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Hiker Comments for the The Priest Hike - 1 to 31 of 31   
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By: MarkHikes Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 9, 2019
The Priest is a good name for this hike because you may need one as you die on the way up. The difficultly of this hike is what makes it rewarding there's something nostalgic, alpine, and supremely satisfying about literally climbing a mountain and coming back down in an afternoon. This is an ideal challenging day trip get-out-of-the-city hike. I highly suggest doing this in mid fall as the leaves are coming down you got a nice blush of color at the bottom and at the top most leaves were down allowing for sweeping views. There are many azaleas as well so I'm sure when they're in bloom would be an ideal time as well. Took me 2 hours 45 min up, 1 hour 30 min down.

What's great about this hike:
-Two five star views, one East at Mile 2.6 and the other at the finish looking West
-Cripple Creek on the first mile is very beautiful
-During mid fall there's always something to look at, you get mountain views throughout
-Immense feeling of accomplishment
-Even though it's a 8.6 mile hike, only the first 3.9 miles are difficult. It's really a 3.9 mile brutal stair climb followed by a leisurely stroll and descent.
-The directions on Hiking Upwards are perfect. Print them out and bring them.

What's not great
-3.9 miles of leg burning
-Leaves down in fall made for a sometimes slippery descent
-Sun to shade and wind to no wind make for massive temperature differences quickly. Wear layers accordingly.

By: Andrew Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 31, 2019
Started this hike at 7:30am, about 65 degrees. It quickly got hot. Took about 3 hours to get to the summit with 2-3 water breaks. It is just a steady climb the entire way with only a few "steep" sections. Had it in my head the top was at 3 miles or so became a little frustrated when 3.25, 3.5, 3.75 all passed and I was still going up! Only took about 1.5 hours to get back down to route 56. Passed 13 other hikers on my way down and just told all of them "good luck".

Passed a couple with dogs- NOTE: there was only one stream that had some water in it at about a mile into the hike. There is no other water for dogs further up the mountain as the other two streams were dry. Make sure if you bring a dog with you, bring sufficient water for them as well, especially on hot days. Those two dogs were panting up a storm.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 20, 2019
This is an excellent little hike. The grade is indeed unrelenting, but my only slightly fit but and my occasional hiker friends were able to complete it without (too much) difficulty, although that didn't stop us from getting passed by an older Meetup group with a comment of "whippersnappers" thrown our way haha. You pass several beautiful waterfalls on the way up, and a few of them offer pools where the brave hiker can take a chilly, bracing dip. I highly recommend it on a sunny day. The first overlook makes a beautiful place to stop and catch your breath, which is good because the last mile or so is quite a beast on the way up. The second overlook just past the peak of the mountain is very worth going to, and will be obvious when you see it on your right. On the way down you'll feel like you're stepping down a staircase from the spine of the world.

We had excellent visibility thanks to all the rain on Friday, and the view was verdantly green in all directions. Pollen was low, there were enough sleeping brown trees to see through the forest but enough green to give everything at lower altitudes a beautiful color, and all in all it was a beautiful day for a walk in the woods.

By: C Lewis Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 6, 2019
I've heard about The Priest for years and always thought the hike was beyond my ability. I'm 57 and in reasonably good shape, but I would say this is long and arduous but do-able for sure. So maybe it's reputation precedes itself?

Several of the reviews here are NOT for the NorthBound hike from Rt. 56 but are from the AT coming southbound from Crabtree Falls or SpyRock. That trek is difficult (I did it a few weeks ago), but it does not compare to this NOBO hike straight uphill for 4.5 miles and 3,100 feet.

I don't understand the reviews that say that this hike is boring. There are not any views going up until the 2.6 mile overlook, but the woods, rock formations, forest undergrowth, and creeks are stunning. (Must be triathletes who never take time to smell the flowers.)

I was concerned about the Cripple Creek stream crossing, as other on hikes this Spring (White Oak Canyon, Sugar Hollow) have been tough or impossible. It's been a wet Spring and we had rain yesterday, but it was easy as the rocks are huge.

This hike consists of 2/3 of the mountain with earth or scree trail for the most part, with the described 13% average grade. But the last 1.5 miles or 1/3 at the top consists of rocky underfoot, requiring placement of feet going up and coming down. And it's a much tougher grade, so that's where The Priest's reputation is earned. The view at 2.6 is amazing, as is the view at the rocks past the summit. As other reviews stated, the summit is unmarked but when the trail flattens out and you are at the highest point, and sort of near a campfire area, you are there. The rocks with the view are .3 or so beyond and off to the right. You can't really miss it. For older or injured knees, the downhill retracing the trail is tough. Treking poles are helpful. The suggestion to park a car over at Crabtree and exit by hiking through is a good one. Can't wait to do this again.

By: Nate Dolan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 6, 2019
I and a friend hiked this trail, couple notes: - Yes the trail does climb consistently, but with the switchbacks and relative short length of the overall trail it is very doable - Well worth continuing on the last 0.4 miles to the large rocky overlook to the right of the trail - Leaves were still off the trees so it was very pleasant to have great views of the surrounding area hiking up and down the mountain, I had thought retracing our steps would be a little dull but with the changing views, going back didn't seem redundant - Parking lot was less than half full at 9 AM on a Saturday - I will likely do this again but include Spy Rock - Trail was very easy to follow, we saw a few people on the way up, and several people on the way down

By: VA_hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 3, 2018
Lots of hikers, lots of campers at the top, loud music, cigarette butts. Such a shame. Difficult hike (did the over 8 mile route) but beautiful, well-maintained trail. I would give this one not very much solitude at all.

By: David Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 20, 2018
We did a single overnight backpack up to the top of Priest, stayed over, and back the next day. Parking overnight at the trailhead (Priest Wilderness parking area on Rt. 56) was fine - space permitting, at your own risk of course. Looked like several groups were doing it. Be warned this time of year: camping at the top was cold and VERY windy. Be prepared. Otherwise, fairly straightforward, there are good sites around the Priest shelter and several other spots around the peak. The hike itself is, on the whole, moderately difficult. The distance isn't bad and trail quality is good, but 3000' is just a lot of work. I'm not in especially good shape, and my legs sure were glad I wasn't trying to go up and down the same day. The ridgeline is special and beautiful, though, worth the effort.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 16, 2018
This hike is no joke.  There is no "warm up" before the climb.  My husband said it perfectly, "It's like climbing stairs all the way up".  There are very very few spots that kind of  "levels out", but not enough to really count.  Over all a challenging but pleasant hike in the trees.  You pass a few streams along the first mile and a half.  You are pretty much shaded by trees the entire time so it makes for a nice temperature even when the sun is out.  The pay off would be much better if there wasn't people up there.  But it is a well known spot so there was 6 other people that arrived after us and we saw a dozen more going up on our way back down.  Also, if your are tracking this hike with GPS, and going NOBO on the trail, the turn off to the view is at about 4.75 miles from the sign saying "The Priest Wilderness, George Washington National Forest".  Making this hike just over 9.5 miles.  And we didn't really go off trail till the side trail to the view.

By: Karen K Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 15, 2017
Parked at the lot on Rt 56 and did an out-and-back (about 9 miles total) to the Priest shelter. FANTASTIC view at the summit IF you head off the trail when if flattens out (through an obvious camping site just off the trail, about a half mile before the sign pointing to the shelter) to the right. Don't miss that 20 yd detour! It took us 5 hours round trip which included stopping for lunch and photos. I think we hike at a moderate pace.

By: JT Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 1, 2017
From a trail runner perspective, this is one of my favorite challenging runs in the area. The SOBO AT from route 56 is shy of 9 miles out & back. The trail starts with about 700' of elevation per mile and then continues to increase to about 850' of elevation per mile. It is nearly continuous uphill with very few areas of relief. The trail gets rocky in some areas as you get about 3 miles from the trailhead. There are a couple of creek crossings early which are easy to avoid getting shoes wet. Overall the hike/run is a great indication of your physical state.

By: Jason Viper Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 18, 2016
After swearing off The Priest after last December's hike, I have actually returned several times since and am gonna give it an additional star. I still don't feel that this hike would be very rewarding for your casual hiker, but for anybody looking to get their climbing legs together it doesn't get any better than SOBO Priest (starting on Rt.56 and heading S). It's probably the hike that gives you the most bang for your climbing buck in the entire state...3000' in 4 miles. During June/July, you will encounter the wave of AT thru-hikers and meet some pretty interesting folks. I also encountered a black bear, startled him actually rounding a sharp turn in the trail but thank goodness he was scared more than I was and took off running. I also encountered my first ever timber rattlesnake, a beautiful black-phase in a rocky area approaching the summit. The races I do require lots of climbing so The Priest has become by go-to training ground. I also plan to begin section hiking the AT next spring and will be back to condition myself for that endeavor.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 13, 2016
We started our hike on Friday (the 13th) at roughly 930am from the Reeds Gap parking lot. At that time on a weekday I was the first car in the parking lot. That is an important note as when we returned Saturday evening at 6pm the lot was full and people were parking along the highway. We decided to see what we were made of and set out Friday morning to make it to the top of the Priest by cutting down the Mau-Har Trail and eventually picking back up the AT. This was our group of 3's first time in this section of the AT and admittedly we didn't realize what we were in for. We had great weather and enjoyed our trek down the AT, transition onto and through the Mau-Har and by 130pm were connecting back on the AT heading south bound for the Priest. We stopped at the Tye River to filter/refill our water supply at 230pm and were heading up the Priest by 315pm. We reached the first scenic views on the Priest at 515pm and passed what would be our eventual camp by 6pm. There is a very nice campsite 3.5 - 4 mi up the Priest before you reach the top. At this point we were 12 mi into our trip, the up/down of it all took its toll on us and we decided to make camp and forgo the summit knowing that every mile further up the Priest was an extra mile back to Reeds Gap the next day. We had a great JetBoil/MtnHouse breakfast and were out of camp by 740am Sat. We were back down the Priest and to the Tye River Sat by 930am. We made it back up the mtn and to Harpers Creek Shelter by 12pm. Our original plan was to make it to the top of the Priest on Friday and make it back up to Maupin Field Shelter by Saturday night to camp. The counterclockwise Mau-Har loop trek on the AT back through Chimney Rock, Three Ridges and Bee Mtn was brutal. We experienced a storm front at Three Ridges with rain and a 15 degree temp drop. 10-12 mi into our day 2 and having to deal with the uphill associated with going counterclockwise on the loop was a great mental test. We made it to Maupin Field Shelter Sat at 5pm after leaving camp at 740am 4 mi up the Priest. We were 14 mi into the day and gassed. After being rained on for 3 hrs and only being 2 mi from Reeds Gap we decided to trek out. Saturday ended back at Reeds Gap, 16 mi in and my strongest test to date. The Mau-Har loop is a scenic trail with a lot of up and down. It is challenging in its own right for a day or overnight hike. Adding the Priest should not be taken lightly. I officially do not recommend this variation of the Mau-Har Loop/Priest trek to anyone shy of peak physical condition. If you are up for a great mental/physical test - park at Reids Gap and trek day 1 to the Priest Shelter (by way of the Mau-Har, this is 13-14+ mi all up/down). Wake up day 2 and head back down/up/down/up etc. staying on the AT all the way to Maupin Field Shelter (this is 15-16+ miles all up/down). A challenging part of this section is that you have very limited flat footing and almost every step is uneven. At this point you are 2 miles from Reeds Gap which you can decide to knock out (as we did) same day or camp at Maupin and lick your wounds. As mentioned earlier we got into much more of a hike than expected but came out stronger mentally/physically on the other side! (I will post this variation of the route in The Three Ridges section as well)

By: Jason Viper Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 20, 2015
I did The Priest as the second leg of a one day ruck of the Three Ridges & Priest circuit. I began on Rt.56 along the Tye River as this gave me a mid-way break point at my truck before continuing up The Priest. SOBO Priest is also a much greater challenge than NOBO (3000' gain over 4 miles). I really wish they'd write it up as a separate or alternative hike on this site. The trail starts out gentle and gets progressively steeper the higher you climb. There was a big mental aspect to the ascent as well. There were a good half-dozen times I thought I was nearing the peak, only to be fooled and having to continue climbing. The trail also became rockier on the way up. By the time I reached the summit, I told The Priest to go F himself before hammering down the mountain in the dark. Hike took me 5 hours and ended a 22.5 mile/7500' gain, 11 hour trek with a weighted ruck. For me, this hike has minimal rehike value. It was simply a 4.5 mile long climb with little variety and minimal overlooks. YMMV.

By: Jason Viper Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, December 20, 2015
I did The Priest as the second leg of a one day ruck of the Three Ridges & Priest circuit. I began on Rt.56 and attacked the Priest SOBO which is a much tougher hike (3000' gain over 4.5 miles) than that written here. The hike starts out relatively gentle, but the further you go, the steeper the climb and the fewer the switchbacks. This hike is a bit of a mental challenge too. I'm not the only one who has been fooled by the numerous false summits that appear before you as you approach the top. You think you're almost there if you just climb a little more, then there is another "summit" in front of you. This process repeated about a half-dozen times! By the time I actually got to the top of the Priest, I had a few choice words for him. This hike took me 5 hours. I don't anticipate coming back unless I want to go light and fast and try to beat my time. It's a great workout, but you can find better views and a more interesting hike elsewhere.

By: Andy Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 21, 2015
Great hike. We camped at the Shelter. Bear tracks all around and a bear has been laying under the shelter. Had to pack out some trash that others left, but great sight.

Saturday we day hiked to spy rock.Best View but TONS of people. 2 boy scout troops (troop 1828 did an amazing trash sweep of the top) and four other small groups in the hour we had for lunch. 4 hour round trip, with hour lunch break at the top.

Met some great guys at the priest Saturday night. Brother-in-laws (68 and 62) from RVA did the full Priest the hard way. He never did finish his Broadway Joe story...

Would backpack this again or car camp it with day hikes. Could easily bring the girlfriend and dogs.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, February 7, 2015
We were only able to go about 1/2 mile up the road from 56 as we ran into a washout and didn't have a tall 4 wheel drive which is needed for this road. We hiked up the road encountering icy stretches and 4 wheel drive vehicles spinning and having difficulty. We finally reached the top and started up the Priest. We went about 1/2 mile and encountered ice and snow covering the trail. The trail is very narrow in spots so we turned back and followed the AT to Cash Hollow road and followed it across to give a little variety to the return. It was a very nice day and many campers in the many campsites around the top of Crabtree and we enjoyed the what turned into an 8 mile walk mostly on roads and dodging ice. The road was dangerous for vehicles as some melting and re freezing had made sections very slick and walking requiring being careful on the edges of the road in many spots.

By: Ken Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 16, 2013
I hiked this from the Tye River AT trailhead on an overcast Saturday morning (it was supposed to clear up but didn't). This hike was definitely a workout but I took plenty of breaks and carried a topo map to track my progress so I could pace myself. The lack of foilage made it easy to gain an appreciation for how much vertical gain I was getting and until I walked into the clouds, the tops of Three Ridges were visible so I knew what was coming. Once past the switchbacks I broke through the top of the clouds and finished the last ascent in the sun. I had lunch on the rock overlook and got a couple of great pictures of the top of Wintergreen and Three Ridges poking through the clouds. A quick walk down to the shelter and then the descent and it was done in about 5 1/2 hours. I saw three pairs of hikers the whole day.

By: Sarah Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, October 4, 2013
My husband and I  parked at the Montebello FIsh Hatchery parking area and road our bikes down Rt. 56 to the  Rt. 56 crossing of the AT at the Tyro River (no shoulder so only felt safe doing this on a weekday with helmets on of course).  Locked up the bikes and started hiking north up the huge climb to the priest summit.  Very challenging climb with over 3000 feet of elevation gain to get the summit in a little over 4 miles.  Was happy we had only day packs.  Beautiful overlook part way up and lots of other places to search out the views a short walk off trail to rock outcrops at the Priest Summit.  We continued on the AT northward past Crabtree Falls and Meadows to Spy Rock, which has fabulous 360 degree views that are well worth a few extra miles, and then hiked down the Spy Rock access trail to the Montebello fish hatchery to get our car and go retrieve our bikes at the bottom of the mountain.  Overall it was approximately 11-12 miles of walking and took us about 5.5 hours with a lunch break and few other short stops, mostly for me to catch my breath, as my husband likes to hike fast 

Besides the great views, some good fall floiage and late-season wild flowers, we also saw two black bears at separate locations as they tried to get away from us as quickly as possible.  Some other hikers reported seeing some timber rattlers in the trail earlier in the day near the southernmost overlook.

If you have the AT map for this area, all the parking areas and trail access options are shown on there.  This is a very challenging but really lovely and rewarding hike.

By: Emily Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 15, 2013
We did this hike from the parking lot on 56 at Tyro where the AT crosses the road.  It was about 4.3 m up to the rock overlook on the right of the AT with great views of Nelson, Amherst, and Rockbridge Counties.  Then 4.3 back down...great quad buster.  This hike is hard enough with the long ascent to keep the crowds away.  We figured the trip from Crabtree would have too much traffic, and wanted to make this hike a little longer.  We liked that you could look back now and then and see the Three Ridges on the other side of 56 to get an idea of how amazing this ridge line really is.

By: James N. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 23, 2013
I combined the Priest with Spy Rock with a buddy of mine for a round trip of 10.2 miles. I had previously done Spy Rock but it's definitely worth the revisit. I like to think of the trip we took as McAfees Knob + 1/2 Cascades. It was tough in some spots, but more than rewarding for the effort. I would recommend that you do this hike then do the Three Ridges Hike or visa versa. You can definitely spot the best viewing spot on Three Ridges from the Priest. Tough but worth it. Happy Trails.

By: StevenG Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 1, 2013
What a great hike. I started on Priest and hiked to the base of CrabTree Falls i think it is 9.5 miles total. The weather was wonderful.  The trails were well marked and easy to follow.  There were lots of steams for water.  The views at the top were great.  I met some nice people on the trail.  I plan on doing this hike again this summer.

By: Quintin Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 29, 2013
We hiked the combination Priest and Crabtree, clockwise, starting at the AT/Rte 56 crossing parking ("swinging bridge"). Shuttle involved dropping a car at the bottom Crabtree Falls parking (on Rte 56, $3 fee to the Forest Service) a mere 5 miles further up the valley. I've heard that the proprietors at the Crabtree Falls campground may help with shuttle if you are staying there and only have one vehicle, but we had two. The view into Nelson/Amherst from the overlook prior to the Priest was superb. The hike at high elevation was very slushy but not unduly strenuous from peak on down. Finishing with the falls at sunset was a real treat.

By: Cat Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
A hike I've heard about for years, and finally decided to try it with a friend today. Lovely hike, on a nearly perfect Fall day. Definitely recommended.

One caution about the road: Meadows Rd was mostly passable by my 2006 Honda Civic, except for one slightly washed out stream crossing over the road about 1.2 miles from Rt 56. The road is very well maintained, and it looks like this spot had recently been filled in with some new large (2-4 inch diameter) gravel, but it was still too sketchy looking for me to risk it (and normally I treat my little cars like they are 4-Runners). So, we ended up parking the car and walking about 3.1 miles up Meadows Rd to the Upper Crabtree Falls parking lot recommended here before continuing on to The Priest. Even with this added distance (about 6 miles) we did the entire hike in about 4 hours.

By: Jon E Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 29, 2012
Combined this with Crabtree Falls (starting at the bottom of the Falls) as an out and back. Lots of AT through-hikers this time of year. Rhododendron just coming into bloom at the lower elevations. The first little bit is nice, but nothing great. Up on the summit ridge, however, there are some spectacular views with a short bushwhack off the trail, if you know where to find 'em.

By: Phil Chupacabra Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, December 16, 2011
16-18 Dec 11, 3 day backpacking trip from Lower falls parking to The Priest and return the same way. Temps were upper 30's during the day, dropped to 21 Saturday night on The Priest. The stairs were icy going up on Saturday buy dry on Sunday going down. Weather was clear with sunshine. The priest has a very nice camping area suitable for multiple tents, the shelter can take a pretty good sized group. The spring at the shelter was flowing strong. From the top of the falls to the upper parking lot were 3 very nice camping areas on the creek. The area around the upper parking lot is not well marked at all and I didn't see any signs making it clear the direction to the AT. The views from the Priest were pretty terrific and well worth the 15 minute walk from the campsite.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 4, 2011
Excellent hike!  Amazing views and great campsites.  Not too challenging but not boring or weak.  Great for beginners that want a little vertical challenge and enough of a view payoff to satisfy a more seasoned backpacker.

If anyone finds a purple leash and a Surefire flashlight at the campsite at the junction of the Priest Shelter spur and the AT, shoot me a line!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 27, 2011
I hiked Crabtree Falls, The Priest Wilderness, and Spy Rock as a day hike, taking 8.5 hours. I did it the day we had the hurricane, so solitude was definitely not a problem. I parked at the first parking area and followed the small trail up to the second parking area and restrooms. I continued up the trail to the top of Crabtree, and took the trail to the right and eventually saw blue blaze. Once reaching a clearing where restrooms were available and also a map showing the surrounding trails, I took the gravel road to the left heading to the AT in about .5 miles. There were large boulders intersecting the road, with white blaze. To the left was there was a map showing the area, and I made it to the Priest Wilderness and Shelter in about .9 miles,. I turned around and went back to the gravel road and continued on to Spy Rock. I passed a second fire road and kept steady on the trail until reaching Spy Rock. Once reaching the huge rock, I was able to navigate my way up, which was quite the challenge with all of the wind and rain. It was well worth it once reaching the top. The view was amazing! Follow the trail back and when coming back to the marked rocks by the gravel road, head back left to the restrooms and take the right to get back to Crabtree. All together it was a great hike, well worth the challenge, and definitely happy to see the couple of restrooms along the way (bring your own toilet paper).   Saw a few deer but other than that it was quite and peaceful.

By: Jacob Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 26, 2010
I did The Priest yesterday on a cool, rainy Sunday afternoon. The hike was great and the views from the top were amazing. The Priest AT shelter was cool to stop by as well.

Meadows Lane/road up to the upper crabtree falls lot can be good or bad based on your perceptions. I am from Arkansas, and the road had been newly resurfaced, and I made it up fine in my Honda Accord. But, I may be more accustomed than others to driving dirt roads.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 19, 2010
The hike is great, however the access road (Meadows Lane) to the parking area is not suitable for front-wheel-drive cars.

By: Clemson Hiker Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, July 5, 2010
We're always looking for new hikes so we gave The Priest a try on a steamy July day.  Unfortunately, it was one of the more disappointing hikes that we've been on in awhile.  The best part of the hike was a fun drive down US 340 and US 11.  The drive up to the Upper Crabtree Falls parking area is perilous and not for the faint of heart.  The road is very rocky, narrow and has steep drops off the side.  The hike itself was overgrown with brush spilling out on the trail and very buggy.  Views from the top of The Priest were decent but were hampered by haze.  There are much better views from other nearby hikes.  Overall, I'd have a hard time recommending The Priest to other hikers.

By: DWooldridge Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 5, 2009
The Priest was nice this Week. Just wanted to let any others using this site that the Priest can also be reached from the AT near Tyro- with parking right on Rt. 56

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