Big Schloss Hiking, George Washington National Forest

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The George Washington National Forest offers moderate hiking and camping close to the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area, with an array of plants and animals and enjoyable hikes that have rewarding panoramic views.

Written by

Katie Hand


4.4 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

89.9 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The first .7 or so of the Big Schloss Trail consists of uphill switchbacks, that shares its start with the orange-blazed Mill Mountain Trail. If you take your time, it can be physically rewarding. Be careful though, it is mostly loose rocks for the start that can roll your ankle, or make you slip if you're not planting your feet correctly.

Time To Complete

3 hours

Give 2-4 hours to hike Big Schloss. If you take your time on the first mile, then stop for small breaks for views along the way, this time should be accurate. You will also gain a little over 1,000 feet in elevation. Bring lunch or snacks as well, you'll want to hang out at the top for a while. There are spectacular views of both West Virginia, and Virginia. The trail runs along both state's borders.


All Seasons

Big Schloss is part of George Washington National Forest, which is assimilated with the Washington and Jefferson National Forest system. Spring and fall are the best seasons to hike this trail. There are many varieties of blooming plant-life during the spring, and the autumnal views in the fall are unparalleled. Summer is fine, but plan on sweating! When it's the hottest, the views aren't the clearest due to humidity, and there's a slight smoggy undertone to the air.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits




This is a perfect place for residents of the Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia area to get away from their busy jobs, and have a chance to enjoy some mountain air. George Washington National Forest has many opportunities for camping, hiking, or taking a scenic drive. If you're close to the area, or within a few hours, the Big Schloss Trail is a can't-miss Mid-Atlantic hike with steady climbing, ridge-line hiking, and panoramic views.

Starting at the Wolf Gap Campground, the trail travels up a set of switchbacks for about a mile, before arriving at the ridge-line of Mill Mountain. After 1.9 miles, the trail arrives at the Big Schloss Trail junction. From here, turn right on the white blazed Big Schloss Trail and hike another 0.3 miles before arriving at the swinging bridge that leads to the Big Schloss viewpoint. 

What Makes It Great

Once you get to the Big Schloss viewpoint, you'll never want to leave. From the cool wind drying the enormous amount of sweat off your face, to the falcons overhead, to the sweeping view of rolling hills beyond, it doesn't get any better than Big Schloss. The entire trail is only 4.4 miles, a good day hike to bring a nice lunch to eat at the top, and your best camera to take stellar photographs. 

Starting early is a good idea, because this trail can be popular depending on the season. 

There are other trails that are accessible from the Wolf Gap Campground, which lies exactly on the Virginia/West Virginia border. These trails include Tibbet's Knob, and the Mill Mountain Trail. If you're camping, do both Big Schloss and Tibbet's Knob. Tibbet's Knob perhaps has fewer hikers, but it is just as rewarding and has wonderful views. 

The name "Big Schloss" comes from when German immigrants named the rock outcropping after the German word, Schlösslein, which refers to a castle or a stately building. When viewed from the highway below, you can understand how it resembles a castle. The rocks jut out like steeples and are very pronounced to the naked eye. The area is rich in history and geography. The George Washington National Forest System is a massive area spreading into both Virginia, and West Virginia. 

Who is Going to Love It

Whether you're an avid or an occasional hiker, this trail is a breath of fresh air for anyone. The beginning is the most difficult because you'll be hiking up gravel switchbacks. Once you've completed the first leg, there is only a little bit of elevation gain left. The total elevation gain for the entire hike is a little over 1,000 feet. Wear comfortable shoes, and if you need help with stablization, just bring some hiking poles along. They could also really help with the gravel start, because the rocks can slide beneath your feet! Kids will love this hike because of the scenery, rocks, and straight-away's to run through. This is also a great hike for couples; the panoramic view can be romantic if you go early to catch the sunrise!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Take exit 279 off I-81. Turn west on SR 675. Drive 3.5 miles to STOP sign at VA 42.Turn right, and take next left to continue on SR 675. Remain on SR 675 (there is a left turn at the far side of the one-lane, low water bridge) and drive 3.1 miles to a fork in the road. Stay right, on SR 675,and drive another 3.4 miles to the top of the mountain. Caution, this is a narrow, winding road with poor sight lines. The entrance is on your right. 

If you come at night to set up, go slow. There are other drivers and rangers still out and about, so use caution going up the mountain. Once you've entered, drive the loop around the campground to pick the best spot and remember the campsite number. You'll need to go back to the entrance to mark your number on the board showing the occupied sites. This is first-come-first-serve so get there early! 

If the campground if filled, drive across the street from the entrance. You can find some nice ground sleeping campsites there, and you have better access to firewood if you prefer to get your own. The parking lot is inside the campground, and it also used by day hikers. 


Big Schloss Hike

Wolf Gap Recreation Area
Wardensville, WV, 26851
38.924555, -78.688906

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