These guidelines are a great way to protect nature when you spend time on the trails and outside.
Before visiting McAfee Knob, please familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles. McAfee Knob is one of the most popular hikes on the East Coast and it's critical that we all do our part to recreate responsibly and help preserve this beautiful space for years to come.
Consider utilizing the special McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle, carpooling or ridesharing to limit overcrowding in the parking lot, and if possible, avoid visiting on the weekends - when the trail is most crowded.
Please also remember to pack out all trash you see and stay on the designated trail.
You can also check out this video that was created in partnership between the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club and Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for other helpful tips when hiking McAfee Knob.
With its stunning, 270-degree panoramic views of the surrounding valley and mountains, along with its signature ledge that has become a popular place for photos, McAfee Knob should be included in any trip that includes hiking in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
It's been recognized by USA Today Travel as one of the most spectacular hikes in the United States!
The knob is located atop Catawba Mountain with an elevation of 3,197 feet and is one of the highlights of the Appalachian Trail.
Follow the approximately 4 mile, white-blazed trail that gradually makes the ascent to McAfee Knob - a peak of 3,197 feet. For the return, retrace your steps along the trail for a round-trip hike that's approximately 8 miles.
For a more leisurely return, turn right on the old fire road that's approximately 1.4 miles from the knob. Take the fire road for just over 2.6 miles until you reach Route 311 and the parking lot, which will be on the other side of the road.
It's a steady climb of 1,700 feet that is moderately difficult and you should give yourself at least 4 to 6 hours to make the trip. The knob is also a popular place for picnics, though exercising caution is necessary because of the steep drop-offs nearby.
McAfee Knob is an extremely popular hike and becomes especially crowded on weekends, with very limited parking availability. If possible, consider hiking the trail during the week to avoid larger crowds.
Take the stress out of finding a parking spot for your hike and hop aboard the McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle, operated in partnership between Roanoke County & Ride Source.
This is a seasonal shuttle that operates every Friday, Saturday & Sunday through November 26, 2023.
The shuttle runs between the Park & Ride lot off Interstate 81 Exit 140 and the McAfee Knob Trailhead parking lot on Route 311. It departs the parking lot every 30 minutes and the ride is approximately 15 minutes.
The shuttle is $5 one way and $10 roundtrip, plus booking fees. All payments are cashless and riders are encouraged to book tickets in advance online.
From Interstate 81, take Exit 141 to VA 419/311. Go north for approximately 1/4 mile and turn right on Route 311. Travel 5.5 miles north on Route 311 to the top of Catawba Mountain, where there's a gravel parking lot and the spot where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. From the parking lot, walk back across Route 311 to begin the hike.
There is limited parking at the trailhead on Catawba Mountain at 4440 Catawba Valley Road. Parking is prohibited on Route 311 near the trailhead and cars parked along the side of the road will be towed.
Alternative Parking Options
Also, hiking the trail during off-times is encouraged to help avoid overcrowding in the parking lot and along the trail.
If the parking area is full, consider one of many other great nearby trails, such as along North Mountain, where you can get a view of McAfee Knob. Treat it as an opportunity to be a #Trailsetter and explore new places!
Please respect the No Camping restriction on McAfee Knob to help preserve this beautiful area.
Camping near McAfee Knob is only permitted at the designated sites and shelters along the Appalachian Trail, which are the Johns Spring Shelter, Catawba Mountain Shelter, Pig Farm Campsite and Campbell Shelter.
Campfires are also prohibited on McAfee Knob and are only permitted at the designated camping sites.
Learn more by visiting the website of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club.
Downtown Salem is less than 15 minutes from the McAfee Knob parking area and offers plenty of local dining options. A few of our favorites include Mac & Bob's for their amazing calzones, Allsports Cafe for delicious burgers and wings, and Macado's for great sandwiches. Visit our Salem Food & Drink page for a complete list of options.
If you're looking for a day full of hiking, tackle another adventure along the Dragon's Tooth Trail or at Tinker Cliffs. The trio of trails has become affectionately known as the "Triple Crown" and is one of the most breathtaking stretches of the Appalachian Trail.
You can also experience world-class mountain biking at the nearby Carvins Cove.
Things to Do
Take in the all the fun in the nearby City of Salem. With its charming downtown area full of shops, award-winning craft beer at Parkway Brewing Company, and exciting events at the Salem Civic Center, there's always something to do in Salem!