Crabtree Falls to The Priest

  • Highlights: Views, wildflowers, wildlife, waterfalls, Appalachian Trail
  • Distance: 10.5 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 2,570 feet
  • Difficulty level: Strenuous
  • Trailhead Parking: Crabtree Falls Trailhead parking area, Route 56, Tyro VA, $3 parking fee
  • Website: AllTrails
  • Beer Pairings: Blue Mountain Barrel House—Red Zeppelin Red IPA & Classic Lager

The Hike:

The Priest is a famous (even infamous) peak for AT thru hikers. South-bound hikers see The Priest from Three Ridges, long before they reach the base at Tye River and route 56. From there, it’s a strenuous hike of nearly 4 miles and 3,200 feet to the summit. We decided on a different option: a longer hike with a little less elevation gain that also included Crabtree Falls. 

This hike begins on the popular Crabtree Falls Trail up to Crabtree Meadows. A short, steep stretch on a fire road connects with the AT which leads up the back of The Priest to the summit. The parking area is large but does become full on weekends. There is a $3 parking fee and pit toilets are located near the trailhead. The kiosk in the parking area has a detailed map for the section to the fire road. Take a photo of the map and stay straight to Crabtree Meadows. From the Crabtree Falls parking area, begin the uphill trek to the top of the falls. This is a popular hike and if you will likely follow a conga-line of hikers as you wind your way up the steps and switchbacks. 

We began this hike at 8 am on a Friday morning and had the falls to ourselves on the way up. Coming back down; however, it was bumper to bumper traffic on the trail. We have hiked to Crabtree Falls many times and it never disappoints. At the top of the falls in 2 miles, continue straight as the trail becomes wider. Crabtree Creek will be on the left as you make your way up to Crabtree Meadows and the junction with the fire road at 3 miles. There is a small parking area here and a toilet. A trail kiosk has a map of the next section of the trail to the Priest summit.  

Take a photo of the kiosk map and turn left on the fire road, which is also known as Meadows Lane, Shoe Creek Trail, and Forest Service Road 263. This .5 mile trek to the AT may be the steepest part of this hike. Reach the junction with the AT at 3.5 miles. Turn left here and follow the white-blazed AT heading north.

The climb continues as you work your way up the back of The Priest. Reach a trail junction at 4.5 miles, just past a large boulder on the right. The Priest Shelter is several hundred yards straight ahead. The AT continues to the left. While there are no views at the shelter, it is still worth a short detour. AT thru-hikers traditionally use the trail log at the Priest shelter as a confessional and the entries make for interesting reading.

Retrace your steps back to the AT and turn right to continue on the AT heading north. This is the last uphill stretch. Look for a double white blaze on a split leader oak at 5.2 miles and turn left on a short spur leading to fantastic 180° views. This is a great place for lunch or a snack. Take in the views and enjoy the beauty of the Priest Wilderness. Retrace your steps all downhill on the AT heading south, turn right on the fire road, and right again at Crabtree Meadows to return to the parking area and your vehicle,

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton has been a favorite of ours for many years. Blue Mountain Barrel House and  Smokin’ Barrel Restaurant is the site of their production facility in Arrington VA. With great mountain views, excellent food, live music, and Blue Mountain beers, this is a great post-hike destination. 

Kathy really liked Red Zeppelin, a red IPA with a nice balance of malts and hops. Brewed with Falconers Flight, Citra, Simcoe, and Cascade hops, this is a great IPA. Pete enjoyed their Classic Lager, brewed with two-row malts and Noble hops, it is cold fermented for six weeks. The result is a crisp, refreshing beer. The half rack of ribs and pulled pork platter were almost as good as the views from the beer garden.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.