General Hike Big Schloss & Mill Mountain

big schloss.jpg
Big Schloss is a peak in the Great North Mountain range of the Appalachian mountains, with an elevation of 2,964 feet. The peak is in George Washington National Forest and borders Virginia and West Virginia. There are several different routes to hiking this mountain and Mill Mountain. I opted to hike from Wolf Gap and do an out-and-back hike. I grabbed my pack, locked the car, and was on the trail by 7:59 am. The first part of the trail coming out of Wolf Gap is where I would pick up most of my elevation gain. This would be the most challenging part of the trail, but the trail switchbacks up to the ridge, and I did not find it difficult.

Once up on the ridge, I had plenty of views looking into Virginia and West Virginia, depending on which side I would look over. There were plenty of lookouts along the trail until I got north of Big Schloss mountain, where the trail is still along the ridge but lower into the woods, obscuring any views except for the occasional side trail lookouts. I would straddle the border most of the day.

The first open lookout on the trail is shortly after arriving up on the ridge, a couple of nice rock outcroppings that allowed me to sit and enjoy the views. Continuing to Big Schloss, the trail is a gentle up and down to the side trail to Big Schloss. The main trail continues to Mill mountain and beyond, where it would eventually connect with the Tuscarora trail system.

The side trail up to Big Schloss mountain is a short, rocky, moderately steep section leading up to the saddle. There were a few areas of blowdown, but I easily navigated around. Continuing towards the true summit, I came to a footbridge, to my surprise. But without it summiting the mountain would be close to impossible. I did a quick search on Google on how the material made it to the mountain, but I couldn't find anything. I suspect the wood and the materials were brought in via helicopter.

After crossing the footbridge, the trail takes on the form of a herd path going in varying directions. It doesn't take long to figure out which leads to the summit. i found the rock surfaces to be slippery, surprisingly. in any event, I was soon at the top with views in every direction; it was 9:15 am. I stayed on the summit long enough to have a quick snack, take pictures, enjoy the views, and think of continuing my hike out to Mill mountain. I had initially only planned to hike Big Schloss, but since I made good time to the summit, I thought, why not extend the day? I found myself starting to get chilled sitting on the somewhat open summit, so I quickly picked up and began my trip back to the trail junction.

Arriving at the junction, it was 9:40 am, and the sign to Mill mountain said 4 miles. That's 4 miles along the ridge. Topo doesn't show any significant elevation gain and loss; in theory, I could make it by noon. I started towards Mill mountain. Passing to the west side of Big Schloss, I was back in the shadow of the mountain, where there was still frost on everything from the overnight chill. Once I got back within reach of the sunlight, I felt warm again, and the frost disappeared. On the north side of Big Schloss, the mountain looms, giving me a great view. I wondered where the name Big Schloss came from, so I quickly searched on google and found that German settlers gave Big Schloss its name. Schloss is German for "castle," which references the rocky outcrop. I could see that. The trail over to Mill mountain was uneventful. Passing the trail junction that leads down to forest service road 92, I soon came to a side trail to a lookout. I would opt to pass this and take it on my return if I had time. At a certain point, the trail takes a straight line, as it must be following some borderline. I don't believe it's the state line. i passed through a boggy area with a mountain spring appearing out of nowhere. Seeing flowing water coming directly out of the ground seems odd. i soon arrived at the treed summit of Mill Mountain; it was 11:44 am. I checked out a few tent campsites near the summit while I ate my lunch.

I started back a little after noon. And met a trail runner, not sure if she, too, was making an out and back or a loop. I would eventually see a few more backpackers coming in to spend the night. I eventually found myself at the side trail to the lookout at 1244 pm, so I opted to take the quick trip out to another nice view of West Virginia. After a few pictures, I continued my way back.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, passing a few more day hikers coming in. I eventually made my way back to the parking lot arriving at 2:30 pm with sore feet from the rocky trail. Not a bad day in the woods.