond the cabin that was recommended by Hiking Upwards. Dropped packs to head off to the Big Schloss overlook. We wanted to summit Half Moon, but be aware, there is a false trail system that loops you around, and we never got to the summit. Another couple did the same thing, and as we poured over our maps and GPS systems, we realized this trail was never designated.
Big Schloss was beautiful, but the hike to it along the ridge is fairly mundane. Plenty of camping spots along the ridge, so please note you will never lack for camping spots on this trail. Saw plenty of people on the Big Schloss, and several other campers on the ridge.
The Schloss alone is worth it, just wish we had figured out the Half Moon summit. It is a tough out and back, even without heavy packs on, as the trail is fairly rocky.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 7, 2018
Hiked this and the Little Schloss 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 Little Schloss hike also).
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 4, 2018
We arrived on Friday night and hiked in the dark up Little Stony Creek trail to a nice campsite by the river. The rain had stopped, but the path was muddy with running water in a lot of places which didn't make for a pleasant hike. The following morning we completed this circuit from there, first walking back down muddy Little Stony Creek trail to the parking lot.
This is a nice circuit. The mud was only bad on the bottom half of the Little Stony Creek trail the Mill Mountain ridge was dry. That was the most challenging part, and I don't think this hike deserves a five-star difficulty. The view from Big Schloss was fantastic.
We did see two fat rattlesnakes. The first was on the northern part of the Mill Mountain trail, and alerted us to its presence with a rattle. The second was coming back down Little Stony Creek trail after Sugar Knob Cabin. I've never seen a rattlesnake before while doing other hikes in this area, so I'm not sure if it had to do with the rain the previous week.
There was a PATC search and rescue training happening this weekend, and we encountered a few groups on Friday night and early Saturday who were a part of that. We didn't see any other people until we got up to Big Schloss, and then the trail was mostly empty again except for a couple of other backpackers.
There are some great campsites on this hike, and plenty of water (though when we were there it was about as wet as it could get.)
Adventures in Roamance
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 28, 2018
This is probably the best backpacking trip I have taken to date. Everything about it is perfect: the level of difficulty, the scenery throughout the hike, and the campsites.
The Big Schloss Overlook is part of the hike. You take a detour of a couple miles after completing the initial 1.9 mile climb, if you so choose, to witness one of the most scenic views in Virginia. This comes at the price of privacy. On the particular day we went, there were at least 3 cub scout/boy scout troops that came along, along with other hikers from the area. In my opinion, the trek to the vista was more enjoyable than the view itself.
The campsite was large and the best I have ever experienced. It was large, happened to be at the top (or close to the top) of Mill Mountain, and we had a great view of the moonlit night. This is the first time I did not need my headlamp to do chores at night and it was something else!
I have a full review of the hike here, along with my GPX track which you can download: https://adventuresinroamance.com/mill-mountain-seclusion-is-never-overrated/
C $ and da BUG BOYZZZ
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 20, 2018
Set out for some winter backpacking and settled on Mill Mountain. I had done little Sluice so I was familiar with the area and the valley that the two hikes share at the end. This is a pretty good hike. It earned its 5 star difficulty rating, regardless of which way you go you are facing an almost 2000' elevation gain over 6 ish miles. Not easy if you are wearing a pack! The views are incredibly, possibly the best 360 view I have been on in the GW. The ridge top hike along the spine of Mill Mountain is very cool, especially in winter with views off both sides. There is very very little water apart from the last couple miles that chase the creek. Also along the creek are 3-4 excellent camp sites! The trail is a little rough regarding rocks and ease of travel which knocked it down a star for me.
We saw more people than I have ever encountered in the GW, at least 25-30, the vast majority around the Big Schloss summit. Once we got into the meat of the Mill Mountain loop we had the woods back to ourselves. This is a very easy to find hike, the directions are also straight forward. If you plan on camping I recommend doing it the way they describe here, you have a better camp selection at the end which would leave you only 1-2 miles tops to the car in the morning. the Overall it really is a great hike!
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Thankfully the fire roads are open now, last year when we did this hike they were closed, and the hike in was brutally boring. If you are thinking of doing this in the late fall or early spring, definitely call to make sure Fire Road 92 is open!
We did the hike detailed here this weekend. The Big Schloss Cut Off trail is no joke, tons of elevation gain in a short amount of distance, and not a spring or water source to be found. Pack your water in if you are starting in this direction. I cannot stress this enough. We got to the intersection of the cut off trail and Mill Mountain trail (there are definitely a few campsites here, but close to the trail), and headed southwest towards the Big Schloss lookout trail. This is a fantastic ridge-line hike. Very grassy, TONS of flowery trees out right now, and not a lot of elevation gain. You get the most fantastic view from below of the Big Schloss peak, it looks fantastic. Get to the lookout trail and it is 0.25 miles to the summit. Keep an eye out for camping spots, we spotted two on the right hand side about halfway to the summit, and upon further hiking, found the sites listed here in other reviews. The spot to the right of the walkway is epic, but probably catered to the hammock set, or maybe a one person tent. Since we got there late in the day (7:00pm), all of the sites near the summit were taken, so we backtracked to the initial site we found upon our hike up the lookout trail. Almost all sites have fire rings, but do use caution with your fire, it got quite windy while we enjoyed our dinner with the small fire we had. Did not experience any wildlife activity all evening.
Waking up and experiencing the sunrise atop Big Schloss is a must do. Very pretty and serene. Getting the rest of our day started, we headed back down the Mill Mountain Trail towards the overlook (great stop for a snack or lunch, especially if for some reason, you don't go to Big Schloss itself). Afterwords, you start your elevation gain up Mill Mountain trail which seems to take longer than it looks on the map, but eventually you get to the Spring, the first water source on the ridge. The spring was running fantastic this weekend, fill up here! Other than the Spring, and the few campsites you'll see moving north along this trail, it is incredibly rocky, straight, and in my opinion, boring. Green tunnel, anyone?? Literally no view of anything, and the trail is insanely narrow. Couldn't wait to get to the intersection of the Blue Blazed Tuscarora Trail, which looks like an old fire road. Make sure you turn right here, there is a trail facing ahead you blazed blue as well, do not take this, turn right. There are a TON of campsites in this stretch, with fire rings. So many good options.
Once you hit Stoney Creek Trail, well, it is a heck of a long descent. At least at this point you start to the see ridge-lines to the north, and start passing some very small (but running) springs. It is rocky, it is boggy at times. Once you get down to a more level grade, there are some great sites to camp, a few look like they could hold 2 - 3 tents with ease. With these sites, the trail runs close to the creek, take some time to hang out here. In warmer weather, I could see hanging out in some of these pools.
Saw a few folks day hiking, a few backpackers heading the opposite way, but otherwise, a solitary hike.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 29, 2016
Quick overnight backpack while the weather was warm and our weekend was free. Did this hike counterclockwise as we find that the best way to tackle the elevation. We tried clockwise the first time and the near 2mi climb up was too much. We also wanted, like the other reviewer, to have our views near the end as a reward for our hard work. Fall colors were past peak but still quite beautiful. Wish it was about 10 degrees cooler for the climb up the Stony Creek Trail. Spring at cabin and at sandstone spring on Mill Mountain were running, though not fast. Ran into a group of six mountain bikers on our way up as they were coming down. It was cool to watch them maneuver around the rocks on their way down. Saw a few day hikers but it was an otherwise quiet trip. Camped at the spring and was surprised no one else was there other than a small group we heard but did not see during the night. With the leaves off the trees, the views were fantastic in both directions and especially nice from the western signed overlook. We opted not to visit Big Schloss since the leaf color was past peak and it was hazy looking east. We'd been two other times so it wasn't like we were missing much. Descent of course was a little rough on the knees and fun with all the leaves and acorns! :-D This circuit has always been a favorite and we would love to return in the winter sometime.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 16, 2016
Of all the hikes we've done this summer, this one resonated with the both of us. We really enjoyed the variety of terrain and the spectacular views. The moist wooded creek bottom trail, the open and arid Tuscarora, the dry wooded ridgeline trail, and the rocks at the summit were all different and that appeals to us. Never did we get the long green tunnel feeling that we often get on the AT.
Like most of the other reviewers, we hiked the loop counterclockwise starting from the parking area on FS 92 following the Little Stony Creek Trail north, then working back south to Big Schloss on the Mill Mountain Trail, up to the summit, then backtracking to the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail, and finally back to the car with a half mile on FS 92. We chose to do it in this direction because we wanted the payoff (the outstanding views from Big Schloss) near the end of the hike rather than at the beginning.
All told, the GPS had us right at 13 miles hiking the loop and with a few side excursions to overlooks along the way. There was plenty of elevation gain, but it was all pretty gentle. The steepest part of the walk was on the blue-blazed Big Schloss Cutoff Trail. We were coming down that hill so it wasn't a factor except that my knees don't really like downhills.
The trail was in great shape. Nothing overgrown anywhere at this time of year. Beware of freshly fallen acorns though. The crop is large this year and they are by far more slippery than wet leaves.
On the downside, we didn't get the solitude we were looking for on this trail. We leapfrogged a 14-person group all day. Even though they were polite and respectful, a group is a group. The situation was worse when we hit the summit about 3:00 in the afternoon. The beautiful views are just a bit too close to the Wolf Gap parking area. Lots and lots of people up top.
Still, the views are wonderful and this is a hike not to be missed.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 13, 2016
Completed as an overnight on 8/13/16.
We did this hike in reverse (Stony Creek first) with the yellow-blazed trailhead starting across FS92 (opposite of parking lot). Steady climbing and a beautiful trail for 3.5 miles. Stony Creek was running and there were plenty of pools to cool off in.
The trail opens up once you reach Tuscarora (blue-blazed - fireroad?) which is a short distance from Mill Mountain (orange-blaze). Mill Mountain trail was a bit choked, and seemed tight, but it is August. Sandstone Spring was beautiful! It was amazing to find such fresh cold water on top of the ridge. Just behind the spring is a large camp spot on the left, able to fit many tents. Just beyond THAT spot there is a smaller, more private spot...it was a lovely camp. A thunderstorm did roll in and the ridge felt pretty exposed. LOUD and a bit scary.
Working our way down Mill Mountain we stopped at the smaller overlook on the right. It was beautiful. There is a tree down near this spot that is navigable but tight. Once we reached the spur trail to the Big Schloss Vista, we started climbing again and almost made it to the overlook when a small black bear dropped from a tree in from of us and we decided to cut our losses and let that bear (and its mama) have that spot :) I'm glad we chose to stop at the first overlook.
We headed down the Big Schloss Cutoff trail (light-blue blaze) which was pretty technical in spots (with weighted packs) but I thought it was gorgeous! We hit FS92 and made a left for a short jaunt back to the car.
- You are going to get some good climbing (in either direction) this hike.
- ALL SPRINGS WERE RUNNING WELL on 8/13 - 8/14/16, and we were able to filter plenty of water.
- The trails were marked very well.
- We were sure to make noise when visibility was cut short. I carried bear spray.
- This would not be an ideal hike in thunderstorms.
- We ran into only one day hiker the entire time.
Date of Hike: Saturday, March 12, 2016
Great hike for a quick backpacking trip close to DC.
Parking: As of the hike date, the gate was closed on the western end of 92. I couldn't find info on the gate status online or on the ranger's recorded message. That was annoying, but my fault for not calling during the week. It is 3 miles from the gate to the Big Schloss shortcut trail. There were 1-2 pull off parking spots at the cutoff trail. We didn't hike past the shortcut trail on 92.
The shortcut trail was moderately steep but just short enough that it ended right when the uphill got annoying. I wouldn't call it difficult or overly rocky, but that's in comparison to West Coast desert hikes. There is no water between the shortcut trailhead and the Big Schloss summit. The mile from the top of the shortcut trail to Big Schloss was the best section of the hike. The trail was lined by brilliantly green grass and clovers making it feel like a majestic fairy forest.
The Big Schloss summit trail had about 5 campsites that we saw. The first two were overgrown but looked clearable. The third looks great with an awesome fire ring tucked underneath a rockwall corner, but was only level from maybe 1 tent (mentally noted for hammocks). The fourth was taken by a group with 4 tents, though I was shocked that they managed to cram that many tents in there. The fifth was just before the wood bridge and the best by far with a great fire ring and spots to fit 2-3 tents. It had views off both sides of the mountain. Firewood is abundant further away from the summit.
We decided to make do with the minimal water we had since we didn't want to walk the 3ish miles to Sandstone spring and back, so we can't report on status. We ended up sharing the campsite with two awesome nurses from Baltimore which made killing time much more fun.
Overall, excellent backpacking destination. From gate to shortcut trail to summit and back was 12.25 miles and maybe 2k ft of gain. With the gate open and parking at shortcut trail it would be 6 miles less. Next time we'll do the trail counter-clockwise and be sure to fill up on water before the summit.