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Hiker Comments for the Mill Mountain Hike - 1 to 36 of 36   
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By: Hiker Rating: 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.

By: Rating: 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).

By: Emily Rating: 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.)

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:

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.

By: Rating: 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.

By: Rainchell Rating: 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 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.

Some Notes:
- 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.

By: LillTrooper Rating: 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.

By: VSOP Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 5, 2015
Great but relatively mild weather for December overnight trip. We followed the route on the printable topo except for side hike to Big Schloss. Trail directions were right on except it's a little further from the parking area to the Big Schloss Cutoff trailhead. But it's clearly marked with signage as well as fresh light blue blazes. Climb to the ridge was the toughest part of the route and not too hard even for a desk jockey. Ridge trail was well marked. Sandstone spring was running well if you wanted to camp a little further out. A piece of aviation history can be found on Mill Mt at the airway beacon site. One of the footers for the light tower says Feb 1940. This was one of many sites nationwide that served to mark early air routes with light beacons before radio navigation. The facility and those like it were originally constructed by the Dept of Commerce and USPS. Only the equipment shack, tower footers, and a power pole remain. We camped at the Sugar Knob intersection which was notably clean given fire road access and the recent end of deer season. No trash, tin foil, beer cans. Even the fire rings seemed to have been shoveled. The spring below the PATC hut was running strong. Met few other hikers and a few bear hunters. One pick - FS92 could use some signage.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 16, 2015
I hiked this trail 30 years ago with my father and stayed in the Sugar Knob cabin so it had a lot of meaning for me. Hiked it this time with my son and a friend from church with his two boys. Hiked it backwards and got to the cabin by about noon. Had the rest of the day to relax and goof off. Fired up the woodstove that night to stay warm. Saw what we found out was bear scat on the trail to the cabin. Ran in to hunters running dogs to hunt bear the following day on the trail. Pretty cool. Glad I was carrying a firearm! (I have a conceal carry permit). Hike on day two was fairly easy. Took the trail to Big Schloss which was fairly steep but well worth the additional time and effort. Views were fantastic. We all had a great time. Hike back to the parking area from the Big Shloss cut off trail took longer than expected. Actually had a little snow/sleet on the way out! Very memorable trip. One that we will do again in the future.

By: 2RookishHikers Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, September 18, 2015
We turned this hike into a two day backpacking trip and it was fabulous! As suggested we did the hike backwards and started late friday night, hiking about 3/4 of a mile in to a nice camp spot by the creek. The next day we hiked the 8 or so miles to the summit of Big Schloss- this was our first time doing this type of thing so it was definitely strenuous but it was well worth it! The hike along the ridge was absolutely beautiful and the 8 miles with packs wasnt so bad. When we got to the top of Big Schloss there were ALOT of people there but we set up camp at an incredible spot at the peak and by 330 almost everyone was gone and we had the place to ourselves. It was a beautiful night and morning and a great spot to stay. The schlepp down in the morning was a little steep and monotonous but all around a beautiful and fun hike - I would absolutely recommend doing it backwards.

By: Frank Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 6, 2015
We did this hike as an overnight, going backwards and had a blast. We started mid-afternoon on the first day, following the creek a bit before ascending to the ridge. Doing the hike in reverse was really nice because we got most of the elevation gain out of the way the first afternoon. We made camp just beyond the intersection of the yellow Stony Creek Trail and the blue Tuscarora trail. The site was wonderfully spacious and we found plenty of firewood. We saw one family at a site just before reaching the PATC hut they were the only people we saw along the hike until we got near Big Schloss the next day. At the spring just before the yellow + blue trail intersection there was no water flowing. Luckily we brought plenty with us. We hit the trail fairly early the next day and enjoyed walking along the shaded ridge line, passing several more suitable camping spots. We passed what must have been water from Sandstone spring trickling over the orange blazed Mill Mountain trail a couple of miles in. We hydrated from a spot where the water emerged from the rocky soil right next to the trail in a pool deep enough to dip our mugs into. It was cool, refreshing, and delicious (and almost three weeks later none of us has fallen ill, fyi). As the sun rose and the air warmed we reached the intersection of the Mill Mtn trail and the Big Schloss cut-off trail. We put our backs down there and went along to catch amazing views on top of Big Schloss. It was a perfect one-nighter. To top off the weekend we stopped at a farmstand on our drive home for fresh peaches and apples.

By: Mike G Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 5, 2015
Took advantage of the swan song of summer to hike the circuit. There must be quite the turkey population in the area since this is the third consecutive time I've run into them while hiking the Great North Mountain area. A nice pleasant hike with a good number of backpackers taking advantage of the long weekend. The lack of significant rainfall over the past month meant that the streams were a little low, but otherwise an enjoyable trip.

By: geomommaj Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 1, 2015
We started out at about 2 p.m. and took other reviewer's advice to go counterclockwise.  We enjoyed the beautiful river at the beginning of the hike. I was surprised at the number of camping spots we passed.  There was at least one on the first part of the yellow marked trail, one at the corner near the blue trail turn-off.  We found 2-3 on the orange blazed trail.  We got caught in about 30 minutes of rain as we walked, but we were prepared with ponchos. The campsite we chose had 7-8 spots for tents.  It was about halfway along the orange blazed trail on the left going in the counter-clockwise direction. We didn't pass anyone hiking and thought we were all alone, but once we got out tents up, we heard a group in a nearby campsite.  We dropped our packs before going to the Big Schloss lookout and enjoyed that vista a lot. There was a black rat snake near the intersection of the lookout trail and the blue blazed turn-off. I was grateful for sturdy shoes as the pathway was quite rocky.  There were a couple pretty viewpoints.  I also enjoyed walking along the ridge.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 17, 2015
A simple key to making any hike a bit easier, (or life in general a bit easier): Hydration. This should be emphasized and considered carefully on this hike. Early on the hike, on the light blue trail you will pass a spring. After you hit that spring, you will encounter the toughest part of the hike by far.

That spring also is your last good chance for refilling water until you get off the ridge line that you'll be hiking for about 5 miles. After enjoying the spectacular view and turning around at the Big Schloss, I actually doubled back, re-hiking the most difficult section of the hike to ensure I could fill from that spring. It paid off, because I didn't come across another acceptable water source until I starting hiking the last few miles on Stoney Creek. I would qualify the above advice by saying that I am a big guy and I sweat a lot, and I was with my dog, and we camped overnight. I believe if you did it in one day, and didn't have to share water with a dog, you might be ok to proceed on without the backtrack for refill.

Great views. Great solitude hike. Only saw five other groups the two days I was out hiking and camping it (on a weekend), and four of those groups were up at Big Schloss.

The only downside I would say was Stoney creek trail was quite muddy from all the springs that fed into it across the path. A lot of rock jumping was necessary to avoid a muddy boot. The dog loved it though! And overall, I did too!

By: VAHiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 9, 2014
Did this as an overnight.  Went in the opposite direction, which I think is a lot easier to do.  We did this last year in the spring as described and we were exhausted by the time we reached the top of the Cutoff trail.  By going up the valley the climb is more gradual.  We stopped at the cabin to eat lunch before heading up to Sandstone spring to camp.  Clearly no one has used the Cabin in a while as there are rocks halfway up the door that people have piled up.  The spring was running well, despite lack of rain in recent weeks.  We had no problem pumping from the spring as it was deep enough.  Rain was forecast for the weekend so we only saw one other camper.  Saw some day hikers the first day, otherwise the hike was nice and quiet.  Unlike the reviewer below, we did not get any ticks on us.  We made sure to use DEET on our legs to keep them from climbing up our shorts if they got on us.  Stony Creek was flowing nicely when we got back to our cars and it allowed us to "freshen up" before driving back home.  I would love to do this hike in the fall or winter. I can imagine the views are great both in the valley and on the ridge.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Did as an overnight backpack - worked very well to camp at the spring, a natural half-way point at least two large, excellent campsites with room for multiple tents. Climb up the cut off trail is the only hard part - rest is largely level or downhill, with almost no tricky terrain. Some trails a bit overgrown but not too bad. Forest roads also in very good shape - looked like fresh gravel. Big Schloss view is fantastic, rest of trails nice but not spectacular.

By: M&D from VA Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 7, 2014
The view atop Big Schloss is amazing and panoramic.

My wife and I were looking to do the Mill Mountain hike as an overnight trip, leaving the parking lot at about 3pm, aiming for the Sandstone Springs for a water refill, and the camping area by nightfall. We took the scenic overlook trail to Big Schloss and found the peak about 5:30pm and liked the view so much we abandoned the plan, instead camping at one of the overlook sites. Had to play a bit judicious with water since there were no areas to refill on the Big Schloss Cutoff trail, but the view was stunning. Watched the sun set over mountains to the West in the evening, then watched the sun rise over mountains to the East in the morning. Stunning location.

There are two camping sites atop Big Schloss that each hold two small tents and one additional site has an area for three or four hammocks total. A light breeze kept us company on the overlook camp site (looks East about 20 yards before the bridge), but the lower two sites were better sheltered and would do better when weather rolls in. The intersection of Big Schloss Cutoff and Mill Mountain trail is at a flat area that would hold probably seven tents, though it is about an hour to the pinnacle from there.

To note, the Big Schloss Cutoff trail was a reasonable 4 for difficulty. Steep in places and a steady huff up the hill, but no rock scrambles or slippery spots. Solitude, at least this early summer weekend, was a good 5. We saw just three other small groups both Saturday and Sunday and had the pinnacle to ourselves until a pair of day hikers walked up about 8am.

The hike up from parking to Big Schloss took us 3.5 hours and the hike down took 2 hours.

Found six common ticks and one deer tick on the hike the Mill Mountain trail between Big Schloss and the intersection with Schloss Cutoff was a bit overgrown and had overhanging vegetation. Looks like someone trimmed the path on the summit trail though.

Definitely one of the best views we've seen in the Northern sections of the GWNF and will be a repeat trip for us in the future.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 19, 2013
Hike with a friend and made this trip a day hike. SNP was just opening this day and I knew there were two large groups planning to hike in this area...that is why we set out EARLY. We did this hike in the opposite direction as described by hikingupward. They were calling for rain and we wanted to see the views. I have hiked Big Schloss from Wolf Gap before (easy 4 miles) but I loved this route. There are so many camp sites in this area. We ran into the group hikers which reminded me on how I like to hike with 6 or less people. The summit of Big Schloss was beautiful. Great time of year. Beautiful woods. Please don't litter on the trails or leave trash at your campsite, please take it with you. :)

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 28, 2013
A group of 5 of us did this hike starting around 9:45 in the morning. We parked one of the cars at the FR 92 parking at the Stony Creek Trail and then loaded up our friend's truck with the 5 of us and drove down the fire road to the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail where we parked the truck on the side of the road across the trailhead to be picked up the next day. This saved us a half mile of walking the fire road knowing it was going to be a miserably hot and humid hike.

We were completely drenched in sweat by the time we got to the top of the Big Schloss Cutoff Trail. I personally drank about a liter of water on the way up (and at breakfast before hand I drank probably a quart of water to make sure I was hydrated). It wasn't as bad (steep) as I thought it was going to be (in fact, I thought it was easier than doing the hike to Big Schloss from Wolf Gap Recreation Area.

We had wanted to hike to Big Schloss for  lunch, unfortunatley, the path from the cutoff trail down to Big Schloss was completely overgrown with weeds and brambles, and not wanting to have to bushwack, the decision was made to turn around and  skip Big Schloss. After having lunch at the top of the cutoff trail, we continued on to to Sandstone Springs. Lots of high grass on the way up the trail which is pretty overgrown and a downed tree was cut up by one of our group that was blocking the trail. Just a note: no one found any ticks on them the entire hike and the bugs weren't really bad.  We decided to make camp at the springs for the night (there were several great spots to camp), and we picked the biggest one with a nice fire ring. Thought we might get rained on as there appeared to be a front passing through so we set up a tarp, but all that happened was we ended up with a beautifully cool evening that was perfect sleeping weather. There was plenty of water at the spring to replenish our water.

The next morning we continued up Mill Mountain Trail to the Tuscarora, then to Little Stony Creek, stopping by Sugar Knob Cabin for a snack break. The weather was perfect, in the low 70's with a nice breeze. The hike down Stony Creek was easy, we left Sandstone Springs campsite a little after 8 am and took 2 long breaks and were back at the truck parked at the end of the trail head by about 1140.

In all it was a great hike, not too strenuous, and as the whole purpose of the hike was just to have fun and camp out for the evening, this hike definitely fit the bill.

By: JKels Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 28, 2012
We altered this loop a bit to make it an overnight backpacking trip. Overall it was a beautiful circuit. The view from Big Schloss is amazing, and there is some fun terrain changes throughout which keeps things moving and interesting.

We drove into Wolf Gap late on Friday, stayed the night, and headed up Big Schloss the next morning. We made the turn off the ridge and the Mill Mntn trail and headed down the Cutoff, doing the circuit in reverse. After hoofing it up to the Sugar Knob cabin, we found a great campsite where the Stony Creek Trial intersects the Tuscarora Trail, and then returned the second day along Mill Mtn trail that runs along the ridge connecting the Tuscarora Trail with Big Schloss.

It would have been more of a challenge to do the steeper ascent up the Cutoff (instead of heading down it), but I'm glad we saved the ridge line for the second day - it was more relaxing that way and the terrain changes on the Cutoff and teh Stony Creek Trail make sure you don't get bored the first day. If you packed light, traveled fast and left earlier in the morning, its possible to do this circuit in a summer day when the daylight lasts longer.

There's plenty of places along Stony Creek to refill your water - but the water sources are a bit scarce along the Mill Mntn Trail unless its just rained recently. It was a little buggy in July, so def bring your bug spray!

Apart from around Big Schloss, we didn't run into another soul the entire time. It was a wonderful way to spend a weekend!

A few pictures, including the campsite:

By: Rachel H Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 2, 2012
I've been waiting months for the fire road access gate to be opened for the season so that I could do this hike, and in the end was glad that I was forced to wait until spring, because the colors were beautiful in every direction. My hiking buddy and I did this loop counterclockwise and finished it in 4.5 hours plus lunch, glad it didn't actually take the 7.5 hours suggested here. We saw about 6 or 8 other people on the trail today, most of them coming in from Wolf Gap. It was a beautiful hike, not particularly strenuous, though we were glad not to have come up the pretty steep 1.9-mile trail, which wasn't much fun to come down either.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 28, 2009
I don't know what to say about this hike that hasn't been said before. The rating of 5 for difficulty is way too high. Other than the mileage, a relatively straightforward walk in the woods. Nothing terribly exciting on the hike. A walk in the woods and nothing more. Big Schloss was cool but it took almost 10 miles to get there. At that point, the monotony of the hike had killed my enthusiasm. Ending the hike with half a mile on the road is not a way to remember it well either. It might deserve a one star but it was nice to get outside before it gets too cold. The ever presnet hunters and shotgun blasts did nothing to add to the beauty of the hike. Definetly didn't want to be mistaken for a deer. If you are thinking of doing this hike, try another. There are better around. The only postiive was the amount of camping spots and the frequent springs to get water. Maybe the hike is better during the spring/summer.

By: Josh Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 30, 2009
Set out to do the Little Schloss Hike but ended up doing this one on accident.  Started out on Little Stoney, this part was the most difficult part of the whole hike.  The stream had alot of debrie with many fallen trees so wasn't as I had anticipated.  The hike was good as far as the challenge but there were barely any views in my opinon.  In all on the whole hike I made it to 3 or 4 overlooks, only one of which actually had a sign that said overlook this way.  If I had to rate the views as far as for the whole hike I'd give it a 2 for views.  There were able sites for camping on the otherhand and only saw maybe 8 people the whole time.  I went to college in the smokey mountians and may have been spolied by all the great views Western NC had to offer.  Also I have found some really good hikes for views near Roanoke VA on the AT.  I most likely won't do this hike again, it seemed like just another walk in the woods only difference was I was walking up a mountain.  I wouldn't reccomend this hike either. 

By: Mark G Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 7, 2009
This hike is one of those hikes that looks great on paper but lacks a key element:  the wild.  On the plus side, the Mill Mtn. trail boasts great views at intermittent points from Big Schloss all the way to the FAA site.  Water flowed amply at Little Stony Creek, Sandstone Spring, and Sugar Knob Spring.  Furthermore, cleared campsites dotted the trail at generous intervals.  The Sugar Knob Camp includes a snug one-room stone cabin (a former fire watcher's hut) with a stove that PATC rents for $25/night.   The Tuscarora sandstone even revealed some nice fossils in places.  Sounds great, right?

Yet the hike failed to evoke wilderness enough for my tastes.  Scads of people covered the Schloss.  Some of the campsites were littered and bore signs of hard use.   What little wildlife I saw -- a pair of grouse, two does, a squirrel, woodpeckers and common back-yard birds -- seemed sparse given that I hiked over twenty miles over two days.   The 4-mile hike to the starting parking lot on Fire Road 92 (from Johnstown Road/Va. Rte. 608) passed two major clear-cuts (Your National Forests:  Lands of Many Abuses) of at least 50 acres.   Hikers must share the trails with horseback riders and mountain bikers frequent horse plops, and moss scarred with knobby tire imprints, distracted from the natural beauty.   And of course, the rocks along the trail showed ubiquitous scores from metal hiking poles.  (Are hiking poles on this simple trail really necessary? I've been hiking over 30 years in all kinds of terrain and weather, over all kinds of distances, and never needed or wanted them.  If I need a staff for a stream or river crossing, I scavenge wood from the forest floor.  Nothing looks sillier than suburbanites affecting the "AT" look with those poles.)   In short, this hike left me even more wistfully hungry for wilderness than when I headed out.  I felt like I was camping in a museum.

Enough of the griping.  Here's some possibly useful info.

1.  I hiked in solo from Va. Rte. 608 to the parking lot mentioned as the starting point for the hike by  Started Sat. 3/7/09 at 9:15.  I hiked the route suggested by and stayed at the "great camping spot" near the intersection of the yellow blazed Stony Creek Trail.   (This was just an "ok" spot, not "great" it was overused, littered and directly on the trail, but it was near the Sugar Knob spring.)   On Sun. 3/8 I hiked to the parking lot following Little Stony Creek and then hiked out along FS 92/Va. 608, returning 11:15. Saturday was hazy but cleared in the late afternoon, high in the 70's, breezy.  Very windy that night, low in the 40's?   Sunday was overcast, in the 60s-70s.

2.  If you're hiking in from Va. Rte 608 (the Johnstown Road), the USFS gate barring the road during the winter is about 1.5 miles in from (North of) the turnoff from Va. Rt. 675.   At the gate, there's a small turnout where you can park, and there's also room to park on the side of the road.   About a mile north of the gate along Va. Rte. 608, you make a sharp turn to your left onto Fire Road (FS) 92.  This appears as a hairpin turn on the Google map.  There's a stop sign for FS 92 at that point it has "92" carved into the signpost.   This is the first left turn you'll see after you leave the gate hiking northward.  Turn left at the stop sign onto FS92.   A large clearcut will be on your left as you hike from the gate to FS92.  The same clear cut remains on your left as you turn onto FS92.  About a mile further up the road you'll see another large clear cut on your left.

3.  At about mile three from the gate you'll pass a concrete parking lot on your left.  There's a sign on the FS 92 road frontage at the lot that says "Timber Sale Area."    This is NOT the parking lot that serves as the starting point of the Mill Mtn. Hike as described by   That starting point for the hike is about another mile down the road, at the floor of the valley formed by Little Stony Creek.   See the topo map.

4.  The other commenters are right about sturdy boots for the ridge of Mill Mtn.  It's not a difficult hike, but your toes will thank you if you protect them.

5.  Another hiker familiar with the trail advised me that Sandstone Spring has Girardia.  I drank filtered water from it with no problem.

6.  Just to the east (upstream/uphill) of the Sandstone Spring is a large hemlock - what passes for enormous in these days of the wooly adelgid.   It's impressive.  There's an attractive campsite at its base with a fire ring and stone chairs, but the ground seemed pretty boggy.  I'll bet it's pretty buggy as well once the weather warms up.  There was a LOT of water pumping out of the ground around the spring.  

7.  The Hiking Upward directions are accurate.  A few minor notes:  when the directions say "Start by walking DOWN FS92 for 0.5 miles," that actually means "walking southwest, heading uphill."  See the topo map.   Also, the FAA site is not a tower.  It's just a shed.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We did this hike with a slight variation, starting from Wolf Creek Campground which adds another 4 miles onto the hike.  We started at about 9:00 and finished around 6:00. making it to the campground with the setting sun.  We walked at a comfortable pace, stopping to take photos and enjoy the views.   It was beautiful once we were up on the ridge with beautiful vistas all around.  Without the foliage, we enjoyed a lot of overlooks.  We stopped at the campsites at the top of the Schloss shortcut trail to reconstitute before heading down.  This trail always seems to take longer than we think it should but the one that kicks our butt everytime is heading back up along Stoney Creek.  It seems to take for ever to get to the top where a  nice young couple staying at the stone cottage let us catch our breath before making the sprint back to Wolf Gap.  The game were moving around once we were back on the ridge line in the brush around the old beacon.  We flushed several coveys of quail.  Then later our tired hounds found new energy and went bellowing after some deer, putting them back on the leash after the second chase so we could make it to the car before dark.   All in all, I think it's just under 16 miles, but lovely views from the ridgeline and so pretty along stoney Creek. 

We do recommend sturdy hiking boots for this hike as it's rocky atop the ridge line.    

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 18, 2008
I added a pleasant walk to the Halfmoon overlook and was rewarded with another great view. There are excellent campsites along both Mill Mtn and Little Stony Creek trails. The trail is easy to walk, so I would give it a 4 in difficulty. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 14, 2007
Went for a long/fast walk with the dog and the view from Big Schloss was absolutely fabulous. Definitely one of the better hikes I've done in this area. Weather was clear and temps were in the high 60's which made the view that much more spectacular without the usual summer haze. Didn't see a soul even though there were a few cars in the parking area. The dry weather we've been having has definitely made water scarce, but it's not such a big deal on a day hike - do keep it in mind if you're staying out overnight.  We did it the way it shows in the description & map and the climb really wasn't quite as steep as I expected, but it was a long slog down Stony Creek trail with not much to look forward to except the car.  Next time I'll try it the other way, but if you have any doubts about your fitness, the way shown gives you the option of cutting the route short without missing Big Schloss. The trails are rocky enough I wouldn't recommend doing it without boots. If you're looking for a great view, this route definitely delivers!

By: MJ Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 3, 2007

This was a wonderful trip! Backpacked this loop with the husband and another couple over the Labor Day weekend. We were a little worried about it being crowded but aside from day hikers at the top of Big Schloss we only passed a few other campers over three days. Great scenery and solitude. The difficulty level wasn't too bad, very rocky trails could do a number on the ankles though.

We followed the route in the opposite direction as suggested with Big Schloss as our motivator. We camped near the FAA beacon site (couldn't actually see the shelter) at a nice campsite with stone fire ring our first night. Second night was spent at a beautiful campsite just before the bridge to BS with an eastward overlook to catch the sunrise. We passed a few other established potential campsites during the trip, nice to know you don't have to clear your own tent area. Water is a concern on this trip. The morning of Day 2 we passed Sandstone Spring (very clear water!) and filled up all our water bottles and extra Platypus to make sure we had enough for the remainder of the trip.

Definitely a route to come back to! Maybe in the fall to enjoy the colors, or once the leaves have dropped for better views.

Great website too! Lots to choose from!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 18, 2007
Thank you for this wonderful website - the directions are very accurate and the scenery was breathtaking. The side trip to the Big Schloss is a MUST (we left our backpacks at the intersection between the blue and the orange-blazed trails, went to Big Schloss, and came back to pick them up and continue the trip). I'm not sure if this was an unusually dry winter, but we didn't see any streams until the very end of the hike, about 2 miles from the road. The two springs were almost completely dry - I'd recommend bringing all the water you'll need if you do this hike in the summer. There are plenty of great camping spots pretty much everywhere on the 2nd part of the hike.

By: Dave M. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 19, 2007
Campsites located about 100 yards from the parking area were a welcome treat when we arrived Friday night in the rain.  Weather was sunny and warm the next day and our crew of nine had a great time hiking up the switchbacks of the cut-off trail (with full back packs) and then onto Big Schloss.  The view from on top of Big Schloss was fantastic!  Sandstone spring on the Mill Mountain trail was a good place to enjoy lunch and top off our water bottles.  Stony Creek trail is a bit rocky and (from what some other hikers told us) turns into a creek itself in a storm.  Total time for this hike including a 30-45 minute break at Big Schloss and a 30-45 minute lunch break was 8 hours 30 minutes.

By: Donna Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 10, 2005
Although the hike was very enjoyable (and the directions flawless), the solitude was not what I had expected or hoped for. My husband and I hit the trail about 11:00 a.m. on Saturday and were surprised to find the parking lot on FS92 completely full. Once on the trail, we saw several sets of hikers; one set of hikers containing a group of 10, who we saw throughout the day. We set up camp by the past the intersection of the blue and yellow trail, and continued to see hikers until 6:00 p.m. when it got blissfully quiet. The nearby spring was very low but supplied enough water for the night. We finished the hike by 10:00 a.m. the next day and passed another group of 10 hikers as we walked into the parking lot. All in all, a nice hike but we would have liked to see less people on the trail. Thanks for the great web site.

By: Tim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 2, 2005
My wife and I made an overnight out of this hike. Got out there Saturday afternoon and did most of the hike before making camp at about 6:00 (at the campsite next to the intersection of the Blue and Yellow trails). It was a really enjoyable hike. Had a bit of everything. About the only other comment I would have would be that if you need water, make sure to get it at the first stream crossing as there isn't water again until the stony mountain trail. The directions were great and easy to follow. I recently got a eTrex Legend, so I enjoyed trying out the route and playing with my GPS a little. Thanks a lot of the awesome site.

By: Brian Lanier Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 19, 2005
Really nice hike, all trails well marked, Big Schloss is worth the trip. The gate was locked at the end of VA608, which added several miles to the hike. It's about a mile from the gate to the left turn onto FS92, and then a little over 3 to the parking spot, so plan accordingly. It might be a good idea to call the Ranger station for the gate status. Overall, very nice hike. Be advised that I am relatively new to recreational hiking, and the my rating applies only to the hike as published on this site (not including the extra 8 miles).

A friend pointed out Brian should have signed this review 'Clark Kent'. 19+ miles in one!
Tony -

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