Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Ridges

I love hiking in Virginia. We are lucky to live around a two hour drive away from some great hikes along the Blue Ridge. While I would like to be a little closer, I also know that there are a lot of people who can't drive to the mountains for a day or weekend hike. If you live in Virginia or get the chance to visit and are looking for a challenging hike, head on over to the AT. Our favorite loop is Three Ridges.

The 14 mile loop starts on the AT just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville. We have done the loop in one day, but we prefer to make a weekend trip out of it. The hike starts with a moderate climb, then a decline down to the Maupin Field shelter, 1.6 miles from the start. This is where the loop starts. You can either keep going along the AT, or split onto the Mau-Har trail which starts behind the shelter across the stream. We have only done the loop in the direction that continues along the AT and connects to the Mau-Har trail later on. If you go our way (which I think is the more common route), you'll hike for at least an hour more before reaching the best view of the hike. Of all the hikes we've done in Virginia, this is my favorite viewpoint. Take some time to enjoy the mountains and the stream way down in the valley. The beauty is truly breathtaking.
When you're done appreciating the view, you can keep heading up the mountain for one of the harder climbs. A lot of people just hike to the viewpoint and turn back, so traffic thins when you continue on. After you make it to the top of the mountain there isn't much of a view, but you're rewarded with some flat then downhill sections. As you make your way across the ridges, you hike down gradually then steeply on your way into the valley. I recommend taking hiking poles for this section or your knees won't be too happy. Take it slow to avoid slipping on the rocky terrain.

Once your in the valley you will reach the next shelter and a stream. This is about halfway so, if you want to split the loop evenly over two days, camp here. Continuing on gets into some more tough uphill sections. Eventually you will reach the fork where the Mau-Har trail meets the AT. Unless you're heading to Georgia, take the Mau-Har trail. Keep on going until you head down to the waterfall section. We've seen a lot of snakes in this area, but nothing too dangerous. Leave them alone and they won't bother you. Enjoy the beautiful waterfalls to keep your mind off of the scrambly rock climb that takes you back up (have you noticed that you're almost always going up or down?). A ways past the waterfall section you'll pass over a stream and keep going up, through a few more little streams, and finally hit the Maupin Field shelter. Now you've connected the loop and you're only 1.6 miles from the parking lot! Make your way gradually up to the first ridge and then down to your car. Head on out and find the nearest brewery (Devil's Backbone, Blue Mountain, Blue Toad, Wild Wolf, Bold Rock, so many options) you've earned it!

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