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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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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: Tessa Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, March 12, 2015
I hiked the loop as an overnight on march 12 and 13 and only saw one other hiker the enitre way. The uphills are hard, the downhill to Harpers Creek shelter is endless (i can only imagine what it would be in reverse direction) but the views and streams are great. There were several stream crossings on the mau-har portion, but i did not get wet feet even with what i assume is fairly high water after the snow. Snow was almost all gone, which was good. Gorgeous weather, sunny and high fifties with overnight probably in the high thirties. It was harder than i thought but well worth it.

By: Rich Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 16, 2014
We (5 humans & 2 dogs) started at Rt 56 at about 10 am. The day was cool (upper 30s) and cloudy. The temps made the climbs up, going clockwise, pretty comfortable. Ate lunch up at the shelter/campsites. Shortly after lunch it started to rain, so the leaf mat and rocks got really slick. I did an epic ass-plant on a large, flat rock. I think I averaged 8.9 for style! One of the humans, who turned out not to have hiked much, got really sore knees and slowed way down. Between the ailing dude and the slick rocks, the second half was seriously slow. Got back to the car at 6 pm. On the bright side, a night-time trail run by headlamp down the final 1.5 miles was pretty cool. The slow guys made it back a half hour later. It was almost a Gilligan's Island hike---three hour tour turned into something else entirely.

Epic hike, great views, monster climbs. Loved it.

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 27, 2014
I hiked this from the Rt 56 trailhead travelling counter-clockwise once I hit the Mau-Har intersection. The day was perfect with clear skies and great views. There were quite a few day hikers and backpackers all through the trail, and a stray dog that followed me from the summit of Three Ridges to Hanging Rock where he found new friends to spend the day with. I wanted to hike this from Rt. 56 to get most of the elevation gain, which is considerable, out of the way early. It's a tough haul to the top, but then a lengthy downhill walk until the final part of the Mau-Har Trail leading out from Campbell creek. That final uphill is about 600 feet gain, very steep in places, and overall tough. But once it's done then it's all downhill back to the parking area. My GPS sometimes tells the truth and it read a total elevation gain of 4330 feet for this route.

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.

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Late April
Photo courtesy of Mollie
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