Great North Mountain is not so much a mountain as a range. It is not untypical of mountains in the middle Appalachains in that it stretches for dozens, if not hundreds, of miles and has no well-defined summit. However, Great North Mountain runs along the border between Virginia and West Virginia and its ridgeline defines the boundary in many places.
Overall, Great North Mountain is a solitary ridgeline with beautiful deciduous forests and rugged rockiness. The Tuscarora/Big Blue Trail
runs along a portion of its length on its way from Shenandoah NP to Duncannon, PA. The spectacular Big Schloss
is perched on the ridgecrest near its southern end and sees the lion's share of the hiking traffic. A series of campsites and at least one shelter invite longdistance backpackers as an alternative to the crowded and overly-domesticated Shenandoah National Park on the other side of the Great Valley.
A system of trails runs the length of Great North Mountain providing nice alternatives for day or weekend hikes. There are at least three main access points along the way:
US55 crosses near the northern end runnning from 4 miles from Wardensville, WV, and 10 miles from Strasburg, VA. This route intersects I81 at exit 296. There is no official trailhead parking, but a dirt road on the north side of the road has some pulloffs which I have used in the past.
White's Run Road from Wardensville, WV, can be used to access a central part of Great North Mountain. Drive south out of Wardensville on route 5/1. The road turns to dirt and there is a parking area on the left as well as parking along the road.
The Wolf Gap Recreation Area is probably the most official trailhead for Great North Mountain and services several popular hikes in the southern portion of the mountain including the spectacular Big Schloss hike. Wolf Gap is accessible from Wardensville by driving south on Rt23/10. From Virginia, exit I81 at Woodstock (exit 283) and follow Rt42 west to Columbia Furnace. Take a right on Wolf Gap Road (Rt 675) as it winds up the slopes of the mountain. There is ample parking at Wolf Gap as well as restrooms and various signage.
The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club publishes a very good map of Great North Mountain and the portion of the Tuscarora Trail which passes over it.
No permits required. No wildlife closures, though hunting season is in effect in parts of the fall and winter.
When To Climb
Any time of year is a great one to visit Great North Mountain. Hunting seasons for various combinations of targets and weapons may impact your visit, however. The fall foliage, on the other hand, is spectacular and not to be missed.
There is one AT-style trail shelter in on the ridge, the Paul Gerhard Memorial Shelter. It is about four miles south of the US55 road crossing. Camping spots abound; two particularly nice one can be found near the summit of Mill Mountain in the central part of the ridge. Beyond that, I'll leave it to your ingenuity to find the multitude of lovely backcountry sites. Please practice no-impact camping whenever possible!