Three Ridges is one of Virginia's most popular backpacking circuits. Situated in Central Virginia, just 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville, the hike has vista after vista along the Appalachian Trail, and many small waterfalls and pools on the Mau-Har Trail on Campbell Creek.
From the parking area at Reeds Gap, head south along the white blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) as it initially hugs the left side of a clearing. At the end of the clearing start climbing Meadow Mountain, and in 0.8 miles arrive at the top of the ridge and campsite/overlook.
Continue along the AT as it now heads downhill, and in 0.8 miles arrives at the Maupin Field Shelter, and intersection with the Mau-Har Trail that will be your return route. The shelter is not visible from this intersection, and is 100 yards downhill. Several small trails intertwine this large camping area.
At the intersection remain left, staying on the AT as it passes a small clearing. The AT will now climb and pass over Bee Mountain in 0.5 miles. Descend Bee Mountain, then climb the northern knoll of Three Ridges and arrive at the best vista of the hike.
Continue up the AT as the trail traverses the ridge before reaching the top of the second knoll in 0.8 miles, and view to the northeast. Look for an unblazed side trail on the left marking the overlook and campsite.
The AT now heads downhill from the hike highpoint, and in 0.1 miles stay right a the trail marker. Descend another 0.2 miles before making a switchback to the left. At the switchback there is another overlook. After making the switchback the AT will descend steeply for 0.8 miles, then pass around the left/north side of Chimney Rock. A faint unblazed trail ascends steeply for 25 yards, then passes around the left side of the summit to the Chimney Rock overlook.
Continue downhill on the AT for another 1.8 miles as the trail descends to the right/south of Three Ridges, then arrives at the main camping area and Harpers Creek Shelter.
Turn left downhill on the AT (opposite side of the creek from the shelter). In 0.1 miles the AT will turn right crossing Harpers Creek before heading uphill, and reaching the intersection of the blue blazed Mau-Har Trail in 0.7 miles at a small pass on the ridge.
Turn right on the blue blazed Mau-Har Trail, descend, switchback up the next ridge, then descend again and reach Campbell Creek and large camping area in 1.5 miles. There is a yellow blazed spur trail that leads downstream to a small pool and waterfall in 200 yards.
Continue upstream on the blue blazed Mau-Har Trail as it becomes steeper, crossing Campbell Creek, and making several switchbacks before arriving at Maupin Field Shelter in another 1.9 miles.
There are several trails at the shelter leading to different campsites. Continue straight past the shelter for 150 yards and reach the intersection of the AT you descended earlier.
Turn left on the AT, then in 20 yards stay right remaining on the white blazed AT. Continue uphill on the AT as it passes back over Meadow Mountain, before descending and arriving back at the parking area at Reeds Gap in 1.6 miles.
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Reviews For The Three Ridges Hike (5 Most Recent)
Three of us around 50 did this as an easy 3 night loop starting late in the day from the Tye River parking area rather than Reed’s Gap going counterclockwise beginning the day after Christmas. The creek running by the Harper’s Creek Shelter and falls above were impressive due to the high water level. It was unusually warm for Dec, but wet. The second day was the accent to the top of three ridges sometimes seemingly walking on the edge of a knife with steep drops on both sides, rigorous but with a high ‘wow’ factor due to the rock formations in the fog. Camped at the top with a great view of the Priest, the temperature dropped near freezing during the night with finger numbing rain. It rained all day 3. I would have preferred snow. I agree with the previous reviewer about the Mau-Har trail at times was difficult to follow often leaving you scrambling over rocks and blowdowns only to find the actual trail was a few yards above you. We spent a wet night near the falls on the Mau-Har. As far as solitude, I was amazed that in miserable wet winter days we encountered over 30 others on the trail. To me this indicates I would never go back except in ‘real’ winter and hoping for colder temperatures and less people. I suppose you can almost never hope for solitude on the AT.
PS: A couple weeks later I went solo to the Otter Creek Wilderness also known for crowds, but with temperatures well below freezing and a few inches of light snow falling the whole time, saw not one other soul the whole trip.
Date of Hike: Sunday, December 20, 2015
I did Three Ridges as the first leg of a one day ruck of the Three Ridges & Priest circuit. I began on Rt.56 along the Tye River and hiked the Three Ridges loop counter clockwise as this apparently provides a bit more elevation. Overall, the hike provided ok views. The ascents were pretty challenging. The creek and waterfalls I'd have to say were the best part of the hike. I hate to say it, but the views at Roan Highlands set the bar so high that no hike I've done since has come close to providing what I consider spectacular views, nor the difficulty/challenge/variety that Grandfather Mountain provided. This hike has minimal rehike value to me. I may hit it again to really push myself and see how much I can improve my time. It took right at 6 hours to complete this leg. The section of the Mau-Har along the creek got a little confusing at times and I lost the trail on a few instances before quickly finding it again. YMMV.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Did a shortened version for a day hike starting at Reeds Gap and going to Hanging Rock overlook and return for about 8 miles. It is a good workout with plenty of elevation change and a rewarding view of the Priest and surrounding areas and place for a nice lunch at Hanging Rock. It has a bit of everything from rocky sections to soft ground and a chance for a pit stop at the shelter privy. If you are looking for a nice day in the woods rewarded with a great spot at the turn around for viewing and relaxing. It is a workout with several ups and downs in both directions although the return is a bit more down hill.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 10, 2015
We did this loop as an overnight trip with our two dachshunds and really enjoyed it. The leaves are slowly starting to change colors so the views were beautiful. They should be even better in a week or two.
There was a lot more up-hill than we anticipated, especially on day two, but it made for a nice challenge. Much of the downhill portion on the trail was covered in rocks which also added another layer of difficulty. Overall the trail was very well maintained and easy to follow.
I will say this loop is pretty heavily populated so it is not ideal for someone looking for solitude. Upon reading other reviews we anticipated running into many other hikers and were not surprised by the foot traffic. Many of the other hikers reported bear sightings along the trail and, although we didn't spot any, there were many signs of their proximity to us (bear scat on the trail).
Overall, this was a great hike at a beautiful time of year. The dogs had a blast and spent much of the loop running in excitement. Needless to say, they were exhausted when finally made it back to the car. We hope to come back again in the summer when we can enjoy the cool, refreshing waterfalls.
Date of Hike: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Hiked Sept 24th. Total distance from my GPS watch is 13.2 miles with 4,148ft elevation climb. Full trip took 4 hours 20 minutes at a brisk pace. Saw only a handful of people on the trail. Water available at Harpers Creek shelter and Campbell Creek Shelter. Didn't check at Maupin field. Views are great and leaves are just about to start changing colors. Here is my GPS data: https://www.strava.com/activities/399777716