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Three Ridges - Nellysford, Virginia


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
14.4 mls
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2 Days: 5.0hrs-7.3mls Day1, 4.5hrs-7.1mls Day2
3,960 ft
George Washington National Forest
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e.g.. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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: Greengal Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 19, 2014
I had heard about this hike from a friend and finally took the plunge and set off on it around three pm with the intention of camping on one of the knolls. The first uphill stretch was a bit daunting (I had already hiked nine miles that morning) and the climb to the knolls was taxing but what a view. It was raining when I hit the ridges so I decided to continue on to the shelter. Man the downhill was killer and treacherous, slipped a few times and I was tired. But when I arrived at the shelter I was greeted warmly by fellow hikers. By the way, only saw a few people on my way. After a good nights sleep I headed out with new companions for the night before to wind our way down the Mau-Har trail. Beautiful does not describe the views from Flat Rock or the waterfalls and streams on the way out. Challenging hike but well worth the effort, just watch your step on the down hills. Definitely will do it again!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, June 05, 2014
This trail was awesome! Kicked my butt but didn't knock me on my ass and had enough water to keep my dog happy :).  Its quite pretty trail with the many water fall on the maul trail section. Lovely views up top and enough up and down climb to keep you busy. I planned to do this hike as a two day hike but, completed it the first day. I returned to the car and was quite ready to leave it so I hiked back and camped out near the falls.  I went Thursday to Friday and it wasn't to busy I saw about 10 thru hikers and one group that had done the loop the day before. I got a few warnings about rattlesnakes and almost didn't run into any breed snake until my walk back to the car when almost stepped on a cooper head. 

Overall: well marked trail, pretty, lots of campsites and shelters,  I did fine without poles but there are a few bits where they would have been nice.


By: Frank Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 21, 2014
Hiked this as a day hike last fall as suggested from Reed's Gap but this time we started at the bottom, from the small Rt. 56/Tye River parking area, up the Mau-Har Trail to the AT and the to Hanging Rock back down to the AT-Mau-Har Trail junction. Though it's a bit longer according to GPS it seemed easier having a long downhill instead of uphill at the end of the hike. A .5-mile stretch along Campbell Creek is loaded with trillium right now looks like there's been a pink and white snowfall. Crossed paths with a few early through hikers. We would recommend this as an alternative to starting at Reed's Gap though be advised the parking is more limited on 56. We've lucked out and both times we've done this as a day hike and had marvelous weather.

By: Frank Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 10, 2013
This makes a marvelous day hike, though it took us a bit longer than we thought so start out early in winter. We had a very breezy but clear day and the views from Hanging Rock south toward the Priest were stunning. Did not see much wildlife but spotted a couple of great swimming holes on Campbell Creek (will keep them in mind for the summer!).

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, October 28, 2013
Beautiful sunny day for this hike. I took it as described and the views were spectacular. I knew this hike would be tough so I worked my way up to it including the 13+ mile Austin/Furnace Mt. circuit last month. This was way tougher mostly because the elevation changes are constant and many are very steep, especially coming down from Three Ridges and after crossing the ridgeline on the MauHar Trail. It's worth it though. The trail never gets boring...it demands your attention in many spots but offers plenty of opportunity to enjoy the vistas, lay of the land, rock formations, and waterfalls. I took 3 liters of water and walked out with a couple of sips left and this was a cool sunny day. Bring plenty of water. I hiked this on a Monday and saw nobody for the entire circuit, which was a surprise given this trail's popularity.

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Late April
Photo courtesy of Mollie
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