This trail starts northbound from the Crabtree Falls Highway (56) parking lot located on the south side of the highway. You cross the lanes and look for the historic "white slashes" that will lead you to the bridge that crosses the Tye River.
After the creek the trail leads you up a bluff and along a slow rise to the 1.7 mile point where you come to the junction with the Mau-Har Trail
. You can choose to run 3 miles to the Maupin Shelter on the Mau-Har Trail
or take the challenge of the summit route by continuing on the AT. This route is 7 miles long and the elevation peaked at 3794' to get to the same Maupin Shelter.
For our trip, we continued on the AT as it takes a momentary downward projection towards the Harper's Creek Shelter. This location offers a place to provide your legs some rest before the massive and relentless climb to the summit. It is also HIGHLY recommended that you use the creek to refill all of your water bottles with water from the creek that runs by the shelter. Be sure to filter/treat any water before drinking! You may want to utilize the toilet near the shelter, because you'll not see another facility until you get to the Maupin Shelter which is 6 miles away with 2000' of elevation gain.
Upon leaving the Harper's Creek Shelter you are going to climb, climb and climb some more. At times the trail is pure rock piles or just a large boulder. The summit doesn't provide views, but the ridges on the way up provide amazing views of the valley and of the "Priest" to the south (Flat Rock & Chimney Rocks along the ridges). Take time to enjoy these views while your thighs take a much needed break. After many switchbacks on the south side of the mountain, you'll reach the 6 mile mark and the tree covered summit. Though every book states that there are zero views from the summit, you can gain some views to the north just over the top of the mountain. The real gem of the trail comes at the 7 mile mark of the trail when you have descended from the summit a mile.
Just off the trail to the left there is an area of large boulders that you can sit on and just relish the fantastic views to the south. Taking an extended meal break at this location is highly advised. After enjoying the views that this trail is known for, you continue to the 8-9 mile point will reach the Mau-Har Trail
junction at the Maupin Shelter. From that point you'll have a short climb and then a steady descent to the parking lot at Reed's Gap. If you are adventurous, you can do the 13.4 mile loop.