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Thread: The Priest vs Chimney Rock And Three Ridges In Virginia

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    The Priest vs Chimney Rock And Three Ridges In Virginia

    I'm looking at trying to line up a hike for my annual OH/KY work trip in late March in case weather and circumstances allow. One area that caught my attention was in Virginia. In particular, there is a trail head with parking on Rte 56 that would allow for either doing "The Priest" or "Chimney Rock" and Three Ridges. They both seem to be comparable lengths and verticals. Did some basic research and the trail to Chimney Rock sounds more interesting to me but they both seem like decent hikes. The trail head in question is going to be about 5 1/2 hours or so from my KY job so I'll probably stay in the Lexington area the night before so I will have a full day to hit either of these hikes.

    Anybody been in that area before that could weigh in with any info on the hikes, trail comps, etc? I seem to remember when I asked a more generic version of this question last year that somebody mentioned The Priest. Also, any guestimates on what type of conditions I might expect in late MAR for Virginia? Based on the elevations I'm guessing it'll be comparable to the Catskills maybe, i.e. probably most snow gone except sheltered spots, still some ice, etc.? Any info would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; NY 46: 6/46

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    I do not recognize Chimney Rock. I do remember the Priest as a possible loop hike from RT 263 which is AT south of the actual Priest. There is trail that forks to the west off of the AT that goes past a set of waterfalls and skips the Priest which comes back to the AT at a Shelter North of the Priest. This would enable a loop from RT 263 via the falls (if the trail still exists) to the Shelter and then south on the AT over the Priest and back to your car. My AT maps are in long term storage somewhere so you would need to confirm that the blue blaze still exists. There is quite a bit of elevation change in this hike from 263. We had to blue blaze the waterfalls due to nasty weather when we were hiking through the area on the AT so we took the blue blaze and then picked up the priest summit a year later on pick up hike. We started near there on April 1st and froze for most of the week. The ridgeline is 5000 feet and the weather down in the valleys was decidedly more pleasant than up on the ridge. I had most of the clothing in our backpacks on including liner gloves, mittens, polypro top and bottom and a balaclava. There was no snow but there was icy patches.

    The AT goes over Three Ridges but I do not remember much about them except that this section is not running parallel to the BRP and is separated by valley.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I do not recognize Chimney Rock. I do remember the Priest as a possible loop hike from RT 263 which is AT south of the actual Priest. There is trail that forks to the west off of the AT that goes past a set of waterfalls and skips the Priest which comes back to the AT at a Shelter North of the Priest. This would enable a loop from RT 263 via the falls (if the trail still exists) to the Shelter and then south on the AT over the Priest and back to your car. My AT maps are in long term storage somewhere so you would need to confirm that the blue blaze still exists. There is quite a bit of elevation change in this hike from 263. We had to blue blaze the waterfalls due to nasty weather when we were hiking through the area on the AT so we took the blue blaze and then picked up the priest summit a year later on pick up hike. We started near there on April 1st and froze for most of the week. The ridgeline is 5000 feet and the weather down in the valleys was decidedly more pleasant than up on the ridge. I had most of the clothing in our backpacks on including liner gloves, mittens, polypro top and bottom and a balaclava. There was no snow but there was icy patches.

    The AT goes over Three Ridges but I do not remember much about them except that this section is not running parallel to the BRP and is separated by valley.
    The Priest and the high point on Three Ridges are both about 4,000 ft. At least going by the MapBuilder layer on CalTopo the Priest doesn't look "loopable" unless it was a very long, multi day affair with use of some roads. The trail report/description I found for the Priest was from the West via what sounded like a seasonal road that could be an issue without 4WD so I was eliminating that as an option given the time of year I'll be there. Rte 56 appears to be a year round paved road and splits the two areas nicely. Chimney Rock (and Hanging Rock North of the true summit) just appear to be nice outcrops with unrestricted views, not necessarily must see destinations. I guess Three Ridges summit itself is wooded. Pretty much everything I found online for Three Ridges was a 2-day loop hike starting on Blue Ridge Parkway, going South over them and staying at a campsite in valley before climbing back out. I won't be overnighting and I'm not sure whether the Blue Ridge Parkway would be open depending on weather at that time of year so that really didn't help much. My only concern was that the loop descriptions of this trail describe a "very steep and slippery descent". But the photos I found don't look bad to me, at least based on typical White Mountain trail conditions.

    I'm just trying to avoid driving 5.5 hours and the cost of a hotel to climb Virginia's version of Zealand Mt.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member Barkingcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I'm just trying to avoid driving 5.5 hours and the cost of a hotel to climb Virginia's version of Zealand Mt.
    That is a very long drive just to hike the Priest -- can't say what the Three Ridges are like, because when we last were in that area, the Priest coupled with nearby Crabtree Falls seemed much more interesting, and we've been in that area more than once recently.

    I'd say that the Priest, with its viewpoint/overlook, is more like....ummmmm...(racks brain) the view spur from North Twin. Nice views of a valley from a mostly viewless trail, except that the AT over the Priest is mainly hardwoods.

    We did an out-and-back from Route 56 up the Priest, down, over to Crabtree Falls, and then back up the Priest and to our car. The entire trek was 14.5 miles -- but it went relatively quickly because the grade and footing of the route is so much easier than the trails in the Whites. (No -- there are/were no trails in the area that we were able to find allowing for a loop hike.)

    I think the Crabtree Falls is more interesting than the Priest or any of the other nearby overlooks.

    That said, is there something closer than 5.5 hours' drive? There has to be?

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barkingcat View Post
    That is a very long drive just to hike the Priest -- can't say what the Three Ridges are like, because when we last were in that area, the Priest coupled with nearby Crabtree Falls seemed much more interesting, and we've been in that area more than once recently.

    I'd say that the Priest, with its viewpoint/overlook, is more like....ummmmm...(racks brain) the view spur from North Twin. Nice views of a valley from a mostly viewless trail, except that the AT over the Priest is mainly hardwoods.

    We did an out-and-back from Route 56 up the Priest, down, over to Crabtree Falls, and then back up the Priest and to our car. The entire trek was 14.5 miles -- but it went relatively quickly because the grade and footing of the route is so much easier than the trails in the Whites. (No -- there are/were no trails in the area that we were able to find allowing for a loop hike.)

    I think the Crabtree Falls is more interesting than the Priest or any of the other nearby overlooks.

    That said, is there something closer than 5.5 hours' drive? There has to be?
    If there is I am certainly open to suggestions. I'm not specifically driving there for that particular hike. I do a job in Vanceburg, KY every MAR and this area is not too far off from the way I would be driving home anyway, which is how I came across it. Most of the hiking I'd like to do that way is even further South from where I work so it makes for a huge ride home to CT after. a long week. Last year I had posted a similar but far more open ended question on the topic but it didn't drum up too many ideas. Of course saying that I'm looking for a nice hike somewhere in the Eastern US is a pretty general question so I get the lack of solid ideas.

    In a perfect world I'd find a 10-12 mile loop hike with some elevation gain and long ridge walking with numerous outlooks looking at actual mountains of some sort as opposed to wide expanses of flat, farm land. Three Ridges came up in a lot of searches of the area. It hardly looks like Northern Presidentials but it looked like a decent hike. The ideal target area would be in West Virginia or central Pennsylvania because it would have the least impact on my drive home. I've done several searches on various hiking topics but hadn't come across anything that held my interest. Figure so many people on VFTT have hiked all over the place that somebody at some point found a little gem in the area they could pass along. It's worked in the past so I always give it a shot here.

    As far as Crabtree Falls that may indeed be a nice hike but I'm more of a climb to the top of something and have a look around kind of guy. I tend to do valley/river/waterfall type hikes in the warmer months when weather isn't clear. Panoramic views are my preference.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; NY 46: 6/46

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    Well my memory was bad from 2001. The loop hike is over the Three Ridges via the AT and the Mau Hau trail

    https://www.alltrails.com/explore/tr...-view-full-map

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Well my memory was bad from 2001. The loop hike is over the Three Ridges via the AT and the Mau Hau trail

    https://www.alltrails.com/explore/tr...-view-full-map
    Yah that is pretty much the hike everyone seems to do. Does sound like a good one. No worries on the memory. You've forgotten about more hikes you've done than I've read about. Understandable to jumble up a few details. Thanks as always for the detailed replies.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; NY 46: 6/46

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    One of the things about long distance backpacking the AT is vast amounts of the trail are along the ridgecrest therefore a hiker is climbing over named summits every couple of hours, and the names of the summits are not the priority. The profile map and shelter locations tend to be the priority, that is why I had a pretty good memory of the blue blaze. When I was hiking I usually had my map folded so I could see the days profile, I didnt use the map much during the day and subsequent guides cut out the maps and just went with profiles. Even on the subsequent pick up trip a few years later we were far more focused where we needed to start and end and the terrain we were going to encounter then the names of the summits. Unlike the whites, much of the AT south of VT is a proverbial green tunnel (although for us it was leafless tunnel) with no memorable summits with 360 degrees. Even the highest elevation summit on the AT, Clingman's Dome at 6644 is in the woods and is about as picturesque as the summit of Cabot or Zealand There is a decidedly ugly concrete observation tower grafted onto the summit but we were in the clouds on the day we hiked past. At best with the exception of a handful of southern balds, the views tend to be ledges where the canopy is broken for view at best that encompasses less than 180 degrees.

    BTW, I also remember the "logical" road to get from one end of this section and the other end (not needed for a loop hiker) was a very "interesting" secondary forest service road. The only road similar to the southern FS roads would be the east side of Hurricane Mountain road unpaved, although in some cases these roads may run 10 to 20 miles and are not paved. Its not usual to find these roads routinely climbing up from the valleys two to three thousand feet vertical. They do not get lot of use so we would on occasion need to get out with handsaw and saw branches out of the way.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    BTW, I also remember the "logical" road to get from one end of this section and the other end (not needed for a loop hiker) was a very "interesting" secondary forest service road.
    Yes exploring new areas can have very interesting access roads. Two Thanksgiving weekends ago I did a 3 day road trip down to North Carolina to climb Mt Mitchell (which I didn't ultimately get to climb but hit several other cool summits along that ridge). I came up to trail head from the South on a paved road that would rival any roller coaster I've ever been on. I thought something was wrong with Waze as I approached an 8 mile section of road that was like a bowl of pasta. It was like the hair pin turn on the Kanc with no shoulder over and over and over for 8 miles. There were turns that had a 20-30 deg bank as you swung left and right every few seconds. I was literally nauseous when I got to the top. Yesterday I hiked Peekamoose in the Catskills and the state road on the way in had sections where if you went 6 inches off the road you plummeted into a pond or river and big chunks of rocks were in the road from the steep rocky bank. Was quality fun in the dark. A lot of roads in the Catskills are pretty interesting actually from what I have seen so far. Trees falling over, zero shoulder and wildly over sanded.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 48/48; ME 4k: 2/14; VT 4k: 1/5; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member blacknblue's Avatar
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    My memories of that area are pretty old, too, but I recall The Priest being more scenic than Three Ridges. The vertical rise is significant, but not nearly as rugged as the Whites. You'll be fine.
    By late March/early April, you're more likely to have pleasant weather. The valleys will be green by then, and the mountaintops likely to be leafless but pleasant. They don't usually have mud season like we do. Especially this year, I'm guessing it's more or less snow-free even now.
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