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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)
Review the Three Ridges hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 03, 2015
Wanted a challenge, views, waterfalls and solitude and this fit the bill. Started 7:30a from Reeds Gap lot and finished @2:45p, starting temp 75 ending temp 87, sunny. Went clockwise and spent 30min for lunch at Harpers Creek Shelter (great campsite with privy). Trail was primitive at times, well groomed at others, fairly well blazed until near the end of the Mau-Har. Other details: light day pack, drank 3.5L water, only saw 2 people all day. Better wear hiking boots the trail is rocky at times. Tree canopy provided great shade but inhibited some views. Better/more views at other hikes (ie. Old Rag) but did not feel like crowds. Water at Harpers was VERY low/lame but Campbell Creek waterfalls/pools were great.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 25, 2015
I made this hike into a sort of three day hike. I knew I wouldn't be hiking in until mid-afternoon so I just did the 1.6 miles to the Maupin Shelter and set up camp. There were several others there for the night, so rather than venture around, I made new friends! The next morning I had planned on going up Three Ridges, hanging out, having lunch, and just tracing my steps back. However, when I was to the top in an hour and a half, I decided to do the full loop. I am glad I did because there are some beautiful views. The whole way down the back towards Harpers Creek Shelter has views that peek through. Don't get caught taking in the view too often though, it is steep, and rocky! I took a quick rest at Harpers Creek, refilled the water, and continued on to the Mau-Har trail. There is a sign posted that tells you the trail is only 3 miles, but requires the energy and stamina of the 6 or so you just hiked. It isn't kidding! This trail is very steep, and very rocky! Getting to the waterfalls isn't bad, but then you have to hike up the side of the waterfall. It is large rocks you are climbing up and with this being at the end up the hike, it will wear you down quick. Once you pass the waterfalls, you have a mile or so back to the Maupin Shelter. I camped for the night again and I think my dog was happy for the day to be over as she just flopped down in the dirt and didn't move the rest of the day. Lots of through hikers passing through this area, and many stopping to catch a shuttle down to Devils Backbone for a cold beer! Overall, I really enjoyed the hike. Beautiful views all along the way from the lookouts, to rock formations, to the waterfalls.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 30, 2015
A friend and I did the loop clockwise in about 7 hours and really enjoyed it, but definitely underestimated the difficulty of this trail!

I recommend bringing a cooler in your trunk full of beer and cold water and snacks. When you've finished the trail, hang out in the parking lot & offer thru-hikers crossing the gap some treats. Devil's Backbone Brewery is 5 miles down the road with great beer & food, and they let thru-hikers camp there overnight then cook them breakfast in the morning. Take a couple folks down there & enjoy the stories they have to tell about their journey. It was a really memorable experience for me.

I will also echo what others are saying about the misleading trail after the Canyon. Don't cross the creek!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 23, 2015
Hiked three ridges over Memorial Day weekend. Besides forgetting a few essentials for the first bigger trip of the year, everything went great. The climbs to the overlooks were harder than anticipated, but traffic on the trails was pretty light so there was never a problem taking a break or feeling crowded. Only major point that is relevant was the quantity of rattlesnakes. Granted, it should be expected, but we saw two (one in middle of the trail, rattling relentlessly and even struck out at us) and heard of two others on the trail this weekend. Exciting, yes, but also a reality check. Hiked with girlfriend and a yellow lab, and think I was the most tired, despite the dog running probably three times the total distance we hiked. There was some trash on the trail, and not much of a leave no trace effort, but all in all the camp areas were distinguishable and aplenty. I would second some of the other reviewers regarding the Mau-Har trail when it reaches Campbell creek. The trail continues upstream, not crossing the creek for some time. Many people were fed from the trail into the camp area there, and there is a misleading trail that crosses the stream and rises with the ridge, but it is not the blue blazed mau-har trail. Keep Cambell creek on your left when you reach the camp area and hike upstream.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 15, 2015
Just did this trail this weekend. First major backcountry hike of the season and I really appreciate the feedback that has been left on this post. I didn't estimate the hills were as killer as they were! Geez....We decided to do the loop clockwise as suggested going the AT route first (All white blazed), this was probably the best decision we made along the trail, as the faces of other hikers going counterclockwise up the burly hill, made us appreciate this decision. However, if you are a person with bad knees, you might want to think about what part of your body you would rather have hurt! I've got pretty banged up knees and my bones were definitely creeking the day after...still are a little. From reeds gap (limited parking) my Garmin Fenix 3, had us at about 8.1 miles to Harpers Creek Shelter, which is where you should camp if you are doing a multi-day/night trip. Limited areas to hang food, so you'll have to get creative. Lots of people on the trail, but that was fine by me as everyone was pretty laid back. Also met one of those AT range folks (not sure the exact title) her name was Regina and she was just chillin on one of the peaks eating some trail mix and answered some AT questions for us. Apparently she gets paid to help thru-hikers and others learn more about the trail and help out when necessary! Looks like I found my retirement job! The Harpers Creek was running when we were there, so plenty of water to filter. Plenty of great campsites around and make sure you check out the AT journal at the shelter, lots of good laughs to be had there. Anyhow, after we started on the Mau-har Trail (blue blazed), it was all "uphill" from there. Lots of boulders to climb. It ran along side a water source, so we kept our water supply pretty low, to lighten the weight, until we were headed more west away from the water. Those boulders are no joke though, especially if you were beat up like me from the previous 8 mile or so. Once we reached the kiosk, it was a beautiful sight to see that 1.8 miles to Reed Gap signs. We just continued to follow the white blazes until we hit the parking lot. Something to consider: 1. Plenty of water: I brought 3 L and it lasted me just to the Harpers Creek. Then you've got water for days! 2. Bring Trekking Poles 3. Bring Moleskin for your feet 4. We played a game along the way where we had to name something that started with the last letter of something else (i.e.: music, movies, famous people, etc.) this really made the time go by. Happy Trails Folks!

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Late April
Photo courtesy of Mollie
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