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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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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: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 29, 2017
This review is for those of you considering a day hike from Route 664 to Three Ridges and back. A great hike but only if you are ready for a lot of climbing. Used the GPS with my phone, which has been reasonably accurate with other hikes in this guide, to check distance and elevation for this one. Measuring from the parking lot, I found it was 1.6 miles to Maupin Field (matched guide), 2.1 to the top of Bee Mtn, 3.6 miles to the first (southern) view point on Three Ridges and about 4.6 mountains to the south end of Three Ridges. Elevations closely matched the topo map. Out and back, 9.2 miles with 2, 900 feet of elevation gain. Compared to other hikes in this guide, Id call this a strong 4 for difficulty. A lot of elevation for this distance, but the trail is in really good shape. I hiked it in good trail shoes, but it is rocky enough that I wished Id worn my boots. Don't recommend any lighter footwear than trail shoes.

Take lots of water! It was hot and water is scarce past Maupin. Beautiful patches of blooming Trillium as climbed Three Ridges, but please dont pick! I really like this as a big day hike, but it is a busy trail. LOTS of people and dogs on this trail. If you take a dog, make sure they also have lots of water and watch for torn pads on those rocks.


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 11, 2017
I did this loop from the Rt. 56 side, and headed clockwise around the Mau-Har trail, camping up on the ridge on Meadow Mountain. It took me a lot longer than I expected, but the weather was crazy nice for second week in February, so no complaints there. On Sunday much of Three Ridges was in the clouds for me until I dropped over the backside, so I missed some of the views. At times the trail was pretty rough, especially on the long downhill going south from Three Ridges to Chimney Rock and Harpers Creek Shelter. Unless you are a serious glutton for punishment, tackle Three Ridges from the north. Either way it is a serious slog, but the climb up to the high point from the south is a steep 3-mile climb. I passed many day hikers who asked if the trail was as steep the rest of the way to the top, and I had to bend the truth a bit because I didn't want to discourage anyone! At one point when I was grumbling and sweating up a steep section I passed a section hiker who was over 80 years old with a huge pack paused by the trail side. I was truly humbled, and ended my self-pity party then and there! Overall a great hike with good water access. I would definitely agree with a difficulty rating of 5!

By: Jesse Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 29, 2017
Overall a beautiful hike, however the terrain is a huge challenge. Be prepared to do nothing but climb upwards. Give yourself a little more time than you think you will need. The outlooks are absolutely beautiful, but you will have to earn the view. Once down to Campbell's creek you will have a time climbing back to the start of the loop. I can say this is a challenging claim ln, but still very enjoyable.

By: Blair Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, November 17, 2016
I opted for just the day hike version with my dog. This is a tough hike, lots of climb and drop, and pretty rocky terrain! I was glad to have boots for sure. I calculated the hike from Reids Gap parking to Three Ridges overlook is just 4.4mi, totally feasible in 2 hours. I actually just went to "Three Ridges Hike" on Google Maps to get there. It was a great way to spend the day!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 22, 2016
This is a wonderful, beautiful scenic hike.... for those who are not faint of heart. i am 100% faint of heart and should have never tried to do this. I did this when I was 18 years old and remember loving it, 8 years later it left me feeling like I was decrepit and should essentially move into a retiring home. Heads up, if you get winded on the first uphill before the Maupin Fields Campsites, turn back. For the love of god, turn back.

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Photo courtesy of Mollie
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