From time to time, our little running group likes to change things up and hike instead. There are so many amazing sights and experiences in SW Virginia, that sometimes I take them for granted. One such view that is practically on our front doorstep is McAfee Knob.
What can I say about McAfee Knob that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the most photographed spots along the Appalachian Trail and for good reason; the views are breathtaking. Watching fellow hikers get too close to the edge of the knob is breathtaking too, but for different reasons.
From 311 to the knob is eight miles, round trip. Our group chose to take the fire road up to the trail, because most of us aren’t actual hikers. We’re really just in it for the social aspect of the outing.
And the pretty pictures.
Because I’m trying not to trip while staring at my feet anyway, I might as well enjoy the flowers along the trail. And look for heart rocks.
Because there are so many hikers on the mountain, you’re not likely to see a lot of wildlife along the way. Which is just fine with me. No snakes or bears.
After about two miles, we transitioned from the wide, easy fire road onto the more technical Appalachian Trail. Some in our group hiked a slightly longer route and approached the knob from the east. How they got over there, I have no idea, but they were advised to go that route by a fellow hiker because it had “a way doper view”. I hear that trail skirted the cliff, and their views focused on foot placement so as to remain on the mountain, not enjoying the “way doper view” from a freefall.
Don’t expect solitude while taking in the views at McAfee Knob, especially on weekends. If the weather is nice, the knob will be jammed up like a Disney park during spring break.
Not to worry, if you chat up the other hikers, you’ll meet some fascinating people and maybe even hear a crazy story or two. We met a few through-hikers and loads of day-trippers. One group was leaving as we arrived mid-morning. Maybe we drove them out? I wouldn’t bet against it. They were hiking the 28 miles of Virginia’s Triple Crown (Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth) all in one day. *gulp*
Be sure to bring water and a snack. This is a good spot to re-fuel for the trek back down the mountain.
After resting awhile and soaking up the views, it was time to head back to civilization. We gave our knees a good pounding on the rocky trail, and then rewarded them by taking the more hospitable fire road for the duration of the hike.
Pro tip: When hiking the knob on the weekend, get to the parking lot on 311 early. Like, 6:30 to 7:00 AM, early. It fills up quickly.
If you’re hiking in a group, I recommend meeting at the park-and-ride lot (Orange Market – intersection of 311 and 419) and carpooling to the lot at the trail head on 311. We finished our hike about 11:00 AM and there were people literally blocking our parking spot hoping to snag it as we left. There were friendly volunteers directing traffic, trying to smooth out the parking situation. But fair warning, weekend parking at 311 is dog-eat-dog.
For more reading on McAfee Knob:
And if you’re crazy enough to do Virginia’s Triple Crown:
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