Peaks & Highpoints of Virginia
Big House Mountain • Rockbridge County
• George Washington National Forest

Big House Mountain

Distance view.
Note the horsey

Walking up the
leafy path

The top from the saddle

The sign

A shelter

Me closer to the top

Cliffs line the road

This may be the actual
highest point

Date: May 17, 2008 • Elevation: 3,645 feet • Prominence: 1,945 feet • Distance: 5.8 miles • Time: 5 hours • Gain: 1,800 feet • Conditions: Stupendous


Big House Mountain is the big peak west of Lexington, Virginia. βð and I were staying near Lexington for a few days (actually staying in nearby Buena Vista). We allotted a whole day for the hike up Big House Mountain. The weather seemed to vary from nice to rainy to nice, every other day. Today was looking to be a clear day, perhaps the best day on our trip.

The mountain is just a few miles outside Lexington along US-60 and a pair of local county roads (Jacktown Road to Saddle Ridge Road). We parked at the small trailhead parking area on Saddle Ridge Road and started our hike around 1:30 in the afternoon in beautiful weather. The skies were blue and the temperatures were in the low 70s with a gentle breeze.

The first half-mile follows the rest of Saddle Ridge Road to its end, passing by a few homes. At the end of the maintained portion of the road, an older forest road continues to the west and shortly comes to a gate and kiosk. This is evidently the "trailhead", even though we had already walked nearly a mile to get here.

An informative sheet in the kiosk described the recent past regarding the House Mountains and how it came to be open to the public and not razed for development. Past the gate, the road gains moderately, heading west across the south flanks of lower Little House Mountain. The road itself is hardly an eyesore (as roads sometimes are). It was covered in a mat of leaves, with maple down low, sycamores higher. The forest was moderately thick but on occasion we had nice views in breaks in the trees. The House Mountains were once homesteaded and there were old rock walls and possible foundations on the hillsides above the road. These were probably old homes from the 1700s-1800s.

Eventually, the road starts to bend around Little House and approach the saddle between the two peaks. We reached the saddle at 3 p.m., having covered two miles and gained a thousand feet. The road was pitched so gently that we hardly noticed the gain at all. At the saddle, there is a broad meadow with Little House Mountain visible east, and Big House Mountain to the west. There is another informative sign in the field (photo at left), and we took a break here with a group of four local college kids who were hiking the peak. The saddle used to be homesteaded too, and there was once an orchard up here. The meadow was covered in tufty grasses and stands of trees, with beautiful views of the two peaks as well as the mountains to the north. An Appalachian Trail-style shelter is also located on the west end of the meadow. After a half hour, we started the last segment to the top. According to the signs, we had three-quarters of a mile and 800 feet of gain to go.

We followed the steepening road slowly, but it was well maintained and easy to follow. The route goes on like this for the first 600 vertical feet, then levels for about 150 feet, then gets very steep and rocky for the remaining 200 feet to the summit area. The last portion was short but steep, and the road ends a few hundred feet ahead near a dilapidated shelter. The views were partially limited by trees but what views we had were amazing, and we could see bits and pieces of Lexington off in the distance, as well as the innumerable hills and ranges throughout the region.

I ventured south along the ridge a few hundred feet to seek the benchmark. The summit has two contours of 3,640 feet. The shelter were at one, the benchmark within the other. However, the southern area was overgrown and rocky, not to mention brushy and steep. I scrambled up rock piles, avoided brush and did my best to walk the immediate area "to be sure". I never did find the benchmark, but then again, I was pushing my luck traipsing around in thick brushy snakey poison-ivy terrain, so I called it good after five minute. It was after 4 p.m. when we started down. We walked slow and enjoyed the scenery as we slowly egressed back to our car. The walk out took about an hour. After changing into dry clothes, we rewarded ourselves with Calzones from Frank's in Lexington. We were both tired but pleased the hike had gone well and that the weather had been so nice.

(c) 2004, 2021 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.