Summit Three Top Mountain

Rate this Adventure 5 miles 1440 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Sam Dennis

Epic and secluded day hike near Boone, NC, on rare amphibolite mountain with all the views!

Three Top Mountain sits within the same vicinity as Snake Mountain (see the adventure here) and Elk Knob. The mountain gets its name from its three prominent rock projections at its peak. The highest point, unofficially named “Big Rock”, is at an elevation of 5020 feet. Prior to the very originally named rock peak, you will arrive at Huckleberry Rock where the epic 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround you begins.  From the ridgeline, you are able to see Snake Mountain and Elk Knob to your southwest, Mt. Rogers of the Grayson Highlands and Whitetop Mountain to the North along with Stone Mountain to the East. Three Top Mountain is less than 30 miles from Boone, NC and like Snake Mountain, it makes for a perfect day hike destination for those in the area who want a strenuous but well worth it hike to some breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to Snake Mountain, Three Top Mountain is also a part of the same Amphibolite Mountain chain. Amphibolite Mountains are a rare group of mountains that contain a calcium-rich rock rare in the southern Blue Ridge, many of which are located in the same general region as Three Top. As a part of the ecologically dense Amphibolite Mountains, Three Top is the only one out of the group that contains the state’s sole population of bluebells along with multiple differing natural community types. Within the roughly 3000-acre area, the mountain inhabits Oak-Hickory Forest, Montane Mafic Cliff and High Elevation Seeps, Rich Cove Forest, High Elevation Red Oak Forest, High Elevation Seeps, Northern Hardwood Forest, Heath Balds, and a High Elevation Rocky Summit.

Based on the biologically diverse nature of the site, I would suggest doing this hike in the late spring, i.e. the end of May or early June for a view of nature’s blossoming splendor. Although I have never had the chance of doing it, I imagine a fall hike here would be absolutely incredible based on the amount of hardwoods that line the trail and the mountains surrounding Three Top. The trail is accessible year-round; however, the trail may be overgrown near the top of the mountain so appropriate clothing should be worn based on the time of year in which you go. I would not suggest doing this hike in the summer months but if you do, you should consider wearing long pants. Three Top Mountain is not well known, so if you want a secluded off the grid hike with some of the best views in the Blue Ridge this is your mountain.

*One important note about this area is that Three Top Mountain is a part of the North Carolina Game Lands, meaning that during hunting season the area is open to hunters so be aware of the time of year in which you are going. If you do go during a hunting season just make sure that you pack a hunter’s orange vest. See link for hunting seasons per the Northwestern region (Ashe County) of North Carolina via NC Wildlife regulations. I have personally never seen a hunter while hiking but it is always better to take precautions just in case.*

GPS Address via Google Maps: Three Top Mountain Game Lands, Creston, NC 28615

To get to there from Boone head east down king street towards US-421 and make a left on Jefferson Rd., NC-194, between Lowes Food and Mike’s Inland Seafood. Continue down NC-194 for 11 miles, eventually coming to a stop sign just past the Todd Volunteer Fire Department, from there turn left onto 3 Top Rd. Continue on 3 Top Rd. for another 10 miles, then turn right onto Eller Rd., from this point on it can get a little tricky to navigate via GPS. After turning onto Eller Rd., the road almost immediately splits. Keep going straight onto Hidden Valley Rd. You will pass some "No Trespassing" signs, just ignore them, the trailhead is on state land so do not worry about it. About 2 miles from the start of Hidden Valley Rd. the road becomes gravel, keep continuing straight. The road eventually transitions into Oak Trail. At the end of Oak Trail make a sharp right turn onto Beechwood Circle to Poplar Trail. Look for a “NC Game Land” sign and turn. The road will double back to the left to a two-track path that leads to the parking area. Directly adjacent to the parking area is metal gate, this is where the trailhead starts.

Do not worry about the seemingly lengthy directions to the trailhead. The journey there is not as bad as it seems.

The trail is a grown over unmarked ATV trail that starts at the brown metal gate where the “hunters wear orange, so should you!” sign is located. From the start of the trail the first-quarter mile or so is mainly flat. You will cross three small streams that may or may not be dry due the time of year or weather before your hike so be aware and wear appropriate footwear. After you cross the last stream the trail makes a sharp turn up towards the ridge of the mountain. Although the path up the mountain is unmarked with multiple secondary paths branching off the main trail it is obvious which one leads to the top of the mountain. As you progress towards the summit the trail continues into multiple lengthier switchbacks. The trail switches from the ATV path to a footpath from the halfway point onto the mountain’s peak. You are nearing the summit when the trail’s terrain transitions to a fern covered path under the mountain’s forested canopy. Near the top, the trail opens from the canopy covered footpath to a Heath Bald mountain peak allowing for an epic 360-degree view of the Southern Appalachians. You made it!

Please be respectful and pick up any trash that you might see on your way up the mountain. Be thankful for the opportunity to hike up this unique ecologically dense mountain in the heart of the Southern Appalachians.

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Easy Parking


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