Veach Gap - Massanutten MT
Beautiful views of the Shenandoah
Great Virginia Hiking Books!

Three Ridges - Nellysford, Virginia

Printable Topo Trail Map
   All Hikes Map
   Click for location shots
   Click for location shots
   Click for Parking/Start location
   Hike trail blazed colors
   Other trail


  • Flash_FP1
  • Flash_FP2
  • Flash_FP3
  • Flash_FP4
  • Flash_FP5
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
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Nellysford Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
3D View of Route

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.

Interactive Hike Map Below Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in   Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left
Click the icons in the map below for location shots

Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Three Ridges hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Three Ridges Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Three Ridges hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rob Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 17, 2018
My friends and I completed this hike on a blustery March day. There was plenty of snow and ice still on the trails from earlier in the week and it made the first few miles brutal. Overall, we averaged in the area of 1.9 miles per hour and completed the hike in right at 7 hours of walking with a 15 minute eating break thrown in.
When we arrived at 9am, there was still plenty of parking at the Reeds Gap lot (probably because not a lot of people thought it was a good idea with the conditions). We took off on the AT and soon reached the first large camping area with a trail map posted on the standard trail bulletin board looking stand. Unfortunately, the map had 3 different views with 2 of the views having different North indications and the largest having no legend or compass at all. We all had printed maps and directions from Hiking Upward so, no worries. Continuing on, we passed vista after vista and the lack of tree cover made it possible to see things that would likely be missed during the greener months.
My favorite part of the whole hike was arriving at Campbell Creek and hiking alongside it. There were rock scrambles, waterfalls and that whole section was amazing.
Walking back out, we came across the shelter that stands near the first campground we passed but there's no clear indicator which of the 700 paths through the campsites leads back to the AT. Apparently, most of them do because we just ended up picking one and following it with no problems.
Walking back to the car through the now slushy ice was a challenge in itself. Lots of balance was needed to not bust our butts getting and seeing the road was a heaven sent after hiking for that long. My Garmin had us at 13.56 miles in 7 hours and it was every bit as difficult as people say. I'd like to go back and do this one as an overnighter in the future, though.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, March 09, 2018
Three of us planned on hiking this loop as a 2-night trip. We planned to do the route counter-clockwise and save the ridge views for the second day or the third day on the hike out.

The trails were very well marked and we had no issues navigating. The Mau-Har trail was rocky and challenging. The AT on the way out was better maintained but also very difficult. This trail is very physically challenging if you end up doing it only as a 1-nighter as I'll explain.

So we parked at Reed's Gap, made our way to Maupin shelter and set off to the right on the Mau-Har trail. There were numerous creeks and water sources along the way. We stopped at Harper's Creek for lunch and to refill on water. Our plan was to hike up to the first ridge and find a spot up there to camp with a great view. We thought we would camp on the ridge, and then come back down to Harper's Creek for water the next day, or maybe find another source on the way up the ridge. We severely underestimated the difficulty of the ascent from Harper's Creek to the first ridge. By the time we found a decent spot to camp we were almost 3 miles from Harper's Creek and based on the terrain there was no way we were going back. We had gone almost 8.5 miles that day and were exhausted. With very limited water and no additional water sources on the ridge we decided to just say one night and hike out the next day. Three of us with only 0.5L of water to get back and 5+ miles ahead of us. Back on the AT the next morning on the way out we didnt find a water source until almost all the way back to Maupin shelter where one of the guys luckily spotted some ground water flowing out of the base of a giant tree.

The hike was challenging, and although it was rewarding we were disappointed that we had to cut it short. Long story short, if you are doing this hike counter-clockwise, take plenty of water and conserve it. There is plenty of water on the Mau-har side. And almost none on the AT side (based on our experience and time of year completing the hike - early March, high temps in mid-30s and lows near 20).

By: Tom Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 18, 2018
Six of us Hit the trail at 5am under headlamps. We did the route counter-clockwise from Reeds Gap. Managed to sneek by what appeared to be 3-4 hikers sleeping in the Maupin Shelter without waking them. MauHar was in decent shape considering the 2/17 ice storm. I wish I would have had my folding saw with me.... Watching the sun come up casting shadows on The Priest and neighboring peaks was unforgettable. If you haven't started a hike in the dark, I suggest you try. ...assuming you have the skill and know how.

Got to Harpers Creek shelter in a timely manner to find a field of tents. Apparently this was a prime weekend for scouts. I've never seen so many tents bunched together in the back country. So happy we didn't make this a 2 day trip with plans to camp here. Never less, I take enjoyment knowing there are still young men learning and enjoying the back country. Passing by some lads making eggs and bacon made us all a little envious of a hot meal. We ate a quick lunch creek side (@ 9am...) and headed up to the Three Ridges. This trail never fails to test your fitness. It's not for the unfit or weary footed hiker. You will trip, slip, and cuss at some point during these ascents and that's without ice. The icy spots only add to the adventure.

The western sides of the peaks were still untouched by the sun making for many icy rocks and logs. We managed just fine with a few slippery moments of laughter. The AT definitely needs some clean up on it. Numerous trees, big and small, have fallen this winter. Again, I wish I had my folding saw to help with the smaller stuff.

Overall, this remains one of the best backcountry challenges in the area. Be it a challenging 2 day or a vicious 1 day, the terrain is ever changing, the climbing is relentless, but the views are spectacular (make a point of going in the winter). I had a thought at one point in the day that people need to add this circuit to their New Years goals. Skip the local 10k trianing team.....instead, train for 13.5 miles of backcountry hiking on these wonderful resources we have in the Virginia Mountains.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 13, 2018
I have done this hike several times before in every season and it's always a good hike. My friend and I started around 9:00 am with a strong wind and temperature in the mid 20's. We hiked to the Harper's Creek shelter and set up around 2:30. The previous rain made finding wood for a fire a bit of a challenge but knowing the temperature was dropping we were up for it. Harper's Creek was the highest I had ever seen it, we had to cross on a fallen tree.

It got down to about 10 degrees at night but the wind settled down. The past guests of the shelter left a lot of trash behind, we did our best to pack out what they left but it is going to take a couple of trips.

The next morning we headed out and met up with the Mau-Har trail. That trail is what gives this hike its difficulty rating. The freezing temperatures made scrambling up the rocks on the trail a little more exciting due to the ice. There was two more creek crossings that were a little high. If you have the balance you can make it over them on some narrow fallen trees, otherwise take off your boots and play it safe.

We only ran into three other backpackers, the temperature kept the weekend crowds away.

By: Chad DiMarzo Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 11, 2017
If you like a challenge, awesome views and a leg burner, this hike is for you. Highly recommended! Oh and Devils Backbone Brewery is only 3 miles away for a victory Beer.

    View all 113 reviews for the Three Ridges hike
Early October
Late April
Photo courtesy of Mollie
about us | terms of use | © 2018