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Three Ridges - Nellysford, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
14.4 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
2 Days: 5.0hrs-7.3mls Day1, 4.5hrs-7.1mls Day2
3,960 ft
George Washington National Forest
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Park at the intersection of VA664 and the Blue Ridge Parkway
Alternative Start Point: Appalachian Trail Parking Lot (37.838437,-79.023239) on Route 56, parking for about 12-15 cars. Proceed across the road, head north on the A.T., cross the Tye River Suspension Bridge, stay on A.T. until the Mau-Har trail intersection. Decide whether to do the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. 37.90146, -78.98526

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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Hiker Reviews For The Three Ridges Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Extreme 50 Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 29, 2016
My son and I hiked the Three Ridge A.T. trail / Mar-har loop this past weekend 4/29/16 to 4/30/16. We started the hike from Reeds Gap. We took the Mar-har side first. It was misty and foggy all day. It did have some nice water falls.We made it to Harpers Creek shelter and camped near by in our tents. The Mar-har trail was brutal to say the least! The down hill was so rough I think i'm gonna loose one of my big toe nails and I was wearing darn tough socks. I doubled my socks the second day. The second day we started from Harpers Creek back to Reeds Gap parking lot. This section was equally as brutal as the Mar-har trail if not worst. Extreme uphill and downhills! This day was so foggy and rainy too with no views. Both trail are extremely rocky and slippery. We managed to make it back to the car by 4pm completing the trail. It was probably the most physically tough thing I have ever done in my life. I can scratch that off of my bucket list. We hiked the A.T. trail!

P.S. I would not recommend this hike for anyone unless you are a professional hiker that wants a challenge.

By: Jessie R. Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 26, 2016
This was our first attempt at backpacking, and it was definitely a challenge. We did the hike clockwise. The first part of the hike all the way to Harpers Creek was not too bad, although we did not come across any water from Maupin to Harpers Creek so we really should have brought more with us. Once we got to Harpers Creek there were plenty of streams for us to refill at. The Harpers Creek campsite looked a little full and we had read that there were waterfalls at Campbell's creek, so we decided to press on to camp there. That part of the hike was a lot of brutal uphill, especially for already having walked for 5 or so hours. But once we got to Campbell's Creek there was only one other group there and it was gorgeous. We were glad we pressed on. The next day we only had a few miles to go, but those few miles on the Mau Har Trail were by far the most challenging of the hike. There was one spot where we had to scoot across a tiny rock ledge which was a little scary (especially while trying to navigate a dog too). The views are incredible all along the trail. There looked to be some nice swimming holes around Campbell's Creek which I bet are really nice in the summer. All in all this hike was probably a little too much for first time backpackers who aren't in great shape, but the views were worth several days of sore muscles.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
We decided to make the Three Ridges Loop during the week in order to avoid the crowds. This proved to be a sound decision as the camping area near Harper's Creek Shelter remained nearly empty overnight. The first day has a lot of ups and downs, but is rewarded with spectacular views from both the northern knoll of Three Ridges and Chimney Rock. While the first day is largely about vistas, the second features several waterfalls as you follow Campbell Creek upstream for over a mile. Do not underestimate the difficulty of the Mau-Har trail. Its climbs are tougher than the AT portion of the loop in my opinion. While the majority of the hike is rocky, the section along Campbell Creek can be especially tricky. It is important to watch your footing and take it slow. As a whole, the loop is pretty challenging with several steep climbs and scant sources of water until Harper's Creek on the first day. With this being said, the beauty of the area and excellent campsites make the hike well worth the effort.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 12, 2016
A friend and I did this hike as our first over-nighter. We packed way too heavy for the trip, so the uphills were a little gruesome. We didn't see any water sources on the first day until we got to harpers creek shelter, however we filled our bottles up at devils backbone before the hike. We saw about 5 other groups on the trail during the first day, but by the time we got to the campsite there were about 15 other tents. The second day was much harder, but there was a lot more water. On the second day, you really don't even need to carry water because you can just stop and drink from Campbell creek since you follow it all day. Overall, it was a good rewarding hike.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, March 06, 2016
This is the best combination of views, streams, and a workout that Iíve had in one hike in Virginia. Like others have said, itís a lot of vertical. My trusty hiking companion, Joey Bear (my dog), was sporting his red bandana and looking mighty fetching (get it? Ė because heís a dog!). We started at Reeds Gap at 6:30am and did the loop clockwise, as described in the directions. We were absolutely exhausted and back in my car by 11:30am. After getting home, Joey was far too tired to fight the inevitable bath. He then became one with the couch for the next two days. Post-hike hibernation, he calls it. Maybe thatís why my wife named him Joey Bear?

Based on other reviews that mentioned the rockiness of some parts of the trail, I was nervous that Joey might have some trouble. He did great Ė itís a little rocky in some parts but nothing a hike-loving dog canít handle. It was only a little rocky on the stretch from the top of Three Ridges to the Harpers Creek Shelter. To give some perspective, itís not nearly as bad as the fields of jagged soccer ball sized rocks on Austin Mountain.

Despite barely reaching 50 degrees by the end of my hike, I needed all four liters of water that I brought. I do drink more water than the average person. But all the vertical on this hike makes you need much more water than other ~14 mile hikes. I knew there were streams so my back and shoulders are thankful that I didnít carry much extra water for Joey.

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Late April
Photo courtesy of Mollie
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