To start out the spring hiking season we were looking for an alternative to our normal GWNF hikes, since Crissman Hollow Road over there is closed until April. We chose the Camp Hoover Hike from Hiking Upward (URL below*), which the site describes as 7.6 miles with 1,320 feet of elevation gain. The Heatwole guide lists the trail version we took as 7.4 miles with 1,520 feet of elevation gain, so take your pick unless you’re measuring it yourself – in either case, I consider this a moderate outing…and a pleasant one.
Heatwole** also lists a shorter, slightly steeper hike of 4.1 miles and 870 feet of elevation gain; this one is in the Easy Day Hikes book and Mary and I had taken it before. Both of these hikes begin at the Milam Gap Parking area, mile 52.8 on Skyline Drive, just a few miles south of Big Meadows. If your group is short on time, or if there are children in the group, this second route offers a pleasant hiking adventure.
Soon after the summit, you’ll reach a concrete post where the blue blazed Laurel Prong trail intersects the AT. For the next two miles or so, you’ll gradually descend along the east side of Hazeltop before an intersection with a yellow blazed fire road and horse trail that leads to Camp Hoover. There are stands of rhododendron here if you are lucky enough to catch them in bloom, and the area includes several minor stream crossings and second growth woods from past clearings – either settlements, or areas that supported the presidential retreat.
After leaving the White House, Hoover donated the camp to the effort to form the Park. It has been used as a scout camp, and there are some photos of that era around, but I think those activities ended in the 1960’s. Today it is still used for some official functions, but mainly it is a reminder of the 1930’s era and the history of Hoover’s presidency.
I remembered my Pathfinder watch this time, and kept a simple record of the hike, as follows:
- Trail head: 865 meters/2,682 feet
- Hazeltop Summit: 1,050 meters/3,255 feet
- Camp Hoover: 655 meters/2,031 feet
** Guide to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, 4th edition, by Henry Heatwole – now also available as a web resource