Hiked to the summit from 56 on a clear April afternoon. I agree that the trail is gentler than you'd expect from 3000' over four miles--the incline only felt uncomfortable on the half-mile right before the summit. Made it up in about two hours, spent a half-hour exploring the summit (there's no obvious endpoint, as others have remarked, just a long flat grassy stretch), and descended for a total time of four and a quarter hours.
I came for the elevation gain, but I'd return for the wildflowers, stream crossings, and views along the way. Do this one before the leaves come out!
Although the trail from the Tye River has the greatest elevation gain in Virginia, it isn't too difficult. I went up this peak about a week after Hurricane Sandy hit.
Nice easy hike. Spectacular route through Crabtree Falls in the early morning.
Heave hiked to the summit several times, mostly with Boy Scouts. Always a great hike. Awesome spring at the shelter. Some of the best water you can find in Virginia.
Outstanding day hike. Went with two buddies plus dog. Left from the parking area on 56. Met a lot of AT hikers coming down. Thunderstorm shortly after summit. One of my friends took off and I never saw someone run so fast down a hill. Took a mile and half to catch up with him.
I've climbed The Priest once from the Tye river, once from Crabtree Falls and once from the south on an AT section hike.
Weather on the drive was bad. Overcast and rainy most of the way. No view of the peaks from the road, which disappointed me.
There was one other car in the lot and one girl messing with her equipment by the trailhead marker. She was going southbound and had stayed at Maupin shelter the night before, but was waiting on a ride into charlottesville.
Started up at 1:30, and I was expecting a pretty tough climb but as i started on the switchbacks the trail was never super steep and for the most part it was well groomed. There were periodic stretches of rocky ground that made it pretty painful due to my thin shoes, and a couple of times I almost twisted my ankle because i had no support. At the few viewpoints along the trail, I could see absolutely nothing any further than 20-30 feet in front of me. This was true the whole way up in fact, as I hiked through constant dense fog and intermittent rain (which didnt get me that wet because the canopy was so thick). The breeze blowing the leaves made me more wet than direct raindrops. Also I expected it to be muddy but it wasn't. There were a few stretches of obvious fire damage and the stream crossings were totally dry.
I started to wonder why this was such a dreaded mountain when the switchbacks stopped and the trail became steeper, rockier, and straighter up the mountain. There was no marker at the summit, but the numerous rock formations and campsites make it clear when you've reached the peak. I kept going down the other side of the mountain to get to the Priest Shelter, but I didnt remember exactly how much further it was so i turned around, found a rocky viewpoint (without the view), and sat there drinking a deuce-deuce i brought up. It was a bit warm, and there was nothing to look at, and my dog was making me nervous around all the drops and wet rocks, so before too long I turned around and started back down.
The trip down felt twice as long as the trip up. Hard on the knees and feet, especially on a day that offers no views. There were intermittent campsites along the trail for anyone who doesnt want to use the shelter.
Took five hours altogether. Not a hike i'd recommend for someone who hasn't done any other central VA hikes, but not a bad one to knock off. I'd do it again as part of an overnight backpack, but not a day trip.
Have climbed The Priest multiple times by three routes: First from the Tye River AT parking area to the north, second from the Crabtree Falls parking area via the steep trail that follows the falls (and from the Crabtree Meadows parking area above Crabtree falls, accessible by a winding dirt road including a couple of fords of small streams) and third by bushwhacking up an old washed out logging road that parallels Rocky Run, coming up steeply from the East to the saddle between The Priest and Little Priest. All three routes offer about 3000 vertical feet in less than four miles--excellent workouts. There is an excellent viewpoint from a bold rock outcrop near the Priest summit (just west of it, still on the summit ridge) that gives you a panoramic view of all of Pinnacle Ridge and beyond, from SW through West to North. The viewpoint is just 100 feet off the AT. It's not hard to find, but you have to look for it. I love this area!
Hiked up Crabtree Falls then over the Priest and back down. Great views near the summit, but not as good as the scenery at Crabtree Falls.
I remember running into a southbound thru-hiker telling me just how difficult the hike up "The Priest" is. When I got there, the climb seemed pretty easy. However, as I headed down the north side of the mountain to the Tye River I think I got an understanding of what he was talking about.
My wife and I visited both Maintop and The Priest in one long push. Major lightning as we descended! Beautiful views from The Priest on west side of summit ridge - look for the small rock arrow to the side trail. Wow!
A good hike. Did it as a day hike from the river. So we gained 3,000 feet. Did the Three Ridges Loop the day before. Views are adequate, but nothing great.
I have ambivalent memories of hiking this route with my uncle during a cold February weekend back in 2001. It is long, steep, and sustained; and yet also beautiful and wild! I returned to the Priest and Three Ridges frequently back in the Fall of 04' in order to train for my climb of El Pico de Orizaba. All in all, a great place for fit hikers!
Great hike, great weather. My first trip up this mountain with few others along the way on the AT. 4 miles, 3,100 feet....it's gotta be fun! I still couldn't convince any of my work buddies to go though, so I had to enjoy it by myself.