Big Schloss Hike to Amazing Views on the Virginia Border

Updated on November 7, 2023 by Julie McCool

The Big Schloss hike leads to spectacular 360-degree views from a dramatic rocky summit on the Virginia and West Virginia border. It's a bit of a drive from DC and Northern Virginia, and it's a challenging climb at the start, but the panoramic payoff is well worth the effort.

Big Schloss Hike Details

The Big Schloss hike begins at Wolf Gap Campground and follows the Mill Mountain Trail for a little over two miles where it connects to a quarter-mile spur to the summit. Big Schloss was named by German settlers who thought the rocky summit looked like a castle (schloss in German).

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Big Schloss Fall Foliage View
Big Schloss Fall Foliage View

Park at the Wolf Gap campground, then walk north on the road to find the well-marked Mill Mountain trailhead.

October 2023 Update: There is no water available at the Wolf Gap Campground so bring your own. Pit toilets are available and the campground is open year round.

Big Schloss Mill Mtn trailhead
Big Schloss Mill Mountain Trailhead

The Mill Mountain Trail is steep and rocky for the first .7 miles as it passes through the forest. The woodland foliage was spectacular on a fall visit in mid-October.

Fall foliage on the Mill Mountain hike
Fall foliage Mill Mountain Trail

Once you reach the ridge, the trail is fairly level for the remainder of the hike. The ridgeline offers several dramatic views to the east. In a little over a mile, watch for the right turn to the quarter-mile Big Schloss spur.

Turn right on the spur trail to Big Schloss summit
Big Schloss Trail Sign

The views open up as you approach a wooden bridge to the summit.  Stop before the bridge to admire the views and to see how the white sandstone rock outcropping resembles castle turrets.

Big Schloss Summit with Fall Foliage
Big Schloss Summit

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club maintains the trails and the bridge that provides access to the Big Schloss rock outcropping.

Bridge to the summit
Bridge to the summit
Crossing the bridge to the summit
Crossing the bridge to Big Schloss summit

After you cross the bridge, you can enjoy those amazing views in every direction from the relatively flat top of the rocky overlook.

Big Schloss Summit North View
Big Schloss Summit North View

It's a bit of a scramble, but not too challenging. However, drop-offs are stark so keep a close eye on children.

Rocky summit is more exposed in winter
Rocky Big Schloss Summit

The return hike follows the same route you climbed. Be especially careful when you leave the ridge and head down the steepest section, especially in fall when leaves cover the rocky path.

Tips About Hiking Big Schloss

On weekends, the summit and Mill Mountain Trail can be very crowded. If possible, hike on a weekday or head out early in the morning. We had the trail all to ourselves on a Tuesday afternoon in October.

The Big Schloss hike is beautiful year-round. In spring and summer, green covers the mountain ridges and offers shade for much of the hike.

Green foliage covers hills and valleys in the Big Schloss Summer View
Big Schloss Summer View

This is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy fall foliage in Northern Virginia, as you can see in the photos above. While the views are starker in winter, fewer visitors make this a wonderful place to enjoy a quiet outing in nature.

While we highly recommend this hike for active adults, it could be challenging for young children. The trail is steep and rocky for the first 3/4 mile, and the ridge and summit are very exposed. Older kids who like to hike will enjoy the challenge, the views, and scrambling on the rocks.

Winter solitude on the summit
Big Schloss Summit

There are usually restroom facilities available at the campground and sometimes water. However, you should bring plenty of your own water along for the hike in case those facilities are closed.

Here is a trail map for the hike, on the Shenandoah County website.

Things to Do Near the Big Schloss Hike

You can access another excellent hike from the same Wolf Gap campground. Read our guide to the Tibbet Nob hike which also offers beautiful summit views and a fun rock scramble.

While the Big Schloss hike makes a fun day trip from the DC area, we highly recommend making your visit part of a weekend getaway or a longer road trip. You'll find plenty of unique stays, delicious dining, wineries, breweries, museums, and scenic country roads in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Plan your trip with our Shenandoah Valley destination guides:

This hike on the Virginia/West Virginia border requires extra effort, but the panoramic views from the summit of Big Schloss Mountain are worth the effort.
Big Schloss Hike

About Wolf Gap and George Washington National Forest

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests follow a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains along the Virginia border with West Virginia and Kentucky. The two national forests include nearly 1.8 million acres (most of them in Virginia) forming one of the largest blocks of public land in the eastern United States.

Within the GWJF is Wolf Gap Recreation Area, which sits just west of the state line in West Virginia. In the 1930s, the site was an African American Civilian Conservation Corps Camp. Now, Wolf Gap offers camping, picnicking, mountain biking, and hiking.

If you want to have the trail to yourself, you could stay in one of the nine campground sites (primitive bathrooms, no water) and get an early start.

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