The Priest reaches 4,063 feet in elevation and is one of the most grueling climbs on the Appalachian Trail. This hike includes 37 switchbacks.
The Appalachian Trail begins to ascend to its summit, after switchbacks, at about 4.2 miles. The overlook is slightly beyond the summit; a trail off to the right leads to an outcrop of rock that provides an excellent area to view the surrounding summits, which include Little Priest, The Friar, and The Cardinal.
From this point you can either retrace your steps with a knee-busting descent, or choose to complete the point-to-point by taking a right past the kiosk at 5.9 miles to turn onto Crabtree Falls Road. This will take you down to the parking lot, which has a $3 day use fee. The Crabtree Falls hike is a short hike that is well worth the extra 3.4 miles and $3 fee
From the Lexington Visitor Center, drive west on Washington Street to a right onto Main Street (US-11 Business). Continue driving north on US-11 for approximately 16 miles and take a right onto Tye River Turnpike (Route 56).
The route will cross railroad tracks and climb to pass the Blue Ridge Parkway. Continue past the Parkway, the parking lot for Crabtree Falls will be on the right. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road and a parking lot for The Priest is on the right.
- Should you incorporate Crabtree Falls into your hike, stay on the path. This can’t be overemphasized. A clear, undetectable algae grows on the rocks along the falls. Hikers have slipped and fallen to their death from those rocks.
- This portion of the Appalachian Trail is in The Priest Wilderness, which limits groups to 10 people or fewer.
- Crash for the night at Osceola Mill or Alpine Hideaway Cabins. You’ll definitely enjoy a shower and a comfortable bed after such a day.