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Mill Mountain - Columbia Furnace, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.6 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
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7.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
2,340 ft with three different ascents
George Washington National Forest
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Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
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From Wolf Gap Rd: VA608/Johnston Rd 2.4 miles, Left on FDR92 for 3.3 miles park on left.
Note: The gate entrance to the GWNF where VA608/Johnston Rd turns into FDR88/Johnston Rd intermittently closes in the winter to traffic due to road deterioration. This adds an additional 8.0 miles to the hike, 4.0 miles out/back to mapped parking area. Check with the GWNF for gate status at 540-984-4101. 38.93795, -78.64623

This hike is very similar to the Little Sluice and has nearly as much solitude. The big difference between the two is the great vista you get by taking the short walk along Mill Mountain to the Big Schloss vista. This is one of the best vistas in Virginia and shouldn't be missed.

Start by waking down FS92 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 and turn right on the light blue blazed trail). Turn right and ascend on the Big Schloss Cut-Off Trail for the steepest part of the hike for 1.9 miles to the ridge line.

At the ridge turn left on the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail for 0.9 miles then turn left again uphill on the lookout trail to go to the Big Schloss vista. Return to the Big Schloss Cut-Off trail intersection to continue the hike.

Now continue on the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail hiking along the ridge for the next 3.4 miles and arrive at the intersection of the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail that comes in from the right.

Turn right downhill onto the blue blazed Tuscarora Trail for 0.6 miles to reach the four way intersection of the yellow blazed Stony Creek Trail just past a great camping spot on the right.

Turn Right on the Stony Creek Trail as it follows Little Stony Creek down the valley for 3.4 miles back to the parking area.

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Mill Mountain hike:

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Hiker Reviews For The Mill Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Mill Mountain hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Emily Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 04, 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.)


By: Rating: 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/


By: C $ and da BUG BOYZZZ Rating: 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!


By: David M. Rating: 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.


By: Natasha Rating: 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.

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Early August
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