Route: The Priest & Three Ridges (VA)

Virginia, US
23.4 mi
Vertical Gain
7,300 ft

The route is described on the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club website:

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.

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.

The finale is the 3,000 foot ascent of the Priest. Take the white-blazed AT south and climb for the next 4.0 miles before reaching the summit plateau. The turnaround is the Priest Shelter so make sure to tap it (Editor note: Prior to April 2021, just going to the turn around was enough, although some efforts did tag the shelter. Tagging the shelter is consistent with Neal Gorman’s original FKT effort on the route and is the standard going forward.)


Dustin Smith and I are doing a mixed team self-supported run tomorrow to get something recorded on the women's side. 

Kate did great out there and came out with a women's supported FKT in 8h, 16m!

She sprained her ankle at ~7.5m - nearly ending the day - so was extra ginger/careful (and slower) on the rest. A bit sad since Kate is a freight train on the downs! (And we had just started coming off Three Ridges). Nonetheless, excellent day out at the park. 

I will be attempting this course tomorrow unsupported the same direction others before have done it. Might be quite the challenge with wet conditions, potentially windy, and chilly.

This was overall successful, but would have done things differently knowing what I know now! What a technical thrill. Congrats to the dudes who really go ham on this course.

Really this route should be just self supported style. Unsupported doesn't make a ton of sense. Technically you could start at 56 holding a cache, start your watch, and immediately drop it in the bushes and do an unsupported effort with a self supported level of support. 

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I’ll go for the womens self supported record tomorrow