The Terrapin Mountain Trail in Jefferson National Forest is an excellent cold season option because of its abundant winter views and easy access on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It also has the benefit of lying due east of the largest Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, protecting it from the harsh west winds in the winter. You can try the short but steep out-and-back to Terrapin Mountain, or tackle the full loop which mostly follows forest roads along Reed Creek and tributaries on the return. From two overlooks you’ll have fantastic views of Apple Orchard Mountain, Thunder Ridge, and the Peaks of Otter. If you choose to take the entire loop, you’ll be treated to a surprise waterfall beside the trail near the end of the hike.
Mile 2.7 – Huge boulders on the right side of the trail with a view north. After passing these massive rocks begin looking for the faint summit trail veering left away from the main trail.
Mile 2.8 – IMPORTANT trail junction - Y-junction with the main trail veering right while the summit trail to the top of Terrapin Mountain goes left and immediately climbs over boulders. The trail heading right looks like the only trail here and the faint summit trail on the left is very easy to miss.
Mile 3.0 – Summit of Terrapin Mountain. The trail turns right heading downhill to meet the main trail. Go left for views from a rock overlook.
Mile 9.8 – T-junction with Terrapin Mountain Trail loop. Turn right heading towards the parking area.
Mile 10.1 – Hike ends at the Terrapin Mountain Trail parking area.
Terrapin Mountain Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Hiked to the summit counterclockwise and back on a low humidity, blue sky day and found the hike very enjoyable. Just note that the path follows a rock scree for a short while and trail markings are sparse. Look for rock cairns to mark the path. Also along the ridge the path is quite overgrown with vegetation and I would recommend long pants as I picked up two ticks along the way.
Date of Hike: Friday, March 29, 2019
Took a Friday off from work on a beautiful 75 degree spring day to finally do the Terrapin Mountain loop. I parked at the gate on Terrapin Mountain Lane and followed the instructions above by walking the trail counterclockwise. The first 3 miles to the summit were as just as promised, very challenging indeed. I was glad about my decision to bring my trekking poles along for this one. I was somewhat worried about the previous reports of this trail being poorly marked, but it has obviously been improved since those reports. The yellow blazes weren't hard to follow and there are brand new signs marking the forks in the trail. I did bring along a printout of the directions and found them to be pretty accurate. There is a short trail on the left at the false summit just before the summit that leads to a rock outcropping, it's worth checking out so don't miss it. There is no sign for it, everything else appeared to be marked.
A previous poster said the terrapin rock formation is visible from the summit, but if you look back at the summit after descending down the other side you'll clearly see the rock you were sitting on for those sweet views actually looks like a giant turtle. I spent a while at the summit, taking in the views of the Peaks of Otter range while listening to a sweet 16-minute rendition of "Terrapin Station" on my phone. I usually don't break my rule of no technology on the trail, but today it seemed appropriate for the occasion.
The creek crossings weren't bad today, but I could see where they would be difficult after any signifiant amount of rain. I would highly recommend doing this hike while the leaves are still off the trees, I had a lot of nice views that would not be possible if the trees were green. The downed trees that previously blocked the trail had been sawed up and the trail was completely clear of any obstacles.
This hike is not easy, but not as tough as the the nearby Three Ridges Wilderness loop in Nelson County. Once you make it to the summit, the worst part is over. The last 7+ miles are easier that the first 3 miles in my opinion. I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and plan to return soon for an overnight backpacking trip with friends. I spotted several good camping spots down near Reed Creek.
to get to Terrapin"
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 13, 2018
This was a great hike and I don't think I have a lot to add beyond what has already been said, but I do want to let everyone know about two things --- They have added a sign at the intersection mentioned at mile 2.8. It's gone from "very easy to miss" to almost impossible to miss. --- And there are a lot of downed trees along this route due to the hurricane remnants that came through a few days ago. It shouldn't prevent you from doing the hike, but you will have to go through or over them. Some of them are very large (several were a foot or two in diameter), so just be prepared or wait a while before doing this hike. Overall, a great hike with a lot of variety (waterfalls, a variety of foliage, and massive view)!
Date of Hike: Sunday, May 27, 2018
Challenging trail. Took us 7 hours to complete. Trail mustíve been remarked and sign posted since earlier reviews as we found this trail unambiguous and easy to follow. As an enthusiastic but only modestly fit hiker, the biggest challenge was carrying enough water. We did not see a single soul during the entire hike. This probably accounts for the description of this trail as a good cool weather option. The first third of the hike was very steep and parts were essentially a wash bed but the first vista was a great reward. The summit was a little hard to find (instructions above do not reflect new signage, but the summit is accessed by a spur off the summit trail which was initially confusing). The first wet crossing was such a relief for our tired feet.
The end of the hike was pleasant and fun. We appreciated the incredible views from the first vista, ridge line, and the summit, as well as the varied terrain. It stormed while we were hiking, providing a welcome shower, and the rain did seem to have affected the water crossings. We only had one wet crossing and were able to rock hop across the remainder. I agree that the placement of the crossings doesnít exactly align with the guide above.
Date of Hike: Sunday, May 20, 2018
Very poorly marked, and after 3 days of rain, Reed Creek was fast moving and dangerous. I didn't account for this and ended up lost as the trail had washed out. The option to hike back the way I came (about 7 miles around the loop) in the dark seemed dangerous. Ended up dialing 911, and getting help navigating down the mountain through some private property before getting picked up by Bedford County Fire Dept. Highly recommend not hiking this trail until it is remarked.
Date of Hike: Sunday, February 25, 2018
We hiked this loop from the top lot and hiked counterclockwise thus reaching the summit within 1.5 miles of starting our trek. after the summit we continued down the mountain which was EXTREMELY slippery and rocky. At 8 miles were began crossing the creek (total of 6 crossings). The creek was VERY fast moving and high our day of hiking, and this made crossing nearly impossible on 3 of the 6 crossings. The final crossing I just gave up and walked half calf up to water through it for 20 yards. The mile marker stating 2.5 miles to the upper lot was a joke, as I've found are most trails as they evolve and signs aren't updated. In all, the loop was 13 miles. Would I hike this trail again? Absolutely. Do I wish the trail was adequately marked and millage accurate? For sure. Most hikers depend on markings to keep them on trail and depend on accurate milage to plan for water, food and daylight.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 7, 2017
I enjoyed this hike, but it was definitely a tough one! We did the loop and the first couple of miles are the most intense. Starts off remarkably steep, but then it suddenly gets even steeper and stays that way for a good portion of the way up. Great view, though not as scenic as other nearby hikes. I recommend doing this hike in the winter since the leaves block out much of the view while hiking along the ridge during the summer and early fall. The trail is not well marked in some areas and there are a number of forks along the way. We didn't have any trouble finding our way, but make sure to have a topo map or GPS on hand with directions handy just in case.
Date of Hike: Thursday, December 29, 2016
Fantastic hike. I thought the directions provided were very helpful and pretty accurate although the mileage on my GPS watch was slightly different. I brought my dog along and we both really enjoyed the varied terrain. Great views throughout with no leaves on the trees and Reed Creek was beautiful!
The dirctions are sketchy
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 1, 2016
I frequently came to splits and tried to figure out where to go because the yellow blazes were non existent. I got to the road and turned right as the directions stated to do even though looking at the map that didn't seem right. Needless to say I ended up on the AT and then the parkway 13 miles away from my car. Also do NOT take the summit first. That is up....up....up some more.....oh thank god its flattening out.....oh crap now its up again at an 80 degree incline. I will say though that the view at what is labled as mile 1.5 is phenomenal. My pictures can't even possibly capture how magnificent it is. But having to hitchhike 13 miles back to my car was not fun. Before people assume its because I'm new I've been hiking for 20+ years. I have never been on a trail as poorly marked as this one and I've been on some trails I thought couldn't be beat in that category.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 24, 2016
I agree with Sara that this hike is very challenging and in my opinion could be rated a 5 difficulty. I hiked the trail to Terrapin Mountain peak and back and found the yellow blazing poor and in need of refreshing. The views from Terrapin peak are so-so but the view from the false summit at 1.5 miles is rewarding. I wanted to see the view at 3.1 miles but didn't have the heart to downslope from Terrapin peak and to have to upslope on the return trip. I recommend to all hikers to read the above directions as I took the wrong turn at the start of the hike and followed a fire road for a good distance before realizing the mistake.