Park at Wolf Gap Recreation Area (38.92455,-78.68890)
Main attraction: 4 mile easy hike, great 360-degree overlook
Last weekend we went to Big Schloss peak to see the "super-moon" rise. It was incredible!
Big Schloss or ‘big castle’ (named by German immigrants) provides one of the best views in the Appalachian Mountains. The tall cliffs make a 360-degree overlook with wonderful views of the Ridge-and-valley Appalachians.
The short and easy 2-mile hike to the rocky summit and the impressive views from its cliffs are some reasons for its popularity. Make sure to pack lunch because you will want to stay and enjoy the sunset from the top.
We planned our trip as a 1-day hike due to the low temperatures, but it’s possible to camp at the trailhead in any of the 9 well maintained campsites with bathroom facilities. There is also a mountain campsite at the top close to the overlook (no water).
It took us 1 hour to hike from the parking area to the Big Schloss overlook. The first 0.5 miles are very steep, but then it’s an easy walk in the ridge with cool views of Massanutten mountain and Shenandoah mountains to the east. The trail gets very rocky at the beginning and at the end, both being very steep.
Summit & Views
After crossing the wood bridge you will reach Big Schloss. Once at the top there are many spots with nice views in any direction and also places to rest protected from the wind. This is one of the best overlooks in this region with great panoramic views of Trout Run valley to the West, Halfmoon mountain to the North, Little Schloss, Massanutten and Shenandoah mountains to the East, and the cone shaped peak Tibbet Knob to the South. A great spot to catch the foliage colors.
Sunset & Super-moonrise
At 5pm the spectacle started. The sunset and the moon-rise took place both at the same time. It was wonderful to watch those purple hues around the white full moon and the warmer colors of the sunset on the opposite side. The “supermoon” (closest full Moon to Earth since 1948) was was bigger and brighter than usual.
We were with some friends and we didn't know which direction to look at, amazed by the 360 degree spectacle. I remember during the week I read an astronomer saying that it would be only 7% bigger and wouldn't be that noticeable. Yeah, maybe not in the city but in the mountains it did make a difference.
Before dark we hiked back through the woods lighted by the Moon and our headlamps. We wish we could see that spectacle and colors everyday.
What we did last weekend? Had fun in nature!
How to get there
Directions to Big Schloss, Virginia
1. Drive to the Wolf Gap Recreation Area, VA (GPS: 38.92455,-78.68890), 2 hours away from Washington DC. Park here.
2. Hike north the Mill Mountain trail (orange-blazed). The first half mile has several switch backs before arriving at the ridge line. Continue hiking along the ridge for 1.5 miles until arriving at the junction of the Big Schloss trail.
3. Turn right onto the Big Schloss trail (steep) and hike for another 0.3 miles to a wooden bridge that leads to the rocky overlook. Enjoy the views!
4. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot (2 miles).