The Challenge of the Three Ridges Trail

One thing about me is that I like to challenge myself and hiking Three Ridges on Blue Ridge Parkway was definitely that for me. Being new-ish to hiking, I’ve set my mind to conquering the 13.1 miles in a single day.

Trail Overview

The trail has the most amazing views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Situated in Central Virginia, just 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville. This hike has summit views, rock scrambles, cascading waterfalls along Campbell Creek, and two Appalachian Trail shelters – Harpers Creek and Maupin Fields – just about what you would want in a solid hike.

Trail Head and Access

You can come in from Waynesboro or from the Nellysford Wintergreen area to get to the parking area at Reeds Gap. You will head south along the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT). This is a popular trail and you will want to get there early to get a parking spot or plan for a non-weekend.

Trail Conditions and Difficulty

This is a challenging trail and difficult trail with a little bit of a rock scramble. I didn’t have many issues along the trail, there were no trees down and was well-traveled.

I recently took on this trail on a gorgeous Saturday. I did do this in a single day and look forward to backcountry camping the next time. If you are new to hiking, I will recommend making this a camping trip so you can split the mileage up take your time, and enjoy the area a bit more. Be prepared for steep inclines, rocky terrain, and unpredictable weather conditions.

Scenery and Points of Interest

The trail begins with a moderate ascent through a dense forest but several scenic spots along the Three Ridges hike are perfect for photography. The first spot is the summit of Three Ridges Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The second spot is the Hanging Rock Overlook, which provides a breathtaking view of the valley below.

Another great spot is the Chimney Rock Overlook, which offers a unique perspective of the surrounding mountains.

There are also a few places where you can step out to a small watering hole as well as a waterfall, provided that it we had enough snow and rain for them to be flowing.

Key Waypoints

One of the most challenging parts of the trail is crossing the Mau-Har Trail, which intersects with Three Ridges. Another important landmark is the Harpers Creek Shelter, which is located around the 5-mile mark and provides a good spot for a rest and a snack.

The final push to the summit of Three Ridges is steep and rocky, but the views from the top are well worth the effort.

It’s important however that you are respectful of the natural environment and not disturb any wildlife or vegetation while taking photos.

Preparation for the Hike

On this hike, I wore my trail runners and invested in a backpack with a hydration pack before heading out to Three Ridges for my hike. There are some key things I will recommend you have with you:

  • Sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support
  • A backpack with enough space to carry water, snacks, and extra layers. The weather can be quite unpredictable in the mountains even on a sunny day.
  • A map and compass or GPS device, or an App like AllTrails – if you’re using AllTrails download the map in advance so you have it as guidance.
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and insect repellent
  • A first aid kit and headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries and a battery pack for your phone.
  • A whistle and bear spray (just in case).

Safety Tips

Three Ridges Trail

I had the best time hiking Three Ridges but safety should always be a top priority. So some things to keep in mind:

  • Stay on designated trails and avoid shortcuts or off-trail hiking
  • Let someone know your planned route and expected return time. While I don’t post when I go where I do let my partner know what trail I am going to.
  • Keep an eye on the weather and turn back if conditions become dangerous.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and taking breaks as needed.
  • Watch your step and be aware of potential hazards such as loose rocks and slippery terrain.
  • Be mindful of wildlife and give them plenty of space.

Weather Considerations

Always check the forecast before heading out and be prepared for changing conditions. The Blue Ridge Parkway is known for its rapidly changing weather, so it’s essential to be prepared for anything. You will also want to dress in layers, bring rain gear, and be aware of the signs of hypothermia and heat exhaustion. It’s also important to note that thunderstorms can develop quickly in the mountains, so be prepared to seek shelter if necessary.

My experience

Three Ridges Trail

I start at the Reed’s Gap parking lot and towards the Maupin Field Shelter at 8:15 am on Saturday.

I stopped at Harper’s Creek Shelter for lunch. My plan for next time is to camp in that vicinity.

After lunch, I started back up and kept on hiking. I completed the 13.86 miles in 8 hours and 14 minutes to give you an idea. Here’s the thing, I didn’t stop for very long at the summits and just kept on getting it.

If you are not an avid hiker then this trail is going to be super challenging and it would be best to make this a camping trip.

I look forward to doing this hike again, but next time with my dog, overnight!

Let me know if you are keen on taking on Three Ridges and what your experience was in the comments!

German by birth, living, hiking, and camping in the US. Addicted to Coffee. Enjoys going to concerts. Also, Artist + Author. I love to encourage you to explore beyond your backyard. 

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    One response to “The Challenge of the Three Ridges Trail”

    1. […] hiked Three Ridges in April of 2023 after doing local hikes of 4 to 6 miles several times a week. I didn’t set a […]

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