Finally, I had a hike with more misadventures than I could count! Even before we left the city, I angered my Apple Maps GPS when we made a slight wrong turn. It was so exasperated that it sternly yelled for us to “proceed to the route!”
The real misadventures came as I discovered the impact of the crazy winds (up to 70mph at times) that battered the D.C. area on Friday. When I planned this hiking trip a few weeks ago, I wasn’t aware of the winds that were brewing and I definitely didn’t account for the damage it caused before we headed out on Sunday. Shenandoah National Park has managed to thwart many a plans I’ve made before by closing Skyline Drive, so out of habit I called in the morning and discovered Skyline Drive was indeed closed again. This was my second foiled attempt to hike Mary’s Rock in a two week span! When I finally get to hike Mary’s Rock, I’ll either be grateful or disappointed. My back up in these situations is always to head to the George Washington National Forest. I hiked Big Schloss a couple of weeks ago when Skyline Drive was closed for snow. I thought it’d be fitting to hike Little Schloss this time. A mile before the trail head, we saw forest road 92 was blocked. I imagine there was debris on the road and there wasn’t a safe place to leave car and walk to the trailhead, so we headed to Tibbet Knob, the sister hike to Big Schloss.
At 3.2 miles, Tibbet Knob is a short, quick and relatively easy out and back hike filled spectacular views. The parking for this trail is at Wolf Gap Campground. To get to the trailhead make a left out of the parking lot and cross the street. The yellow-blazed trail starts next to the George Washington National Forest sign.
Unlike Big Schloss, the Tibbet Knob trail slightly dips up and down but there’s never a steady uphill. There are plenty of large rocks on the trail, so you do need to pay attention to your footing. Within a half mile of the hike, you’ll come to a clear view of Big Schloss and Mill Mountain and there are nice rock outcroppings to sit and enjoy the view as well. The last quarter mile to the top gets a little challenging. The trail gets a little steeper, followed by two tiny rock scrambles. The first scramble looks like a 90-degree climb among exposed roots and small boulders but once you make your way up, you’ll find that it is not challenging and just requires a little bit of attention to foot placement. A few hundred feet later, you’ll come to the second rock scramble which is a little steeper but probably easier because there are many boulders to comfortably step on and grab. Less than 200 yards from the scramble is the top of Tibbet Knob, which offers one of the best views in this region. It’s a wider and nicer panorama than Big Schloss. While it was a gorgeous day to hike with pristine blue skies, there were still some residual winds which got stronger at the top and the temperature probably hovered in the upper 30’s/lower 40’s, so we didn’t spend a lot of time enjoying the view. In fact, I was dressed in several layered and only worked up a tiny sweat and never felt warm enough to remove any of my layers including my down jacket throughout the entire hike. We took our obligatory selfies at the top and made our way down to eat lunch at a flat spot just below the first rock scramble.
This hike can be made into a longer 5.2 mile out and back by continuing to the end of the Tibbet Knob Trail at state road 691 (2.6 miles). Unless you have two cars parked at either trail head, it will be hard to get yourself to the parking area from the end, so you’d have to retrace your steps back.
One of the most overlooked parts of this trail are the many spectacular camping spots. There’s a great area right before you begin the scrambles and one just 20 yards from the Tibbet Knob overlook, including a nice fire pit! If you’re looking to combine a semi-solitary short hike and an overnight camping excursion, this would be an ideal one.