Three Ridges - Mau-Har Trail, GWNF, Tyro, Virginia

August 2, 2015

Written by Paul van Valkenburgh

The Three Ridges Hike in the George Washington National Forest is amazing. This area of the Appalachians, near the North end of the Blue Ridge Parkway has rugged, (relatively, for the area) higher elevation mountains. This loop hike can be done two ways and this report describes starting from the South at the Route 56 intersection of the Appalachian Trail. Then the route goes clockwise, going up Three Ridges Mountain first, then down the Mau-Har trail.


I was trying to get some strenuous hiking before I went out West, and this hike fit the bill. It was a 14.4 mile hike with 4300 feet elevation gain. I was lured into doing the hike as it was posted with the Mid-Atlantic Group. Given my unfamiliarity with the area, I figured it would be good to be with a group. Let me say that folks from these hiking groups are pretty much maniacs. They go really fast!


We started the hike at 9AM. Just after leaving the parking area, you cross a suspension bridge over the Tye River.


Soon after you begin the trail off of Routs 56, you cross this suspension bridge across the Tye River


Getting Started On Bridge Over Tye River - Three Ridges Mountain - GWNF



Then, it is on up 1.5 miles to the first intersection. Head to the right to the Three Ridges Mountain trail, which stays on the white blazed Appalachian Trail. There is a small ridge to clear, then down and across a creek, and then you begin heading up from the base of the Three Ridges Mountain. This hike is tough! Lots of interesting (sometimes rocky) trail that goes straight up for about 4 miles. It is just a big long mountain!


George Washington National Forest sign


Rocky section on the way up Three Ridges Mountain


The first overlook on Three Ridges Mountain is on a rock slab looking to the East.


Once on Three Ridges Mountain, the first overlook to the East down the valley


Then you arrive at another overlook which looks to the West.


The second overlook on Three Ridges Mountain looks West


After the second overlook, the next section towards the summit is very steep, with lots of switchbacks and steps. The summit itself doesn't have any overlooks.


The Second Overlook - Three Ridges Mountain - GWNF



Steep Rocky Trail Near Summit - Three Ridges Mountain - GWNF



After passing the summit and looking back, Three Ridges Mountain rises to the left


A closer look, way up high!


Over the summit the trail continues on the Appalachian Trail and eventually bends over onto Bee Mountain. This is where you hit the 3rd, and best (spectacular!) overlook. The overlook from Bee Mountain looks directly to the South at The Priest with views East, South and West. The giant open rock slab sits as if it is hovering on air. It's a great place to stop and rest up.


Looking directly across to The Priest from the third (and best) overlook


Looking East and South from the best (3rd) overlook - Three Ridges Mtn(L), the valley, and The Priest(R)


Looking South and West from the best (3rd) overlook - The Priest (L), Spy Rock and Crabtree Falls area (R)


Views From The Best Overlook - Three Ridges Mountain - GWNF



The trail continues down Bee Mountain and is quite pleasant.


Pretty rhododendrons along the trail


The trail then hits an intersection where there is a shelter, some campsites, and the beginning of the Mau-Har trail. This trail is really neat as it follows Campbell Creek for a good 1.5 mile stretch. The creek is covering a quite steep section so there are lots of little baby waterfalls alongside the trail. And the trail itself is also quite bumpy as it flows over rocks and ledges alongside the creek. It definitely takes more time to navigate this trail. Even though it is downhill, the technical portions make it slow going. Beautiful though!


The Mau-Har trail follows Campbell Creek. There are tons of nice little waterfalls but the trail is quite bumpy


One of the many waterfalls on Campbell Creek - Mau-Har trail


When you reach the bottom of the Mau-Har trail, get ready for some pain, as there is a 600 ft uphill to go over another ridge to meet back with the intersection of the Appalachian Trail. This is about the time you start wishing this long hike was finished! But no, after navigating the section over the ridge to the intersection, you still have another 1.5 miles back down to Route 56!


All in all this is a great hike if you are looking for a strenuous hike to get you in shape. The sheer size of the mountains, along with the beautiful overlook and gorgeous Mau-Har trail make it well worth it. But bring lots of water and lots of food. And make sure to get in some training hikes before you try this one! It took us 8 hours.


Butterfly Bush - Three Ridges Mountain - GWNF



Hope this has been enjoyable and / or helpful to anyone reading it!!


Additional information about this hike can be found here:

http://www.hikingupward.com/GWNF/ThreeRidges

http://midatlantichikes.com/at-mauhar.htm


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