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Hiker Comments for the Camp Hoover Hike - 1 to 33 of 33   
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By: Bret Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, August 22, 2017
I had hiked to Camp Hoover from Milam Gap as an out & back in June but wanted to do the full loop. The hike down Mill Prong is enjoyable with the stream close he majority of the decent. The first stream crossing is my favorite with water flowing around a tree surround by moss covered rocks. It has a surreal feel and I expect gnomes to peak out around the rocks. Big Rock falls while not large is a relaxing place to take a short break before continuing to Camp Hoover. The day I stopped at the camp the gentleman at he camp was very knowledgable about the history of the camp I stayed longer then planned but was worth the time. After the camp I headed up Laurel Prong which is a lovely hike crossing many streams and springs. Continuing on to the AT I came across and overlook just past the summit of Hazeltop Mtn. The view was reminded why I enjoy the hike and was the perfect place to recharge while enjoying a snack. I only encountered a few hikers, mostly on the AT. Overall great solitude, some nice streams and a new favorite in Shenandoah.

By: Steve Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 25, 2016
This is one of the more picturesque hikes on this web site. A volunteer was at Camp Hoover giving an interesting presentation. The other reviews cover main points well. My main point in this review is to note that, in the description, I think the fifth paragraph, starting “From the ‘Brown House’” may be incorrect, confusing the yellow and blue blazed trails. I think this can be verified from the map. I suggest a rewritten version as follows (if I am wrong please correct me): “From the ‘Brown House’ continue on the yellow blazed Laurel Prong Trail, that starts at the Camp Hoover turn around. The yellow blazed trail will initially follow an old forestry road for the first 0.4 miles to an intersection where the forestry road veers left downhill. Turn right on the narrower blue blazed Laurel Prong Trail for 0.4 miles, then pass a spring and only good camp site on the hike. Follow the trail uphill for another 0.8 miles to the saddle, and junction of the Cat Knob Trail.”

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 19, 2015
This was my first overnight backcountry camping experience and it was a great loop to do it on! We started on Saturday at 9:30 am from Milam Gap parking, and went the Laurel Prong trail first instead of the Mill Prong. I would recommend this route. The AT stretch was not strenuous with a lovely lookout. It was not busy.

We set up camp at about 1pm on the Fork Mountain Trail next to the stream where there was a perfect spot for a small tent and good places to hang our bear bag. Once we set up camp, we headed the .5 miles to Camp Hoover at 4 pm, and were able to speak with the rangers and get a tour of Hoovers getaway. It was a lovely and informative tour that changed my mind about Herbert Hoover altogether! Seemed like a very kind man. It was nice exploring the camp in the dwindling daylight.

We awoke on Sunday morning and set off at 9 am. We allowed ourselves 2 hours to get back to Milam Gap via Mill Prong (2.8 miles) since it was entirely all steep uphill. About .2 miles from Big Rock Falls, we spotted a very large black bear 20 ft. to the left of the trail staring at us on its hind legs. We made lots of noise and blew our whistles and eventually it turned and ran away. Needless to say, we were back at the parking lot by 10 am, practically running the rest of the uphill.

All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable trip. I loved the solitude of the camp, and the quietness of the entire hike. I would definitely do it again as an overnight or a day hike!!!

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Five stars for historical significance and work out...Five stars also to the weather...a glorious day... Must say that I came across a lazy Rattlesnake on the AT at Hazeltop...waited and waited for it to go...finally it crossed the trail...did not go far at all...must've been full from a meal...ran past him and no more trouble... There is a side trail to a nice view as you begin your descent back to Milam Gap...only 50 yards so do it.... Especially after the work you had to do to get there... All together a pleasant hike but understand the climb from Camp Hoover to Laurel Gap is not a walk in the woods...and subsequently up the AT to Hazeltop...

By: Ken D Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, April 15, 2015
This is a nice hike. It's pretty easy to Camp Hoover and it was nice to have lunch on the deck of the Brown House and stroll around the camp. The Laurel Prong trail was okay with not much to see until it intersects with the Cat Knob Trail. The last half mile or so before the intersection are the toughest of the hike since you gain ~500 feet. After that it's some ups and downs, and the trail is much more fun to walk until the AT. The climb up Hazeltop isn't steep, just constant, and then it's very easy downhill the rest of the way. Putting this on the list for a family hike.

By: doobie Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, April 7, 2015
going to hike it tomorrow with son and a couple of his friends.. been wanting to do this one for a a while. to answer question about trees. Sounds like there was a burn in that area a some point. Used to fight wildland fires and lots of times you can see burn marks on the base of old dead trees on the downhill side.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 4, 2014
We loved this hike - Wratboyz's description is pretty accurate, especially the part about it being more strenuous than expected. This hike has a little bit of everything: streams/waterfalls, history at the Rapidan camp (with a nice deck for eating lunch), different types of (mostly hardwood) forest on the way back up, hiking the rocky ridge with huge boulders/rock faces and amazing views through the trees, and a few miles of the AT as the "recovery" leg. At one point on the uphill from Rapidan, there was so much water across the trail that we though we had lost it we had to look behind us for the blazes to confirm we were on the right path, since the ones in the uphill direction were few and far between. There was even a tree that looked like it had been down for a while we had to scramble over that obstacle to keep on going. It was a fairly windy day, and watching the trees sway in the wind was magical. If you do this hike, don't miss the short side trail off to the left once you're on the AT there's a rock outcropping with wonderful views.

Question for other readers: There was one part of the forest on the way up the Laurel Prong trail which was quite different from the rest all of the trees looked quite young and thin, and they had a lighter, smoother bark than the rest of the forest. The few trees that had any width to them were dead. Does anyone know why that part of the forest is so different than the rest?

By: D&G Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 4, 2014
Addendum to our previous review: If you turn left at the bottom of the horse trail before heading into the camp and cross the bridge, there's a toilet on the left hand side (more than a port-a-john, less then plumbing).

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 27, 2014
I did this as a circuit, starting with Mill Prong at Milan Camp to Camp Hoover, and then back on Laurel Prong to the AT to Milam Gap. The hike on Mill Prong to Camp H is mostly downhill (which should warn you about the hike back).  The way down is very nice, you go by the creek,  nice relaxing water noise, quiet, peaceful.  The camp itself is well documented and interesting, great place to hang and eat lunch or something.  If you go back on the Mill Prong, it will be mostly uphill.  If you do the circuit, the Laurel Prong trail is muddy in some spots for the first mile or so, then opens to a moderate uphill climb through a forest meadow.  But after that, you start straight uphill through mtn laurel.  IMHOP, this is fairly brutal until you reach the junction with Cat's Knob trail.  Cat's Knob takes you uphill a bit more until you junction with the AT north.  More uphill uphill until you reach the crest of Hazeltop.  After that it's thankfully all downhill.   All in all a good hike if more exerting that I suspected. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, December 30, 2013
The Camp Hoover has been the favorite of four hikes my sons and I have taken so far for their hiking merit badge.  We followed the path described here.  The hike had a nice mix of features.  We enjoyed hiking along the stream for the beginning two or so miles of the hike.  There was a small cascade on the stream that we enjoyed.  Camp Hoover provided a nice historical aspect to the hike.  We very much enjoyed the section of the Laurel Prong trail from the Cat Knob trail intersection to the intersection with the AT.  There were some very nice views along the trail.  We also enjoyed a nice viewpoint on the AT just after starting on the down slope, about 2 miles from the parking area.  The viewing area was to the left, from a rock outcrop.  We completed the hike in four hours including a lunch break.  We also headed down the AT a bit further to get our required distance in and visited the Tanner Ridge Cemetery.  All in all this was fun hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 13, 2013
loved this hike.  I was looking for something a bit longer, but I wanted something with variety in it, and decided on this loop.  We hiked it as described.  We had the trail to ourselves nearly all day - met one man at a creek crossing, and passed another group heading in the opposite direction.  This hike had a bit of everything - hardwood forests, several fern groves, 3 creek crossings, nice climb from the Hoover camp to the top of the ridge, a nice ridge-top trail with up and down and rocks, several great views, plus great wildlife.  we hiked right after several days of rain, so the trails became creekbeds in several places, plus one tricky creek crossing out of the three.  At the top of Hazeltop, there's a short  trail off the AT to an outcropping of rocks, from there you get a fabulous view.  Camp Rapidan is kinda cool, would have been better to walk in the buildings, it makes for a nice stop anyway.   Depending on your conditioning, you might really like the last 1.5 miles or so, a slow descend along the AT.  nice finish.  My son and I finished in 4 hours, 10 minutes, with 40 minutes of breaks. 

By: DaveB Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 5, 2013
Nice Hike .... did the circuit hike ... returning on the Laurel Prong was very interesting ... and quiet ... only met 2 or 3 people. Great lookout on the Appalachian Trail.

Hoover Camp is interesting also. It was open but I didn't wait around for a tour. I took my flyrod but it didn't look interesting enough for fishing to I came back the circuit route instead.

By: JoeS Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Great hike-The Hoover camp is worth the visit!!!  Check with the rangers at Great Meadows to find out if the Camp has a volunteer to open the exhibits.  Don't just turn and go back up the Mill Prong Trail-go the Laurel prong and Cat Knob trail-take the circuit lloop.   Some great hiking on the loop, good views from up on the cat knob trail and once on top of Hazeltop, take the side trail out to the overlook-great!!!!  You get to see a variety of SNP topography.   Did not see another person on the Laurel Prong trail.

By: Kate Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 14, 2012
This was a beautiful hike all around! I arrived at the Hoover Camp just in time for a tour of the house. The NPS volunteers shared some wonderful stories of the Hoovers. Allow extra time to enjoy this area.

In getting back on the trail, a concrete post for the Laurel Prong Trail seemed to point toward a faint trail into the woods, but yellow blazes were visible nearby on both an old woods road and the gravel access road. As the directions state, take the woods/forestry road.

While overall the directions are good, a couple of miles later, the directions are a bit confusing with respect to the Cat Knob Trail. The first sentence of last paragraph should be corrected to read,"Turn right to stay on the Laurel Prong Trail as it continues ..." to the AT.  This hike does not use the Cat Knob Trail, which is reached by turning left instead of right.

Save some energy for the final third of the hike on the AT as it goes up a grade (not steep) on Hazeltop Mountain. After Hazeltop the AT is mostly level and an easy downhill coast back to Milam Gap.

This hike really deserves a higher rating for views there are some nice views along the final stretch of Laurel Prong and an impressive panorama of the Shenandoah Valley from Hazeltop Ridge Overlook, located just steps off the AT.  The short spur trail to the overlook is very visible this is a not-to-miss highlight of the hike!

Hiking time was 4.5 hours for a combination of brisk- and moderate-paced hiking, leisurely camp tour, multiple but brief stops to enjoy Big Rock Falls, views into the valley, etc. Next time I would allow additional time for exploring the Rapidan/Hoover Camp and sitting on the back porch of the Brown House.

By: Vicky Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 5, 2012
My friend took me on this hike today.  Great workout!  The tour of the house is opened until the end of October, but it is not opened on Tuesdays and Wednesdays due the volunteers having the day off.   It's a 'Must Do' hike!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 29, 2012
Began our hike at the Big Meadows Amphitheater.  Headed south towards Milam Gap Parking area.  Beautiful fall colors starting to emerge.  It had rained the evening prior to our hike, so there was a little fog which made some parts of the trail look like something out of a fairy tale movie. Very nice.

By: Gman Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, September 28, 2012
The downhill hike on the Mill Prong trail to the Camp was pretty easy and enjoyable, with 3 or so places you have to ford creeks.  The tour of the camp is very interesting and one house is a museum with pictures, while the other is actually open for a guided tour.  The long way back via the Laurel Prong and  AT is a lot tougher than people are making it out to be.  It goes fairly level much of the way, but towards the end, you climb pretty steeply for quite a while up the Laurel Prong Trail.  The section after you connect with the AT is uphill for a while as well, although not quite as steep.  At least the last portion is downhill, a great reward for toughing it out.  We saw no one once we left the Camp Hoover area to go back the longer way, so if you like solitude, you will find it on that part of the loop.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 17, 2012
This was an incredible hike. The trails are in perfect shape (thanks PATC)  and the creeks are alive. The info for the hike is right on, It took just over 4 hours with many stops at the overlooks and Camp Hoover.  Thanks!!!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, November 28, 2011
Monday after Thanksgiving hike. We did the entire loop and saw no one. Its a great hike for solitude and distance. Ate lunch at Camp Rapidan and stopped a few other times along the way for a snack, we weren't in a big hurry and still made it in 4.5 hrs. Great views all around with no leaves on the trees. Can't wait to hike this one again.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 11, 2011
Sis and I did this in reverse as a one-night backpack. It is a very beginner friendly backpack. Between heading out on Friday, plus the cold weather (upper 20's at night), we didn't run into very many other folks. The AT & Laurel Prong trails were not very difficult and very pleasant. There is one huge campsite along the Laurel Prong trail about a quarter of a mile or so before the Fork Mountain trail. Big enough for scout troop! Unfortunately, it is not very private. We turned south on the Fork Mountain Trail, there are some decent smaller camping spots starting about 50yds down the trail. We only ran into two other backpackers on Friday, and we ended up camping across the trail from them (about 100yds away). We left Milam Gap around noon and found a campsite about 1.5 hrs before sunset. Time to set up camp, eat dinner and hang the bear bag. We awoke before sunrise on Saturday and packed up and headed out to Camp Hoover by the full moonlight while our neighbors slept in. The sun rose on our arrival at Five Tents. We spent about an hour or so exploring Camp Hoover, and eating breakfast on the porch at the Brown House. We didn't see one other soul the entire time we were in CH. Skadoosh!! We finally headed up the Mill Prong Trail around 8:30am. The Mill Prong river crossings were really cool, and Big Rock Falls was beautiful. I imagine it is VERY popular in summer. We were passed from behind by a backpacking couple that were really scooting (they said they camped about 1 mile south down Fork Mtn trail that night). We also started running into day hikers headed down to Camp Hoover after 9am. Camp Hoover is closed down for winter, so no cabin tours or personnel on site. We preferred the solitude, so if you do also, this is a good winter/cold weather hike. I can imagine it is pretty busy during the warmer months.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, August 7, 2011
Overall this was a nice hike, did the trail in reverse, as for some reason I always end up doing, and I would recommend doing it in reverse for everyone else. Slipped on a rock as it had rained the night prior to showing up, banged up the knee a bit but was able to keep going without too much fuss. The ladies at Camp Hoover were very nice and offered us a tour and we sat outside on the porch and ate our lunch as the drizzle started. Overall this was a good hike, nice mix of level walking and some tougher uphill climbs. Saw a few deer on the path and one very large grey fox. Finished the full 7.6 miles in 3 hours.

By: Druss Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 25, 2011
Really nice hike overall.  My husband and I got a late start and weren't sure if we'd do the whole loop or just an out & back from the camp.  We made great time and decided to do the loop.  We finished shortly before dark, in just under 4 hours and even had a hot/cooked dinner stop on the trail.  We thought it was a great combination of level/easy with a nice heart-beating section up to the AT section.  No leaves out yet, so we got some great views of the mountain ridges and really enjoyed the stream section in the 1st part of the hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 18, 2010
Rapidan Camp was a nice hike. The walk down to the camp from Milam Gap was enjoyable and very easy even if it was a little a rocky. We hung around the camp and we were even thrown out of one of the houses after the workers left one of the doors open. The walk back uphill was a little monotonous and the steepness lasted a long time. There were no real views after leaving the camp although parts were somewhat interesting but similar to most other hikes in the park. The section of AT you hike has to be some of the nicest, most peaceful part of the whole trail. Would do again down to the camp with children but probably not unless access to the houses is opened to the public.

By: Katherine J Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 4, 2009
We only hiked down to Rapidan Camp from Milam's Gap and back. It was pretty easy,  could definitely recommend this for families. Enjoyable for all abilities.

I'm not always a great judge of distance but I don't think the blue blazed Mill Prong trail begins 100 yards from the start of the AT. It's more like 50 feet. We went way past it and had to go back. Just bear in mind to make the FIRST LEFT after starting the white blazed Appalachian trail. If you're expecting a Park Service sign saying "Rapidan Camp", there isn't one. Look for the blue blazed trail on your left!

No surprises enroute. We did 3 easy stream crossings- big rocks to walk over- then passed the "Falls". In October, they were but a trickle, ot much to see there. Rapidan Camp is downhill off the road, coming back is the hardest part.

Took about 3.5 hours with water breaks.

By: Cindy Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our group did the Mill Prong --> Laurel Prong --> AT loop. The hike down to Camp Hoover (aka Rapidan Camp) was relatively easy. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Brown House (the Hoovers' residence) and the Prime Minister's House (now a museum) open to the public. The whole area is being restored. The knowledgeable park ranger in residence gave us an interesting and informative tour. The Brown House was furnished to replicate how it appeared during the Hoovers' days at the camp. The furnishings included some items that belonged to the Hoovers, as well as period pieces.

The hike up to the AT was the most challenging part of the circuit. The views of the surrounding mountains were lovely. At one point, we reached the summit of Hazeltop, which is the third highest point in the park. Once on the AT, the hike back to the parking area was easy going and quite beautiful.

By: Cindy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 27, 2009
Nice hike but a bit too much for our 5 year old. We ended up cutting it short and skipping the AT section -- lucked out and my husband got a ride to our car while I stayed with my son. Trail was rocky with some wet spots and minor obstructions. We got a great tour from the Ranger at the Brown House and should have returned the way we came down. Feeling too ambitious, we decided to do the loop and it was just too much for our usually very energetic 5 year old. We saw quite a few hikers on the way to the Rapidan Camp, but no one on the loop.

By: George Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 22, 2009
We started around 10:00am on a beautiful sunny morning.  It was about 20 degrees but the sun and lack of wind made it very comfortable.  We started (backward) up the AT to Hazeltop.  This was a long gradual ascent.  The lack of leaves on the trees allowed us to enjoy the vistas for much of the hike on top.  The trip down the Laurel Prong Trail was rocky and it was muddy closer to the bottom around Camp Hoover.  I was surprised to see so much dead wood.  There are no living fir trees - many large standing dead hulks, many leaners and a bunch of fallen stuff.  It's sad looking.  We ate lunch sitting in the sun on the porch of one of the 'cabins'.  It was interesting to think of the history that may have played out when Hoover was there.  I did the hike out of the Camp back to the parking lot with a fat belly.  I whined trying to keep up the 'Seal Team'.  I kept telling them that my mother told me not to go in the pool until an hour after I ate and I know she wouldn't approve of this.  Oh well, I lived.  It was a beautiful day and we only saw a few folks after leaving Camp Hoover.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 28, 2008
Great hike!  Took about four hours to complete.  We saw a handful of people at the cabin, but for the rest of the hike saw only one other couple on the AT.  Overall, a great day hike!

By: Mary and Mabel Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 25, 2008

What a wonderful day for a hike. We hiked to Camp Hover. The tour guides were talking to some folks. Instead of taking the Laura Prong trail, we took the Fork Mt. trail to the Sag. I was glad I did. A bear came down the path. He seemed smallish, a little bigger than Mabel. I guess less than 100 pounds.

It didn’t seem too bothered by us and continued down the trail. Mabel couldn’t stand it any more and started whimpering. The bear didn’t like that and diverted into the brush.

We caught a glimpse of a second bear on the AT. Once it saw us, it booked.

By: Stephanie Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 26, 2008
I did this fun hike with my family, including my grandma, and it was a lot of fun! Instead of doing the loop, we took the trail down to camp hoover, looked around, and came back on the same trail. I believe it was a shorter and easier hike, and we got to eat lunch right near one of the waterfalls! We also had our three dogs with us, who all enjoyed playing in the creeks. Overall, it was an easy hike that everyone in my family was able to enjoy.  

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 15, 2008
This is a very pleasant hike and would be perfect for beginners or those who don't wish anything too strenous.  My wife, daughter  and I, along with our dog started on a Saturday morning with the temperatures in the upper 40's.  We carried daypacks with basic gear along with some food and water.   We are all very athletic, (our ages range from 17-40), and did not find this hike to be physically challenging with the exception of the mild uphill climb to the saddle after leaving the camp area.  This hike could be done by people in a range of fitness levels; you do not have to be in superb physical shape to complete this hike.  We all started with light fleece tops over baselayers but ended up removing the fleece on the second half of the hike.  The Hoover Camp at about the midpoint is a nice break and the numerous signs give great historical information about the place.  The adjacent streams make this a beautiful setting.  The last stream crossing prior to the camp took a bit of planning and teamwork, but was fairly easily crossed and our feet remained dry.  I agree with the previous reviewer that the best part of the hike is from Laurel Gap to Hazeltop.  Along the ridgeline, it is exactly as you would imagine a mountain hike to be; rocky but passable trail with a fairly steep drop and some truly spectacular views.  The trail was a bit muddy in places this time of year and I'd recommend waterproof boots or shoes if you want to keep your feet dry.  We did not see much wildlife on this hike but did run into several other hikers along the trail.  The hike ends with pleasant downhill stretch back to the parking lot.  As an aside, this is the first hike on which my wife and I used trekking poles.  For those of you considering their use, I would recommend them.  Once you find the appropriate length and grasp the rythm of walking with the poles they are very useful. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, March 3, 2008
I was by myself, took no breaks, and this took me just over 3 hours.  This was a great late winter hike especially for someone like me who has been fairly inactive through the winter and was looking to log some miles.  Conditions were pretty good, the stretch down Mill Prong and up Laurel Prong were through natural water sheds and as such were fairly muddy (I imagine it might get worse in spring).  There were a few obstructions on Laurel Prong but nothing too serious. 

The stretch from Laurel Gap on the southside of Hazeltop to the AT is easily the best part of the hike.  It is very steep but it mostly follows the contour and has an awesome view down into the Rapidan wilderness or whatever that is.  It is very rewarding after trudging up to laurel gap.

I saw 9 other people!  Mostly on the AT, but still it seemed very busy for a Monday in early march.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 28, 2007

My dog and I did this hike as a back and out (rather than the loop).  When we visited, a volunteer couple were spending the summer at the camp and treated me to a private tour and talk about the camp. I found it fascinating - and I'm not a history buff. The hike itself was about 4 miles total.  Most of it is wooded and this is not a hike to be done for the view.  It is great on a warm, hazy day when the views are disappointing anyway. My dog loved the stream crossings. He was welcomed at the camp, but was not allowed inside any of the buildings. There were plenty of places for him to wait in the shade outside with his water to refresh him. Next time we'll do the loop.

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