Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
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.
Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
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.
Name: Andrew Wilson
Hike: Circumnavigation of Trout Run Valley
Date: 6/6/11 - 6/8/11
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.
Hike: Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Date: 3/16 - 3/18 2011
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.
Name: Kyle Henson
Hike: Trout Run Circumnavigation
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.
Name: Danny Doyle
Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
Date: June 21-23, 2007
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.
Name: Cham Green
Trout Run Valley Circumnavigation
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
Name: Jeff Hosken
Trout Run Valley circumnavigation
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
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