We went to a section of the George Washington National Forest that was about 2.5 hours from where we live in Fairfax County. The majority of our route was along the Appalachian Trail, combined with a three-mile segment called the Mau-Har trail that made the route a circuit (so much better than doing an out & back, right?).
The hike was about 14 miles in total - not terribly long, but since it involved lots of steep up & downhill climbs, it was definitely a challenging hike. We split the hike into two days so it was just a few hours in the afternoon and then a few hours the following morning, but I think it actually would have been easier as a day hike, without carrying all that extra weight on our backs!
There were several great viewpoints along the AT. We got some rain right as we started (it was dry the entire drive over, then started pouring just as we started hiking, grr!) so visibility wasn't the best initially, but it cleared up enough later in the day that we still got to enjoy some views.
We camped out for the night by the Harpers Creek Shelter. The creek was gushing after all the rain we've had lately, and there was plenty of campsite space (even if you go on a day when you aren't the only tent!).
This was our first time trying out our new tent, and our general consensus was - it's awesome! It's the Ozark Trail 4-Person Instant Dome Tent - the poles and a rain fly are all attached, so you can set the whole thing up in about a minute. It started raining again (very hard!) at night, and we were perfectly dry inside. We had plenty of space for 2 adults, a space-hogging pup, and all of our gear, and I definitely thought it was a great buy for only $69 (this isn't sponsored or anything, just sharing my opinion!).
Smokey had no trouble at all with the hike and seemed to be loving life, but he was ready to pass out in the tent by evening. Unfortunately, since it started raining again just as we were having dinner, we skipped the campfire, s'mores, and wine we had planned (yes, I brought mini wine bottles along! I was really tempted to have some in the tent, but do you know how bears feel about wine? I don't either, and I wasn't willing to test it). Instead, we just played cards in the tent before calling it a night.
In the morning, we woke up early to dry skies (hooray!) and got right back to hiking. Our morning hike was mostly on the Mau-Har trail, which offered some lovely waterfalls. Like the day before, there was plenty of up and downhill hiking, but it involved some scrambling over rocks and rougher terrain.
It had been years since we've done any camping, and it was great to get out there again, even if the weather wasn't perfect. If you're looking for a challenging one or two day hike in Virginia, I thought the three ridges hike was definitely worth the trip!
How was your 4th of July this year?