Awesome trails, beautiful foliage, famous views—who can say no to that? Not me, or my family—clearly I have an awesome family. When you’re in Roanoke, VA for the weekend it’s kind of obligatory that you hike to McAfee Knob. If you’re unfamiliar with McAfee Knob, it has been endearingly named “the most photographed spot on the AT.” And I found that it certainly lived up to its name.
If you’re looking for a worthwhile day hike then you’ve got to hit this trail up. The trailhead is located about 15 minutes off of I-81 (exit 141) on 311N. The parking lot is across the street from the start of the trail, which means you have to run across the road to get there. Look at it as a way to get your adrenaline pumping before you start your hike.
Once you dodge the cars (it’s really not bad, but you should be careful) you have two choices. There is, of course, the AT, which is marked by the famous white blaze, but there is also an old fire road a little further down that you can take. Both trails are about 8 miles (there and back). The AT passes both the Johns Spring shelter and the Catawba Mountain shelter; the old fire road runs more along the ridge. The fire road eventually meets back up with the AT for the final ascent to the Knob.
When you reach the top there is a sign marking a short side trail for the actual Knob. You can stop there and snap some photos (with all of the other hikers), or you can hike on a little longer and reach a ridge, which in my opinion offers some better views and better pictures. I know that sounds like blasphemy, but it’s true. After you’re done being awed by the view of the Catawba Valley, which may take awhile, you can head back down and hit up the town for a good meal and a cold beer. After all, you earned it right? Right.
For more information on hiking other sections of the Appalachian Trail, click here.