I have hiked The Priest in Spring numerous times, dating back twenty years. This is at least my fifth summit of the mountain from the Tye River - so there is not a lot of surprise left in the mountain, at least on the Appalachian Trail. It is a great workout, climbing from 1000 to 4000 feet over 4.5 miles. When training for Yosemite's Half Dome five Springs ago, I climbed this trail twice in one day. Never again!
|The always spectacular view, 2/3 of the way up The Priest on the A.T.
A number of maps show a trail from the A.T. to the Little Priest summit. The intersection is a short distance south on the A.T. from the shelter access trail. The GPS coordinates for this point are N37° 49.161' W79° 04.478'.
There is no sign here, nor is there evidence on the ground that hikers might turn off of the A.T. at this spot. I had to follow the contour of the mountain in a south-southwest direction. It was easier for me to find the correct spot and head in the right direction because I have a great file in my Garmin GPS receivers (I had three of them on me during this hike) called "My Trails," available from GPS File Depot. Sometimes the trails are a little off compared with my own experience (such as when I look at a receiver and it claims that the trail I am standing on is 100 feet to the right). Checking during this hike, the locations were spot on, so I felt good about getting off the trail where I did.
|The View from the Valley.
|Little Priest Trail opens up into a gentle and easy to follow path.
|This boot found on the Little Priest Trail looked jarringly like a severed leg!
The trail had some blowdowns along the way, and that made the trail sometimes a little hard to follow, but the blazes helped a lot. I always find that old trails are hardest to follow in the saddles between mountains, and this trail was no exception. The USGS topo for this area also shows an old trail heading down to the valley from the saddle, and I think I followed that route briefly before checking a GPS receiver and determining that I needed to change course. Also confusing me was the fact that the blazing changed colors from orange to yellow in the saddle, and at first I thought the yellow blazing might indicate some kind of boundary. Climbing Little Priest, the trail was blazed yellow.
|No problems following the trail up the Little Priest.
|Yellow blazing with axe marks. Definitely NOT Leave No Trace.
|The view from the summit of the Little Priest was
UPDATE: I inquired with the Forest Service, and they surprised me by telling me that the Little Priest Trail is not abandoned after all. They consider it an active trail. Though the Forest Service did not, I should add, "as long as you can find it."
Hike details, from my GPS: