More of the APPALACHIAN TRAIL passes through Virginia than any other state and 45 miles of the Trail are in Nelson County – with moderately challenging to rugged terrain. The A.T. is accessible from Route 56 in Tyro and at trail crossings along the BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY: Reid’s Gap/Route 664, and Rockfish Gap/Afton Mountain (exit 99 off Interstate 64).
A 2.6-mile moderate hike along the Appalachian Trail traverses a wooden Swinging Bridge over the Tye River, and travels through stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron to the Harpers Creek Shelter (AT) and Harper’s Creek, where the water gurgles through the large cascading rocks. Multiple campsites are on each side of the creek, and there’s a vault toilet up the hill from the shelter.
From State Route 56 at Crabtree Falls: Take SR 56 east for approximately 3-4 miles. The Appalachian Trail crosses SR 56 and a AT parking lot is available to the right (South side) of SR 56. Head across the street from the parking lot (North) on the AT across the Swinging Bridge, and continue up the trail towards Harper’s Creek Shelter.
An approximate 2 mile moderately strenuous hike from the Montebello Fish Hatchery up to the Appalachian Trail and to Spy Rock, probably the best viewpoint in the central Blue Ridge. The rock outcrop, at 3,980 feet elevation, provides a 360 degree panoramic view of numerous mountain summits.
From State Route 56 at Crabtree Falls.
Take RT. 56 west towards Montebello.
Turn left onto Rt. 690 to Montebello State Fish Hatchery. A small parking lot for hikers is available beyond the hatchery buildings to the right (follow the sign).
Follow the trail for approximately .9 miles until it intersects the Appalachian Trail (white blazed).
Turn left (north) on the AT and follow it about .7 miles to the small side trail to Spy Rock. A rock scramble will lead to the top of Spy Rock.
THE WILDERNESS designation provides permanent protection for the two areas in their natural state. THE PRIEST (nearly 6,000 acres) rises from an elevation of about 1,000 feet at the Tye River to 4,063 feet. THREE RIDGES (4,608 acres) is one of the wildest and most rugged areas in the Virginia Blue Ridge. One of the accesses to the area is the Appalachian Trail that runs through this scenic wilderness.