Three Top Mountain is a remote, craggy peak in the Amphibolite Mountains that offers solitude, premier rock scrambling, and outstanding views of the region. Although there are 11 peaks on the 6-mile long crest, the mountain is aptly named after the three prominent rock summits on the central spine. This hike follows a steep, rocky forest road from the Three Top Mountain Game Land parking area to Huckleberry Rock, the 2nd tallest peak on Three Top Mountain at 5,035 feet. Huckleberry Rock has fantastic 360° views of the Amphibolite Mountains and the Iron Mountains to the north. You can decide to head back down for a 3.4-mile hike, or try the half-mile bushwhack along the mountain crest to Big Rock. There are a few faint paths along the ridge, but you’ll still have to crawl through shrub/thorn tunnels and scramble up rocks to reach the destination. Big Rock is the tallest peak on Three Top Mountain at 5,044 feet, and features precipitous drop-offs and fantastic views. The views are similar to Huckleberry Rock, but you can also gaze upon the intimidating knife-edge row of rocks leading southwest to Peak 4880’. After taking a break on one of Big Rock’s grassy perches, turn around and make your way back to the forest road, or continue exploring the crags of Three Top if you are up for the challenge.
Mile 0.0 – Finding the parking area can be confusing. The Three Top Mountain Game Land access road is located at the upper end of Poplar Trail between private homes. At the top of the road you’ll see the game land sign at the small parking area. Begin the hike by following the gated forest road.
Mile 0.5 – At a Y-junction turn right following the forest road uphill. The old, rocky roadbed now plows uphill along a very steep grade. You’ll see occasional flagging tape along the main forest road to the summit. There are multiple old, overgrown forest roads branching off in every direction as you climb, pay attention to the GPS track and the flagging tape to stay on the right path.
Mile 2.0 – Before the trail begins descending, make a left into the open woods following the ridgeline south. This is an OPTIONAL bushwhack through relatively open forest to the summit of Big Rock. During some stretches there is a faint path, but most of this half-mile trek is a bushwhack. As you get close to the summit you’ll encounter dense undergrowth, thorns, and some open rock faces to negotiate. None of this is difficult or dangerous, but a GPS device or phone app is recommended. (If you wish to bypass this section follow the trail down to the parking lot for a 3.4-mile hike.)
I hiked this in the afternoon with 3 peakbagging friends. The road seems to be in rougher condition than when I drove it 2 years ago. There were 2 sections that seemed like they may be trouble for cars, you may have to drive up in the bushes to get around them. The hike up the forest road is just as brutal as I remembered. It's going to suck, but at least it is short. We briefly stopped at Huckleberry Rock since someone was sitting on the prime real estate, and began the bushwhack over to Big Rock. I think the bushwhack may be easier in the summer. The manway was easy to follow and was not overgrown with weeds. In the winter the forest on this ridge is open and you can wander off track. When you follow the narrow ridge close to the summit you will encounter some rock faces and decisions. I opted for tough scrambling, but if you stay high on these rock faces you will find manways connecting them that lead you directly to the summit. Big Rock is an incredible peak, one of the finest in the state. However, if you hit this late afternoon as we did the best views southwest will be hampered by direct sunlight. It is best to hike Three Top in the morning to get better south and west views/pictures.
Date of Hike: Thursday, July 25, 2019
Allow travel time for the small roads coming into the area. This is also a Game Land, I noted a blind on one of the hillsides overlooking the trail. Blaze orange is a necessity during any of our local hunting seasons. Access road was formidable for my sedan. More ground clearance and 4 wheel drive would have been wiser. If there were recent rain it would have ended badly. Found the trail to be very difficult. Quite rock strewn and with several washouts. As the canopy thinned at the top the trail became very overgrown and was nigh invisible. Zach's ranking of difficulty at '4' was well warranted. Nice summit views from several directions. Quite the workout for this 60 year old.