Located on the border of Virginia and West Virginia, Big Schloss is a hike that isn’t talked about nearly enough. It is a truly brilliant hike that people of all skill levels should complete. The rocky outcrop located at the peak of Big Schloss was named after German settlers. The word “Schloss” means castle in German. The height is 300 feet higher than its counterpart, Little Schloss. Both of these peaks are located on a popular loop together, so that’s where the entire name of Big Schloss is derived from.
Throughout this guide, I will show you the beauty that this area has to offer, as well as some tips & tricks. This trail can get quite crowded during the weekend, so if possible you should attempt Big Schloss during the week. If you’re looking for something less crowded but with just as unique views, Tibbet Knob is a great alternative. Tibbet Knob is the sister hike to Big Schloss, located on the other side of the street.
Big Schloss Hike Details
- Distance: 4.3 miles; out & back
- Time: 2.5-4 hours
- Elevation: 1,046 ft gained
- Difficulty: This hike is graded as a moderate-level hike mainly due in large part to the steep incline during the first mile of the hike. You will come across around five steep inclines and four switchbacks on your way to the peak.
- TrailBlazer: For the majority (1.9 miles) of the hike you will be following an orange trailblazer. Once you turn onto the Big Schloss Spur trail the blazer turns white.
Where is Big Schloss Located?
Big Schloss Trail is on the border of Virginia and West Virginia. This unique hike offers views from both sides of the state. It sits in the George Washington National Forest.
The hike is located by the wolf gap campground. On the main side is more for small vehicles and tents. The side of the Tibbet Knob trail (across the street) is a better place for campers/larger setups. This area is perfect for families to have a weekend getaway. If you want more information about this campground you can visit their website here.
How to Get to Big Schloss Trailhead
The Wolf Gap trailhead is where Big Schloss begins. If you are wanting to put this hike into your GPS, do not search Big Schloss. This will try to take you as close to the peak as possible. I have done this by accident before and ended up driving through someone’s property. Instead, put Wolf Gap Recreation Area in your GPS and the trailhead is right next to the parking lot. If you would like more information about the campground and surrounding area, you can visit this page.
My Suggested Hiking Gear
Below is a list of some of my favorite hiking/travel gear I bring everywhere. Everything below is something I currently use and never leave my house without.
- KEEN Durand II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots: I finally upgraded my hiking boots in 2022 and these are fantastic. They have top-notch ankle support and are super durable.
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp: A headlamp for hiking is a must if you’re like me and love sunrise hikes. This is a great price for a quality headlamp and also has a good red light to not disturb others in the morning.
- Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks: I originally got these as a present but I had to buy more because these are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever tried on.
- Grayl GeoPress Water Filter Bottle: You will never have to rebuy plastic water bottles. This is the best water filtering device on the market. It is excellent for hikers and travelers alike.
My Experience Hiking Big Schloss
This trail is truly amazing and despite the straight incline you are required to do in the first mile, it is a hike the whole family can do. It’s pretty unique to be able to hike to a peak of a mountain and see two states from one location. That is something I will never get over about this hike and one of the reasons I have done this multiple times. Be sure to get here early in the morning if you’re coming on the weekends, especially during covid, because it can get crowded. The photos in this blog are from the last time I went. There were at least 5x the number of people that day than I have seen combined my previous three times.
After parking in the Wolf Gap Recreation Area, you want to walk around to the North East side (or clockwise) to find the Mills Mountain Trail Head. This is the trail that you will be following for 1.9 miles. The trail that I did was a simple out & back. The weather was a perfect 55 degrees in November on this hike. I guess that’s another reason why it was so crowded this day. Some might say that is chilly but with these steep inclines, you will get hot fast.
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Along the Mill Mountain Trail, you steadily climb through the forest full of maple and oak trees. There was not a cloud in the sky on this day. This resulted in the top layer of clothes having to come off rather quickly. A quarter of a mile into the hike the trail steepens for a longer stretch. This is when you truly feel you might be more out of shape than you thought.
Once you make your way through the first few bends and steep hills, it starts to level out some. You will then start to get great views from either side of you. To the right will be Virginia and to the left is West Virginia. This area would be a great time to stop and rest. The best views are of Virginia. Sit here and enjoy a snack while taking in the beautiful scenery.
After taking some photos and eating a few snacks, we moved further along the ridgeline of Mill Mountain. The trail starts to open up and you get the feeling you are on a massive mountain. There are still some great views to the east. Many of the mountains you see in this region have sandstone protruding through the peaks. These mountains are extremely old and this type of stone resists erosion. I love it because it always gives you a great place to lie down. Some have what looks to be man-made seat but instead has formed there over thousands of years.
After about 0.2 miles along this more open terrain, you begin a gradual incline once again. Rest assured, this is nothing like the first mile of the trail. Keep following the orange blazers until you see a sign pointing to the Big Schloss Peak. The last leg of the hike is 0.25 miles. Along this trail, you will follow white blazers until you reach the man-made bridge. There are some good trees here right before the bridge that you can place a hammock on if you brought one. I have before and accidentally spent an extra three hours at the top. No complaints though.
Overall this hike is fairly simple and easy to follow. If you can get past the first mile of an incline then you will be golden. Chill up here at the top, eat lunch and admire the views. You can wander all around the stone area and find a nice spot to soak up the sun. Getting to the peak should take around 1-2 hours depending on the number of stops. Try and come here during the peak autumn foliage weeks and you will be blown away. It will be more crowded but totally worth it. I have taken many people on this hike and would highly recommend it to anyone else.
Thank you for reading my guide. I hope it inspires you to go out there and hike it yourself. Now get out there and start your own adventure!