Best Hiking in Virginia: McAfee Knob
Located only a few miles from Roanoke Virginia, in Roanoke Country is Catawba Mountain, home to the crown jewel of the Virginia Triple Crown. Whether you’re a prolific hiker or just a weekend wanderer, this small outcropping belongs on your list of must see places in Virginia.
It’s impossible to hike in Virginia without McAfee’s being mentioned wherever you go. It’s been said that it is the most photographed location on the Appalachian trial, and with good reason. It offers one of the best views of the Roanoke Valley, with a 270 degree panorama of the surrounding area. Its’ distance of less than 4.4 miles to the peak make it perfect for a day hike, and it’s location on the Appalachian Trail means that you’ll have access to a well maintained trail with good camping sites and two shelters located in its vicinity.
The hike: You’ll start this hike across the road from route 311. With just over 1,700 feet of elevation gain, it’s easily accessible for those willing to deal with a moderately strenuous hike. Views at all times of the year are fairly limited of the surrounding area on the ascent up to the Knob; however, you will be able to experience a few ‘peek-a-boo’ moments of the surrounding farms and the ridgelines of neighboring mountains alone the way. If hiking this trail during peak seasons in the fall or on any weekend during most of the year, you will want to start early. Given its relative closeness with Interstate 81, and the popularity of this hike, it is unlikely that you will have the trail to yourself for the day. The views at the top are worth the extra company, and if you can avoid the weekend traffic, you will likely avoid large hiking and backpacking groups.
The top of the knob is also large, and it does extend around enough that you may find some solitude to take in the views. There is no canopy cover on the Knob, and hikers should be prepared for increased winds and much cooler temperatures, even during the summer months, once that have reached the peak. Packing a light extra layer or wind breaker is highly recommended.
Just beyond the spur trail for the McAfee’s Knob, you can continue for half a mile to find large open area that serves well for six large sized tents and does have a running water source available, as well as a functioning ‘Out house.’
Difficulty: This hike should be rated as moderately difficult. With an elevation gain of almost 1,700 feet, the journey to McAfee’s Knob will take almost two full hours at a moderate pace. Hiking boots and shoes are not required for this hike, but recommended. Much like the rest of the Appalachian Trail southward from this point, you will be doing a lot of stair stepping along the way, and the extra padding on the soles could prove a more pleasant experience. Trekking poles are also not required and are a personal preference for this hike. There are a few slick spots, and if doing the hike in the winter months, the rock surfaces and stone steps will be ice covered. Pending on the time of the year, with it peaking in spring, there are several water sources available if you are bringing a filtration system, otherwise, you will need to pack it in yourself.
This hike can be shortened and the elevation gain leveled out by taking the Fire Road that you will encounter in just under a mile from the trail head. You will need to bear left off the trail to take it to the top, where it will rejoin the Appalachian Trail for the last mile and a half to the top. It is the perfect bail out on the way back if you are looking to shorten the hike or take down the steepness of the elevation gain and loss.
Directions:. It is easily accessed from Interstate 81 by way of exit 141. From here, simply follow the signs to Route 311. The parking will be located just six miles on Rt. 311 at the top of Catawba Mountain.
Other Hikes in the area: Tinker cliffs and Dragons tooth