Adventure Stories

Hiking in Virginia – McAfee Knob

Written by MyTicklefeet

Eastern USA not only has the famous Appalachian Mountain range but also has another beautiful hidden gem which the locals recognize as the Blue Ridge Mountains. These Appalachian neighbors might not soar in height like its western counterparts but boy are they pretty!

One of the best ways to see the ridge is by driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile long scenic drive cutting through these mountain ranges connecting the Shenandoah National Park in the north with the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in the South. TIP: Visit during fall season to see some beautiful colors of nature.

There are plenty of noteworthy hiking trails in this region but one of my favorites and a famous among the hiking community is the McAfee Knob in Catawba, VA. McAfee Knob is the most photographed spot along the Appalachian Trail providing a 270 degree panoramic views. The summit has a protruding stone cliff which, in my opinion, resembles Norway’s famous Trolltunga – Photo Op!?

McAfee Knob

How to get to McAfee Knob?

The closest city is Roanoke in Virginia which is conveniently located around the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since McAfee Knob is an easy day hike and Virginia Tech happens to be located in the vicinity, you won’t be alone on this trail especially if you choose to hike on a weekend. However, it can be a great weekend getaway since it’s an easy 3-4 hour drive from Washington DC, North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

Appalachian Trail Parking in Catawba, VA

The Trail

The round-trip hike is approximately 9 miles with an ascend of 1700 feet upto the summit. In a scale of difficulty, I would say it’s moderate if you are physically fit. Give yourself atleast 4-5 hours to complete the entire hike. Once you are at the parking spot, you will find the entrance to the trail across the road.

Entrance to McAfee knob trail across the road from parking lot

A couple miles on the trail you reach a fork where you have the option to decide between the easy way up also called the Fire Road or the more scenic and rugged way up through the Appalachian trail.

At one point in the hike you will have 2 paths to choose from – left is the Fire trail and right is the Appalachian trail in this picture

TIP: I’d suggest taking the scenic & rugged Appalachian Trail up the summit and the easier fire trail on your way back. 

The Appalachian trail

The Fire Trail

Both these trails meet at the last stretch of the hike after which its a common way up to the summit. This last stretch is also the most strenuous part of the hike including a steep uphill climb.

The Views

You are rewarded with splendid panoramic views after that effort. Knob is also a popular picnic spot so pack some lunch along for your day hike and don’t forget to carry plenty of water. There is a campsite on the Appalachian trail if you wish you to stay overnight. TIP: If you are comfortable with hiking in the dark then start before sunrise to catch a spectacular sunrise from the Knob.

Have a lunch picnic while you are enjoying the panoramic views

As I said before, you won’t be alone if you do the day hike so be mindful of the crowd.

The knob is a popular spot so you might have to wait a bit to get that perfect shot 😉

Post Hike

I was recommended by a local friend to go to this family owned restaurant called The Homeplace which is an all-you-can-eat family style southern food. It happens to be about 3 mins drive from the trail parking lot, a popular choice for the Appalachian hikers and the best dinner I could have asked for post a great hike.

A sumptuous southern meal post a long hike


Views from the home style restaurant “The Homeplace”

Finally, enjoy this time bonding with a companion or two or three while you are at it. Let’s go explore!

Women Who Explore!



About the author


Richa Joshi is a travel enthusiast who enjoys sharing her travel stories and photography to inspire others to go out and about. Her love for exploring new places keeps her on the move, be it near home or all over the world. Check out more of her work on Instagram @my_ticklefeet and facebook @myticklefeet

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