The run to Springer Mountain is an extremely popular day run and for good reason. Following along the Appalachian Trail, the run climbs steadily from Three Forks to Rich Mountain then crosses over Blue Ridge Parkway for a final push to the summit of Springer Mountain.
For a nearly 9-mile outing, start from the Three Forks trailhead as mapped here. For runners looking for a shorter out-and-back that still tags the summit of Springer Mountain, you also can pick up the AT at the Springer Mountain Trailhead off of Blue Ridge Road which shortens the out-and-back mileage to right around 2-miles round-trip
Starting from the parking area at Three Forks, cross Noontoola Road (a gravel forest service road) and pick up the AT as it heads south into the woods. All along the way, the AT is blazed with white rectangle blazes. You'll cross Chester Creek and then stay right at the junction with the Benton MacKaye Trail
The trail will now follow along Stover Creek, climbing steadily but gradually as it parallels the creek. The forest is dense along the creek, and, in season, you may spot flowering rhododendron and mountain laurel. The trail crosses Stover Creek several times--some crossings have small wooden foot bridges and some require some easy rock hopping to keep your feet dry.
Shortly after you cross Stover Creek for the final time, you'll pass a short spur trail that leads to the Stover Creek shelter. At this point, the trail turns south and west, away from the stream and climbs toward Rich Mountain. You'll cross the Benton MacKaye Trail
near the summit of 3,312 foot Rich Mountain before turning south and crossing another spur of Davis Creek and another section of the Benton MacKaye Trail
At just over 3 miles, you'll cross Blue Ridge Road. Once across the road, you are onto the last climb to the summit of Springer. The trail is rocky in spots, and it is a steady climb from here to the summit, so take your time. As you climb, you'll catch some glimpses of views through the trees.
The view from Springer Mountain is well worth the effort. Once you gain the summit, you'll enjoy views of the Appalachian Mountains rolling away in the distance. Take some time to track down the commemorative plaques that mark the southern end of the AT and the final blaze marking the trail's end before heading back the way you came.
Pine, rhododendron, mountain laurel.
There is a commemorative plaque at the top of Springer Mountain that marks the southern terminus of the AT.