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House Mountain

Approaching it from the east on I-64, House Mountain outside of Lexington, Virginia, stands alone, rising abruptly from lowland valleys. As travelers continue westward, the mountain takes on a different look, with two distinct summits, each towering above the U-shaped saddle that separates them. A campaign in the late 1980s by volunteer members of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council and the Virginia Outdoor Foundation proved successful and the upper portion of House Mountain is now preserved for all to enjoy.

With the first part of the hike gradually ascending along a woods road, this is the perfect locale to bring the kids. A shelter and spring, located in the saddle, add to the comfort of spending a night on the mountain. With superb views, multitudes of wildflowers, and an array of wildlife, House Mountain can be a rewarding outing.

An open farm meadow near the beginning furnishes a hint of the views to come, while the gated road at 1.0 mile leads onto private property; stay left and walk by raspberry and blackberry bushes that may tempt you to tarry if you do the hike at this time of year. Take a break when you reach the saddle at 2.2 miles and wander around the meadow where daisies and asters grow tall, snakes and turtles creep through lush grasses, and foxes, deer and even bears have been seen here. Although it surely must have been a struggle to live here in times past, you can’t help but envy the beauty those folks were privileged to experience every day.

Return to the roadway intersection and turn right, making another right onto the shelter’s side trail at 2.3 miles. If this is going to be your home for the night, you can leave the bulk of your equipment here and just take a jacket and some drinking water when you return to the main route to continue the climb.

The ascent steepens, but the views continue to get better. More than a thousand feet below is a mosaic of rectangular farm fields stretching across the Shenandoah Valley. Like the scenic backdrop of a theatrical stage production, the main crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains sweep upward to the eastern horizon.

An old communications tower building announces that you have reached the summit of Big House Mountain (3,645 feet) at 3.2 miles. Although there is no view from this particular point, consider wandering around a bit, possibly finding a view or two from rock outcroppings hidden by overgrown vegetation.

50 Hikes in Southern Virginia provides details of the hike.

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