When a group of friends were looking for some camping time near D.C., I remembered some prime spots along Little Stoney Creek during our hike of the Big Schloss, Mill Mountain, and Little Stoney Creek loop. While the discussion begin as car camping, they didn’t mind the mile walk along Stoney Creek to reach the best campsite
along the creek.
Don’t worry, our food choices were still inline with car camping.
We ended up base camping for two night giving us a free day to do a hike in the area, which ended up being Little Schloss. What was a surprise with the amount of wildflowers along the trail from a recent burn.
- name: Little Schloss
- type: in & out
- distance: 3.5 mi
- elevation change: 1194 ft
- time: 3:03 hours (1:44 moving)
- location: Lee Ranger District, George Washington National Forest near Woodstock, VA (google map directions)
While we did this hike as an in & out to stay inline with our lazy mornings, there is a 13.2 mile long loop options (Hiking Upwards). A popular backpacking loop that includes Little Schloss and Big Schloss is a 18.2 mile (alltrails).
The trailhead to reach Little Schloss is just across Forest Road 92 from the parking area on the Little Sluice Mountain Trail. It is blazed with a purple i.
For the first 1.1 miles, the Little Schloss trail steadily gained elevation at a 12.6% grade on average through an area of burned forest. The burn allowed for plenty of wildflowers to populate this stretch of trail. Bradley, our resident wildlife ecologist, was able to give us a nice identification and explanations for what we saw on this hike. As seen here, the trail took us through bushes of white snakeroot (virginiawildflowers.org).
We also found a milkweed tussock moth (wikipedia) chopping away on a leaf.
Next were some pokeweed (US Forest Services), which can provide a nice dye.
Then we saw some smooth yellow false foxglove (virginiawildflowers.org)
and some hairy goldenrod (wildflower.org), which are part of the aster family.
Bradley then had us chew on some sassafras (wikipedia) stems for a nice citrus taste.
We were through most of the burn after the initial uphills. The trail declined for 0.1 miles at -14.1% grade before heading up again for 0.2 miles at a steeper 19.0% grade. A few steps of flat ground was all we got before our final push toward Little Schloss summit, which consisted of some switchbacks over 0.2 miles at 25.2% grade. There was an unsigned split in the trail with the left option continuing up toward Little Schloss while the right option headed further north along the ridge.
The step incline was broken up with a few more flower identifications, including prairie rosinweed past their prime (wildflower.org),
smooth blue aster (wildflower.org),
To reach the top of Little Schloss, we had a small scramble. It wasn’t too bad and Audrey’s dog had no problems climbing up.
At the top, we were reward with a 180 degree view. From left we could see Big Schloss on the ridge of Mill Mountain, Little Sluice Mountain, Capola Mountain,
the city of Woodstock and the I-81 corridor, and Massanutten Mountain ridge.
After happy hour here at the Little Schloss, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead.
The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.
- view: 2. The main view of the hike is on Little Schloss, which does provide a decent view of the ridges that define the Appalachian Mountains through Virginia. However it’s not the best viewpoint in these mountains. The scramble up does make it a bit more interesting. The recent burn along the trail actually made the hike up more than just a tunnel of green with plenty of wildflowers. Having our resident ecologist was an added bonus for the hike, so I recommend getting your own.
- difficulty: 1. There isn’t too much elevation gain and felt like a steady uphill until the end.
- technical: 2. There is only one way to go for the most of it with an unsigned junction near the end, take the left option to head to the summit. At Little Schloss, there is a small scrambling section to reach the top. It’s by no means anything extreme and can be climbed if a few minutes. Since it is more than just a hike, the technical rating here is 2.