This 13.2 mile circuit can be done as a day-hike, but it's better to extend the beauty and wildness into an overnight backpacking loop. Take your time, and you’ll be treated to panoramic views, lovely mountain streams, demanding climbs and peaceful campsites. Over half of the circuit follows the Appalachian Trail and is known as one of Virginia’s most rugged hikes. It’s a constant onslaught of heart-pounding climbs and knee-grinding descents. But along with the challenging terrain, you get spectacular views, beautiful streams and lovely campsites.
This run is regarded by many as the ultimate hill workout for big western 100s like Wasatch or Hardrock. Elevations range from 930 feet at the trailhead along the Tye River to 4,063 feet at the Priest’s summit. The run consists of a 14 mile loop of the Appalachian Trail and Mau-Har Trail, which takes you up and over Three Ridges. This is followed by a 9 mile out-and-back up the Priest, whose ascent gains a quad-burning 3,000 feet in just 4 miles. Climbs like this are rare indeed in Virginia.
Directions: From the trailhead off of Route 56, take the white-blazed Appalachian Trail (AT) north across the road and across the Tye River, and begin the ascent up Three Ridges. In 2.0 miles, come to the intersection with the Mau-Har Trail (you will return on this trail). Stay on the AT, and enjoy several spectacular views of the Priest before reaching the summit of Three Ridges (3,790 feet) at mile 5.9. Continue on the AT for 2.8 miles, descending to the Mau-Har Trail near Maupin Field Shelter. Take a left onto the blue-blazed Mau-Har Trail for 3.3 miles before intersecting the AT. Take a right on the white-blazed AT and descend 2.0 miles back to your car. This first loop is 14 miles.