The Priest is just one mountain in this area that makes up the well named Cardinal Range; with Spy Rock, The Little Priest, The Friar, The Little Friar, and The Cardinal. Although a shorter out/back hike this can be combined with the Crabtree Falls hike to make a longer 9.2 mile hike from the lower Crabtree Falls parking area.
From the upper Crabtree Falls parking area on Crabtree Meadows Road SR826 hike up the now steeper rutted portion of SR826 for 0.5 miles to the ridge, where the Appalachian Trail crosses SR826.
Turn left on the white blazed Appalachian Trail for the 0.9 mile climb to The Priest shelter intersection, gaining 630ft. The Spur Trail down to the shelter is about 0.1 miles where there are plenty of campsites. There is a natural spring about 10 yards behind the shelter.
In the event the area near the shelter is crowded, there is a great flat spot with a fire pit on the right as you are coming down the spur trail just before a slight drop off towards the shelter. Take a right and walk in about 40 yards from the trail.
From the shelter spur trail continue following the A.T. for 0.3 miles north to The Priest Overlook spur trail on your left. Look for a rock cairn to lead you to the overlook.
To return, retrace the route back to the parking area on Crabtree Meadows Road SR826.
If you are looking to make this hike a backpack you can also combine The Priest, Spy Rock and Crabtree Falls as a shuttle hike.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left Mouse-over the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the The Priest hike:
Reviews For The The Priest Hike (5 Most Recent)
What a great hike. I started on Priest and hiked to the base of CrabTree Falls i think it is 9.5 miles total. The weather was wonderful. The trails were well marked and easy to follow. There were lots of steams for water. The views at the top were great. I met some nice people on the trail. I plan on doing this hike again this summer.
Date of Hike: Friday, March 29, 2013
We hiked the combination Priest and Crabtree, clockwise, starting at the AT/Rte 56 crossing parking ("swinging bridge"). Shuttle involved dropping a car at the bottom Crabtree Falls parking (on Rte 56, $3 fee to the Forest Service) a mere 5 miles further up the valley. I've heard that the proprietors at the Crabtree Falls campground may help with shuttle if you are staying there and only have one vehicle, but we had two. The view into Nelson/Amherst from the overlook prior to the Priest was superb. The hike at high elevation was very slushy but not unduly strenuous from peak on down. Finishing with the falls at sunset was a real treat.
Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 09, 2012
A hike I've heard about for years, and finally decided to try it with a friend today. Lovely hike, on a nearly perfect Fall day. Definitely recommended.
One caution about the road: Meadows Rd was mostly passable by my 2006 Honda Civic, except for one slightly washed out stream crossing over the road about 1.2 miles from Rt 56. The road is very well maintained, and it looks like this spot had recently been filled in with some new large (2-4 inch diameter) gravel, but it was still too sketchy looking for me to risk it (and normally I treat my little cars like they are 4-Runners). So, we ended up parking the car and walking about 3.1 miles up Meadows Rd to the Upper Crabtree Falls parking lot recommended here before continuing on to The Priest. Even with this added distance (about 6 miles) we did the entire hike in about 4 hours.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 29, 2012
Combined this with Crabtree Falls (starting at the bottom of the Falls) as an out and back. Lots of AT through-hikers this time of year. Rhododendron just coming into bloom at the lower elevations. The first little bit is nice, but nothing great. Up on the summit ridge, however, there are some spectacular views with a short bushwhack off the trail, if you know where to find 'em.
Date of Hike: Friday, December 16, 2011
16-18 Dec 11, 3 day backpacking trip from Lower falls parking to The Priest and return the same way. Temps were upper 30's during the day, dropped to 21 Saturday night on The Priest. The stairs were icy going up on Saturday buy dry on Sunday going down. Weather was clear with sunshine. The priest has a very nice camping area suitable for multiple tents, the shelter can take a pretty good sized group. The spring at the shelter was flowing strong. From the top of the falls to the upper parking lot were 3 very nice camping areas on the creek. The area around the upper parking lot is not well marked at all and I didn't see any signs making it clear the direction to the AT. The views from the Priest were pretty terrific and well worth the 15 minute walk from the campsite.