McAfee Knob

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McAfee Knob is the most photographed site along the Appalachian Trail. The knob has an almost 270-degree panorama view of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the west, Tinker Cliffs to the north and the Roanoke Valley to the east.

mcafee knob roanoke hike

Note: The McAfee Knob hike is one of the most popular hikes along the entire Appalachian Trail and sees a tremendous amount of hiker traffic. It is ideal to hike this on a weekday as weekends are very crowded. Vehicles not parked in the parking lot are subject to tow. Please read specific rules and regulations.

McAfee Knob is one of three hikes that make up the Appalachian Trail Triple Crown in Virginia. This overnight backpacking trip begins and ends at the Route 311 Appalachian Trailhead. This is a difficult hike totaling about 32 miles and includes McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon’s Tooth.

mcafee knob triple crown virginia

McAfee Knob Trail Description

  • Approximately 7.5 miles round trip.
  • The trail begins on the opposite side of Rt. 311 from the parking lot. Cross Rt.311 with caution. You will travel north on the Appalachian Trail on to McAfee Knob. Follow the white blazes – which are 6-inch rectangular paint marks placed periodically on trees at eye level.
  • After ~0.3 miles you will come to an informational kiosk.
  • You will cross four wooden walkways before reaching the Johns Spring shelter. You will then cross five more wooden walkways before reaching the Catawba Mountain shelter.
  • Next, you will cross an old fire road and a power line clearing. Continue 0.5 miles further and turn left onto the McAfee Knob spur trail to arrive at the lookout in ~30 yards.
  • Retrace your steps or turn right once you reach the alternate fire road for your return trip.

Rules & Regulations

  • Maximum group size for day hikes is 25 people
  • Maximum group size for backpacking/camping is 10 people
  • Bring lots of drinking water
  • Bring a flashlight as groups often lose track of time and are hiking back in the dark
  • Dogs must be on a leash at all times
  • No camping or campfires on McAfee Knob or Tinker Cliffs
  • Practice Leave No Trace
  • No camping or campfires outside of the seven designated shelters/camping areas
  • Visit local A.T. Club for more details

Directions to Trailhead

From Roanoke – take I-81 south to exit 141. Turn left at the traffic light onto route 419 (Electric Rd.) and follow 0.4 miles to the next traffic light (Rt. 311N). Turn right onto Route 311N and follow 5.6 miles to the top of the mountain. The trailhead parking lot is at the very top on the left. Be careful turning into the parking lot as it is a semi-blind turn.

Add-on Adventures

  • Finish your day with a great meal at The Homeplace, a restaurant famous among thru-hikers. To reach The Homeplace, continue north on Rt. 311 for about 1 mile to a large white farmhouse on the left.
  • Grab a beer at Parkway Brewing Co.
  • See a baseball game! Click here for the Salem Red Sox schedule.
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