As per our tradition for the last 3 years, we spent New Year’s Eve in the woods! We decided to take a 6 hour drive to tackle a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. I generally do a decent amount of research before any trip we take. I like to get a feel for what terrain we will be doing as well as any issues that others have had following the trail. This really came in handy on this 13.77 mile journey! One of the best sites that I have come across for maps and information is Hiking Upward. This site had a nice topography map as well as waypoints and photo ops. The Three Ridges is a loop trail of which about 9 miles is on the AT. It is marked well except for one spot. Thankfully, doing my research I knew where to look and I will come back to this later in the post.
Map courtesy of Hiking Upward
We began our journey at the Reeds Gap parking area off of the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. Our plan was to camp at the southern most shelter (Harper’s Creek) and finish the loop the next day. It was about a mile and a half on the AT from the parking area to the start of the loop. Most folks choose to go clockwise, we did not. I do not believe the trail would be harder one way or another I believe that is a personal preference. My husband is not a huge fan of hiking downhill, which was a deciding factor for us. If you go clockwise, you will be going downhill for a solid 3 miles. If you go counterclockwise you will be going up. I’m sure most of you are thinking you’d DEFINITELY rather go down but I assure you, the ascent was not that bad. We took our time and still managed to hike about our normal 2 mph pace overall. There were plenty of switchbacks and the trail was well marked and cleared.
At the Maupin Shelter, we headed onto the Mau-Har Trail. This trail has some rock scrambles and it is posted to be a very difficult hike. We had literally NO issues on this trail. We are both early 30’s and in good shape so take that for what it’s worth. It is a beautiful trail and there are waterfalls as well as a nice swimming hole. Here is where you run into the trail confusion. You will see a sign that points straight ahead of you for waterfalls. To stay on the trail look up the hill on the left for your blue blazes, they are not easy to see. *REMEMBER* This is if you are doing the trail counter clockwise. If you are coming clockwise the sign will show the waterfall trail to the left but you will need to continue straight up to the right, again look for your blaze and you’ll find it. If you are planning to camp, there is the Campbell’s Creek area on the Mau-Har trail but it is small and rocky. However, there is plenty of water along this trail.
It only took us a couple of hours to complete the Mau-Har before we linked back onto the AT. It took us just under a mile to reach the Harper’s Creek Shelter area. This was a wonderful place to camp. There are several sites which are very well spread out as well as the shelter itself. The creek provided water for us although I have read that midsummer this isn’t always a dependable source. There is also a latrine at this shelter area, not sure how nice it is as we didn’t use it. There is no bear pole but there is also no shortage of trees to hang your food. We were able to find a decent amount of firewood and the site was nice and flat. It was a nice quiet night in the woods with the sound of the babbling creek to lull us to sleep. Our new trial sleep system however didn’t lend us much comfort. We are always trying to think of ways to lighten our packs as we carry a decent amount of heavy camera gear. This time, we got the bright idea to try sleeping in one sleeping bag together. It was a 50 degree bag from Wal-Mart (again, not the smartest choice). Bryce and I are both small people. Our trial run at home to see if we fit left us with no worries. We did not account for the extra clothing we would be wearing which prevented us from being able to move in said sleeping bag. Another first for me was the fact that we only took the rainfly and foot print from our tent. Leaving the bug net portion of our tent at home lessened our load by a pound and freed up some space in our packs. In doing this, we often found our sleeping pads had drifted out from under us and were half outside our shelter with no bathtub floor to keep them inside. Oh well, ya live and ya learn, right?
After our evening of little sleep, we began our 3 mile ascent. The views kept getting better and better on our way up. We passed several other hikers, going the opposite way as us of course. I would be willing to bet that during warmer weather this trail is PACKED. After 3 miles of switchbacks we reached the top. There wasn’t really a spectacular tippy top viewing spot but just as we started to head back down was the beautiful spot we had hoped for. It was timed perfectly for us to stop and have some well deserved lunch before finishing up our trip. It was an easy hike back to the end of the loop. Once we began the last 1.6 mile walk back to the car, Bryce got an insane leg cramp that took him to the ground. We realized that neither of us had really drank much water in comparison to how much we had exerted ourselves climbing that hill. After a few minutes, he was ready to trudge on and we finished our mission. Overall it was a fantastic trip and I highly recommend this trail! It was exciting to do some miles on the Appalachian Trail and it was also a nice opportunity for us to both try out the new gear we’d gotten.
New Packs : Gregory Jade 38 (Ashley) & Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Porter (Bryce)
Other New Gear : Garmin Fenix (first gen) hiking watch, Mora Eldris knife
If you would like to watch our journey you can click here to check out the video! Be sure to subscribe to our channel to see all of our adventures and gear reviews!