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Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley

Description: This is a fairly strenuous 27 mile backpack on the Great North Mountain in GWNF, WV. The distance may be more if the need to deviate from the course to camp near water arises. There are many ridge-top springs and streams but these may be dry during the hotter months. Be prepared to take alternative actions. In all you will gain and lose over 3400 feet of elevation through the course of the trip. Your reward, weather permitting, Is a chance to visit up to eight grand vistas, six of which view Trout Run Valley from different perspectives.

Google Custom Directions

The hike starts at the kiosk in the Wolf Gap campground.

The Mill Mountain Trail is part of the Great Eastern Trail (GET).

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Printable/Downloadable North Section Map

 

Printable/Downloadable South Section Map

View 3-D Map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File For Non-TOPO! Users

Trail Notes:

Day 1: From the day use area walk around the campground loop. Either direction will get you there but turning right out of the day use area is the shortest. If you go that way turn left onto the orange blazed Mill Mountain Trail.

Climb, steeply at times, for about one mile before reaching a saddle in the ridge. Pass 2 vistas on the right with views of Little Sluice Mt and the Massanutten Mt further east. In 1.83 miles from the beginning come to the junction of the Big Schloss Spur Trail (White blazed). A 0.5 mile round trip will take you to a 270 degree view.

Return to the Mill Mt Trail and continue north. In another 0.83 miles pass the blue blazed Big Schloss Connector Trail. In another 0.91 miles arrive at another vista overlooking Trout Run Valley. From there it is another 0.93 miles to Sandstone Spring where there is good camping and reliable water. More camping w/o water can be found 0.87 miles further and yet another dry site about 0.35 miles further.

In about 0.29 miles from the last campsite arrive at the junction with the Tuscarora/3 Pond Trail (blue blazed). If you wish you can turn right and find camping at about 0.5 miles either on the Tuscarora or Little Stony Run Tr. There is a spring just beyond Sugar Knob Cabin on the latter. This hike has you going straight ahead onto the Tuscarora and in 1.34 miles arriving at a campsite above Pond Run, the junction of yellow blazed Halfmoon Tr and a short white blazed trail that leads to a vista. Water can be found about 1 mile down on the Pond Run/Tuscarora Trail from the campsite.

Day 2: From camp turn left onto the yellow blazed Halfmoon Tr. In 0.57 miles arrive at the junction of the white blazed Halfmoon Lookout Spur. You may wish to stash your packs here since you'll be returning this way.

Take the Halfmoon Spur Trail all the way to the end, passing purple blazed German Wilson Trail (no sign) along the way. There is also a cliff view below the main summit. Check them both out.

Return to the junction with Halfmoon Trail, recover your gear, and descend about 1 mile to Halfmoon Run, water, camping and the junction with pink blazed Bucktail Connector Tr.

Follow Bucktail Connector Trail through mature forest, second growth thickets and grassy meadows for 2.58 miles and the junction of orange blazed Bucktail Trail. Turn left onto it and follow it to a forest loop road. Turn left, cross Trout Run Road and pickup yellow blazed Long Mountain Trail. Follow Long Mt Trail north for a few hundred yards and then turn sharply left (south) onto an old woods road. The trail will leave the road and pass through a grassy area near a campsite and cross Trout Run. Cross the stream on a newly constructed bridge. Climb steeply up a footpath. The trail eventually becomes a woods road and switchbacks up Cherry Ridge. At about 1.87 miles from the trailhead pass a grassy clearing on the right and an old woods road on the left (the old Crack Whip Furnace trail, I believe) before arriving at yet another large grassy clearing. The continuation of the trail is a grassy woods road on the right side of the clearing.

In about another 1.2 miles the fun begins as you reach a 200 yard long rock field. There is no trail but the trees are blazed rather frequently. Take your time! Once across youíll return to a relatively smooth footpath. In another 0.3 miles come to yet another grassy clearing. A woods road goes right and downhill. You want to turn left and follow the blazes. You'll cross a couple of streams (not always flowing) with a grassy area in between suitable for camping (There is no fire ring.).

In 0.64 miles from the last stream there will be another grassy opening to the right of the trail. This is a great campsite under the shadow of Benís Ridge complete with a fire ring. There is a small spring in the woods behind the clearing (walking towards the ridge) that some one has damned up. A better water source is a stream that crosses the trail less than 100 yards south of the campsite. This stream is not shown on any maps Iíve found but it does exist although it can dry up in the hot summer months.

Day 3: As you travel south from the campsite you will pass one more woods road on the right and begin to ascend Devilís Hole Mt. at 0.62 miles from the campsite come to the intersection of purple blazed Trout Pond Trail. Turn left staying on Long Mt Trail. As you climb you will be following a narrow footpath. As you reach the crest of the mountain the trail will once again become a woods road. Pass several grassy clearings on the left and in 2.32 miles from Trout Pond Trail reach FR 691.

Turn left on FR 691 and walk 2.44 miles to a parking area on the left with a campsite and fire ring. Look for yellow blazes marking the beginning of Tibbet Knob Trail. Follow the blazes (some will be on rocks) along the spine of the ridge until you reach the overlook in 0.91 miles. Long Mt will be to your left, Halfmoon Lookout straight ahead and Mill Mt with Big Schloss on your right.

Follow the yellow blazes and scramble/slide/sush-on-your-butt your way down the steep face of the knob. In a hundred yards or so you will regain a more normal trail that descends to the Wolf Gap Campground and your awaiting vehicles (1.50 miles from the top). On the way down you will cross over a small summit which affords nice views of Big Schloss and Little Sluice.

Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

Critique this outing

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Name: Jake                                                                                                                Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation

Date(s): 10/17-19/14                                                                                             Rating: 5

 

Outing Critique: Great hike, many beautiful views.  The trail notes are spot on, and easily followed the trial.  One thing to note is that the white-blazed short trial down to the vista at the first night campsite is not really blazed anymore, and we actually couldn't find the trail at first.  From the intersection with the sign, turn left and pass between the two fire rings.  Head straight  down over the hill and you will start to see a small trail.  I would also mention that there are not many good campsites on the Long Mountain Trail, other than the large field that was noted here (I couldn't find the spring it mentioned).  There are spots that could work, but didn't really see any additional developed sites.

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Name: Mike G.                                                                                                           Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation

Date(s): 07/18-20/14                                                                                            Rating: 4

 

Critique: We did this hike in the direction laid out in the narrative. Our first day, we left Wolf Gap at 9 am, and headed north. Be forewarned that the well pump at Wolf Gap is broken, and has been since last fall. After a steady, but not too grueling climb, we reached the side trail where the vista was awesome from Big Schloss overlook. Back on the main trail, we reached the Sand Spring area, which was the first water we spotted that day. The water was flowing well, but had an odd chalky taste despite being filtered. We then reached the Tuscarora trail intersection, where there was no sign pointing out the TT, but it was obvious to go straight since the blue blazes were easily spotted. There was a confusing intersection where a steep jeep trail comes down from the left. Do not go that way. Just a little ways past that jeep trail (perhaps a half mile tops), we arrived at Day 1 camping at the intersection of Half Moon and TT. Good campsite, and as noted below in another critique, plentiful water flowing just before the bridge you cross before getting to the camp. Day 2, we went on down the Half Moon Trail and a couple of us hung up our packs on nails in the tree at the intersection and went off on the Half Moon overlook trail, which was an easy mile each way...there was some sort of small outlook structure up there built of stone, and the view was nice, although not as good as the Big Schloss view. Continuing on, generally downhill, we reached a really nice campsite with a creek..this was the intersection of the Bucktail Connector Trail. I think this would be a great alternative Day 1 campsite if you wanted to push on a little further than where we camped. We followed the directions given, and reached the end of the Bucktail Connector. The left onto the orange blazed Bucktail trail is more like a merge, and that trail is a very wide grassy fire road. Go down just a quarter mile or so, and reach a nice set of benches and take a break! Once we got across Trout Run Road, we began a big ascent up Long Mountain Trail. Much of this trail is an old fire road, and there are lots of grassy clearings, as described...the rock field is pretty daunting, yet lots of fun. Eventually you will reach a creek (I believe the one MR Hyker says is the last creek .64 miles before the Ben's Ridge site). There is a really nice site on the right just after that creek, back in the woods a ways, with a big fire ring. It would be a great Day 2 site if you are too weary to make it to his Day 2 site at Ben's Ridge. We went on to Ben's Ridge, which was pretty decent. A big clearing, but definitely slanted slightly, with a fire ring to the right. No sign of a spring anywhere, but a nicely flowing creek is just south of the clearing. Not obvious, but as you walk south, you will see the creek getting a little closer to the trail (it never crosses the trail). Day 3...from the Ben's Ridge site, it's a pretty steady and long climb, but eventually we came to a forest road and turned left...there is a nice campsite at this junction, but no water. Hike about 2 miles on this gravel road, and you will come to a very unceremonious trail head for the Tibbet's Knob trail on your left. A trash filled fire ring, and space for tent are there. The trail is pretty rocky and gets sketchy, but it is well blazed...eventually you reach the Knob, and it is one of the best views I can remember. You then descend, very steeply for a while, then the trail becomes more gradual. Just when you think you are about to reach Wolf Gap, you have to make one more pretty steep climb up a hillock, with great views as your reward. Then a short downhill hike afterwards puts you back at Wolf Gap. A great hike overall, and I think going in the Fall for color, or in the early winter or late winter before the trees leaf out would make it even better as you would have great views from the ridges.

 

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Name: Hard Core and Wooly Bully                                                                        Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation

Date(s): 10/19-21/13                                                                                            Rating: 5+

 

Critique: We opted to do this hike as a clockwise loop (vs. the CCW loop in Mike's trail notes), as the CW direction avoids a steep descent from Tibbet Knob. Everything else - daily mileages, camp locations - stayed the same. Saturday started out cool and cloudy, and stayed that way. Leaving Wolf Gap a little before 10am, we reached Tibbet Knob in about an hour. Very steep in places, but the fantastic view made up for the hard work. From this vantage point, we viewed the entire Trout Run Valley and our route for the next three days. The far end of the valley seemed a long way off! The next sections went by fast, with a 2.5-mile road walk and then finishing the day on the sometimes-rocky Long Mountain Trail. We reached the Ben's Ridge campsite at around 3pm, logging 8.2 miles for the day. We decided to camp in the trees to provide some shelter from the windy and cold conditions. Overall, this was a nice spot, with a large clearing and nearby water. Just a few drops of rain before dinner, a blustery and cool night, with a very bright full moon. Sunday found us back on the trail by 9am, continuing north on the Long Mt. Trail, and then reaching Trout Run Road. Somehow, we got off track just before the road crossing, but taking a right and then a hundred yards or so got us to the Bucktail Parking area. We really appreciated the comfortable benches and informative maps at the trailhead, a very worthwhile outcome of an Eagle Scout project and a perfect lunch spot at the midpoint of our 12.6-mile day. From this point, the trail climbed steadily for the rest of the day. The Half Moon Lookout afforded a neat perspective of the Trout Run Valley; viewing Tibbet Knob and then tracing our route along Ben's Ridge helps us see our progress for the past two days. An impressive distance! We reached the campsite at the intersection of the Half Moon Trail and the Tuscarora Trail at around 4pm. Another nice site, on a narrow ridge, in the trees, with a small but flowing stream about 100 yards down the trail, just across the equestrian boardwalk. The calm and cool conditions let us enjoy Sunday evening's campfire while watching the full moon rise in the eastern sky. Except for a pair of barred owls meeting near our tents and exchanging a weird string of partial calls (two or three notes vs. the normal eight), we had a very quiet night. Fortunately, the temperature was warmer than the predicted mid 30's. The ridge top location provided a nice sunny breakfast spot for Monday morning. Monday started out on the Tuscarora, and then south on the Mill Mountain Trail. We passed Sandstone Spring (flowing nicely), toured the expansive campsite, and then proceeded south. During the section before the Big Schloss Cutoff, we passed three stones, maybe a half mile apart (about the size and shape of a 2' tall gravestone). We could make out a few engraved numerals - maybe these stones serve as some type of marker? When approached from the north, Big Schloss really appears fortress-like. The USFS did a nice job on the new bridge, complete with concrete footings, laminated wood beams, and sturdy side rails. Another great view! From Big Schloss we continued south, still climbing with more views of the mountain ranges to the east, and then finally descending back to the Wolf Gap campground to complete the circuit. This hike deserves a 5+ rating, and the trail notes are spot-on.

 

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  Name: Singlemalt                                                                                                   Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
Date: 7/11/2012                                                                                                      Rating: 4

Critique: Back here again after about a year. I decided to take some leave from work and get out in the middle of the week when the heat broke a bit. I did the trip in reverse again because I wanted to camp at Tibbets Knob and I was arriving late in the day. What a great place to wake up and have breakfast with a spectacular view up the valley. I got an early start hiking because I intended to get to Half Moon to camp that night, about 16 miles.
I found water, but not much, at the three stream crossings on the Long Mountain Trail. What an interesting trail through a karst area. You are walking along the main drainage of the valley which is dry, and the feeder streams coming down from the East have water in them. There are sinkholes here and there to the sides of the trail, and places with water loving plants growing, but all the water is underground after reaching the valley floor. After reaching the road and taking a rest I headed up the trail toward Half Moon, and decided that because of the heat and since it was getting late in the day, to camp at the Pond Run/Tuscarora Trail junction rather than get water there and backtrack for two miles to Half Moon. The water was just flowing at the wooden bridge past the junction. After dinner and breakfast with a view back up the valley from where I had come, I set out for Wolf Gap and my truck. Sandstone Spring was just barely flowing as well, so if you do this hike in the immediate future you might have to look way downstream from the trail crossings to find water in the streams.

 

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Name: Singlemalt                                                                                                     Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
Date: 6/12-14                                                                                                           Rating: 4

Critique: I did this hike in reverse, and probably would again, just because I like going up very steep slopes with a pack much more than coming down, and because the weather was looking better the second two days and I wanted the ridge hiking on those days. The trail is in great shape the whole way, and there is still plenty of water in the area. I stayed at the campsite nearest Trout Pond the first night, very nice. Second night I stayed at Half Moon Lookout, carried up 8 lbs of water, and had both dinner and breakfast the following day on the ledge. Just spectacular. Lots of wildlife to see during the week, and had the trails to myself.


I have hiked and backpacked a lot in this area, but had never done the Long Mountain trail before, so it was nice to see what it was like and include that on some longer loops in the future. It would be easy, for example to make this a 40-50 mile loop by adding Pond Run, County Line Trail, Vance's Cove, Old Mail Trail, Three Ponds trail, Little Stony Run Trail, and the Big Schloss Cutoff trail. There are excellent campsites all over, and as long as you are willing to carry water to the high and dry ones like Half Moon and White Rocks Cliff, you can set up a great trip. Bring some moth balls to strew around if you are going to stay at the Gerhard shelter, there are mice there that will chew your clothes for the salt while you sleep.

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Name: Andrew Wilson                                                                                             Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
Date: 6/6/11 - 6/8/11                                                                                           Rating: 5

Critique: To my greatest delight, my 20 year-old daughter asked me to take her backpacking and so after looking for a nice three day trip, I settled on this one. This was to be her first backpacking experience, and would be my first in over 25 years. I was a pretty avid backpacker from my pre-teens through my early 30s, but since it had been so long, I needed to go to REI to rent a pack for this trip. (Note: if you have not backpacked or are looking to buy a pack, go to REI and have them fit you. The fitting costs nothing and the advice they provide is invaluable!)

We left Rockville, MD at 7:15 Monday morning and were at Wolf Gap and on the trail around 9:30 am. My daughter struggled somewhat going up the first mountain, while I had no problem whatsoever. I believe part of what made it easier for me were my walking poles. This was first time using a pair and I found them invaluable. After reaching the top, I insisted she use one of the poles, and for the duration of the trip she did a lot better. After climbing atop the rocks at Big Schloss, we ended up exiting straight down over the cliff face. Luckily, my daughter is a good rock climber and was able to get down where I could pass the packs along and then make my own way down. Back on the trail, our next stop was Sandstone Spring. This is an absolutely lovely spring and it near broke my heart to filter the water we replenished here [Note to self: bring up a chemistry kit and test for impurities on any future trip:-). I told my daughter that this is perhaps the biggest change to backpacking over the decades. One used to NEVER have to filter or purify water in the distant past] After leaving the spring we soon found ourselves at the intersection of the Tuscarora Trail and still early afternoon. NOTE: There is a wide forest road immediately to the left at this intersection that intersects the Tuscarora Trail further. We followed the directions herein, took in the Halfmoon Spur Trail and found ourselves at the Halfmoon Run/Bucktail Connector trail at 4:30 PM, where we decided to camp for the night.

We set off the next morning at about 8:15 am and found ourselves at the junction of the Trout Pond trail at about 2:30 PM. Having camped at Trout Pond several times in the past, I had thought we would stay there for the night and take advantage of their hot showers and perhaps a swim in the lake. We did both enjoy nice long hot showers and a refreshing afternoon break. In the end, we decided to have a fairly early dinner in the campground and then hike up to the top of the mountain (Trout Pond Trail) to camp, rather than face it in the morning. In case anyone decides to follow this same route in the future, BEWARE, the trail out of the campground is nearly straight up - steeper than any part of this hike with the exception of the initial descent from Tibbet Knob. By the time we reached the top, our showers, resting and cleaning up were for nought:-(. We camped in one of several nice meadows atop the mountain.

Day three we followed SH 59 until we reached the intersection of the North Mountain Trail, where I made a major blunder! Thinking that this was the yellow blazed trail we wanted, we headed off down the mountain. My younger and wiser daughter asked several times if I was sure we were on the right trail and I kept assuring her we were, but it wasn't until we rested half way down the mountain that she studied the topo map and pointed out that we were in fact on the wrong mountain. Now if you look at the topo map, you will see the mountain and the trail (marked 4wd - ha! its a path no 4wd could do) we were on. If fact, we were at the point of the dog-leg on that trail and were faced with a decision - retrace our steps back up and around to the next mountain (Devils Hole) ridge, or bushwhack straight down over the mountain and straight up the other side. You can guess which we (I) decided. Straight down we went until we hit the stream, which was good in that it gave us a chance to
replenish our water - something I had worried about for this days hike. Then it was straight up the other side. We were constantly pushing through Mountain Laurel in full bloom going down and up the other side, but were able to reach SH 691 in about an hours time, with relatively minor scratches to show for it. Once back on the correct trail, everything proceeded well and we rested often as the day was getting hot (we learned on the drive back home that temperature records were shattered in the DC area). We were back to Wolf Gap by 3:00 PM, and both feeling pretty good about having done what I figured was 30+ miles.

All in all, a great trip! We did not see any other backpackers (being mid-week) and encountered only two day-hikers atop Tibbet Knob (thanks for sharing your Cheese Nips!). This hike is rated strenuous. The elevation changes did not bother me so much, but the rockiness of the trails did. With a few exceptions, most of these trails are very rocky, and my feet did not necessarily enjoy them even if I did; so I will go with the strenuous rating based on its rockiness. And the best part? My daughter thoroughly enjoyed it and is ready and willing to do another trip and another trail.

 

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Name: Sparrow                                                                                                         Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Date: 3/16 - 3/18 2011                                                                                          Rating: 4.5

Critique: Overall I found this hike to be a straightforward excursion which merits the strenuous difficulty rating. Staring straight up hill from the trailhead gets you to the top of Big Schloss in no time for some breathtaking views in all directions. There is a new bridge connecting the trail to the summit.

Continuing down the trail I found that Sandstone spring was too inviting to pass up and I had trouble choosing between the many nice campsites just to the right of the trail. The next day's walk along the ridge took me past many more nice spots to spend the night but without water. Halfmoon lookout provided a spectacular view of the valley from the north and a great place to stop for lunch. Continuing on I found that the blazes on the rock field were faded and difficult to follow. I spent night two at the campsite near the intersection of the Trout Pond Trail.

Day three was mainly long gradual uphills until the flat of FR 691 then more uphill gradually getting steeper to the top of Tibbet Knob. The view at the top is unexpected and probably the best view of the entire hike but the trail down the other side is very steep, difficult and slow going, so be careful. The Wolf Gap campground has plenty of parking and picnic tables as well as primitive toilets and a water pump across from the parking lot.

In general the trails were empty of people and offered numerous good campsites all along the circuit allowing for lots of flexibility in the daily mileage of this hike. M.R.Hyker has definitely high-lited the best spots though. I also encountered lots of wind so be sure you have enough stakes for you shelter.

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Name: Kyle Henson                                                                                                   Hike: Trout Run Circumnavigation
Date: 3/5-3/6-2007                                                                                                 Rating: 4

Critique: We started this hike intending to do the full 27 mile loop but because of time restraints we had to cut it short.
We hiked as described here but did a few things differently. We hiked the first day into Halfmoon Run making the first day 9 miles. We felt the camping was much better there and we did not have to walk 1 mile to water (the case if you stay at Pond Run night 1). We decided to turn around and backtrack from there on day 2 and check out some side trails (Halfmoon and the locked cabin area). We arrived night 2 at a very nice camp spot off the trail at Sandstone Spring and set up camp and collected enough firewood to burn for 3 days. Temps were dipping into the mid 20's that night and the night before. As we were collecting wood we noticed a fresh, yes, fresh, pile of bear dung. Then we found another...and another...and another...and another...and another...about a dozen of them and all within 25-50 yards of our campsite--literally forming a circle around our site. Then about 100 yards into the woods we discovered what we believe is a Bear Den. It was comical. So comical we decided to pack up and do some night hiking--something I have wanted to do anyway. Had great views of some city lights on top of the ridge. 4.5 miles later we were at our car and drove back to Delaware. The next person to camp there will be greeted with great firewood.
All in all a great trail. Great views. I would call it easy-moderate in difficulty unless doing all 27 miles then moderate. Had great daytime weather in the 50s but night temps were very cold.

Maps and description were perfect. Thanks!

Oh, one other thing. As we were descending Big Schloss about 1 mile from the car at 930pm we were greeted by 7 teenagers hauling 2-3 sleeping bags, a cooler, and a few 12 packs up the mountain to sleep at the top of the ridge. As far as we could tell they did not have any gear for sleeping in 20 deg temps. Add alcohol to their systems and I guarantee someone was crying all the way down that mountain at 2am...ha-ha, we had a good laugh at that.

 

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Name: Danny Doyle                                                                                                   Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Date: June 21-23, 2007                                                                                             Rating: 4.5

Critique: This hike gives you several excellent vistas, three of which are outstanding - Big Schloss, Halfmoon Lookout and Tibbet Knob.  Big Schloss alone made the trip worthwhile for me.  You get to stand on the very edge of the peak of the mountain, and the claimed 270 degree view over the valley below is no exaggeration.  The wind blows a gale in your face, and hawks soar beneath as well as above you.

The surprising thing is that the trails are practically deserted.  I saw only two dayhikers on the first day, no one at all on the second, and two groups of two dayhikers on the third.  There were no signs of other backpackers on the trails, only one other car in the parking lot when I started on Thursday, and just five when I left on Saturday.  Mount Rogers or Dolly Sods this ain't.

I did the trip as described, with the exception that I camped at Sandstone Spring the first day, and on Cherry Ridge off the Long Mountain Trail on the second.  This made for a long third day hike, and the last segment up and down Tibbets Knob Trail approached the cruel and unusual. Still, the view from the top of the knob made it a worthwhile investment of sweat equity.

The map and directions were terrific.  We owe M.R.Hyker a lot for putting this info all in one place.

 

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Name: Cham Green                                                                                                   Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Date: 3/10-11                                                                                                            Rating: 5

Critique: This hike was performed in the opposite direction. Instead of using Long Mountain Trail we bushwhacked directly on the Long Mountain Ridge for awhile, camping on the ridge, and then down to the road when it became too cumbersome ultimately picking up the Halfmoon Trail.  The southernmost stretch of the ridge is fine for a bushwhack until you get to the midpoint where there was not only a fire at but also a something happened to take out the tree canopy, maybe and ice storm or gypsy moths).  The undergrowth is incredibly thick and almost impassable in March and you will get dirty from the char.  This would be undoable in the summer months.  You can get some decent mileage and really great elevation changes with this route.  Spectacular views are along almost the whole way.  For pictures and more information please check out the entry for Monday, March 12th, 2007 at
http://www.chamspage.blogspot.com.

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Name: Jeff Hosken                                                                                                    Hike: Trout Run Valley circumnavigation
Date: 2/18/2006                                                                                                       Ranking: 3.5

Critique: This was a nice hike, even though I only got to do half of it. I departed the Northern VA area solo about 7:30 Sat Morning. The drive over is quite straightforward, as is finding the campground. (I forgot to bring the directions, but easily made it on memory and an atlas.) I started hiking about 9:45. It was fairly cold (estimate below freezing) with a 10-15 mph wind. The trail is as described, and the initial climb is a good warmup. Once on top, the trail rolls along. Due to the wind and low clouds, I did not take the time to go to the top of Big Schloss. Standstone spring was running strongly, and I had lunch at the dry campsite beyond Sandstone. I then proceeded onward, following the described trails, which were easily followed. (The colored trails on the map were a great help.) I did note that the Tuscarora trail was initially marked with green blazes, although the blue ones showed up quickly, and then seemed to alternate, with the blue being more frequent and perhaps newer.
(M.R.Hyker Note: The green blazes on Great North Mountain outline a Special Deer Study Area. Still trying to figure out what the deer are studying!)
I reached the camp just beyond the valley road (691?)
(M.R.Hyker Note: That's called Trout Run Road at that point. When it crosses into VA it is called Wolf Gap Rd.) about 3:30-4:00, and decided to camp for the night. My knee was letting me know that it did not like the descent from the hills, and I thought it best to not try to press on to the next dry camp. The campsite was nice--there was a good bed of leaves to pad the ground, and the river provided a great background sound--but it was a cold night. My REI thermometer read 4 degrees F the next morning. While obviously not a scientific instrument, it has been fairly close in the past, and it seemed about that cold.


Spending the night there was a good decision, as my knee was unexpectedly quite sore the next day. Based on my knee and the ice covered rocks for the stream crossing, I decided to bail on the second half of the route, and hiked back up the road to the campground. As I walked up the road, it looked like I could have easily used the road bridge to cross the stream and then walk back downstream to pick up the trail, if I had wanted. I did not notice any signs posted in that area against trespassing, but there were certainly lots of them further up the road!


Overall, this was a great adventure and a good learning experience. I had a new GoLite Jam Pack and tried to go ultralight for the hike. I think I pretty much hit (maybe passed) the bottom end of my comfort range for ultralight hiking, temp-wise. I was never dangerously cold, but I would definitely have packed differently had I known exactly how cold it would get. My alcohol stove worked fine, though I took care to keep the alcohol warm-ish, in my coat pocket. I also brought extra fuel, so that I did not have to keep to a strict fuel plan.


Other comments--I only met two other folks on the hike, a couple heading towards (they said) a PATC hut below Mill Mountain. (
(M.R.Hyker Note: That would be Sugar Knob Cabin (small, one room affair but it has a stove!) at the top of Little Stony Run Tr, close to the Tuscarora Tr. See Big Schloss for its exact location.) This is my second hike from MRHyker's website, and they have both been very well described and laid out. My only suggestion might be to make the maps available in UTM coords, as well as lat/long, but that may be too much work. Thanks for the work you have already put in! (M.R.Hyker Note: Thanks for the props! You're right, adding that extra data would be a lot more work.)

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