Get to know the iconic mountain in Virginia's Blue Ridge where you hike to McAfee Knob.
Virginia's Blue Ridge is now open in the Phase Three stage of the Commonwealth's Forward Virginia plan. Learn more about the program and what it means for various types of businesses & experiences in the region with our Phase Three Guidelines page. Phase Three >
COVID-19 UPDATE: Effective June 13, the National Park Service reopened the Appalachian Trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge, including the section for the McAfee Knob hike. Visitors are advised to observe CDC guidelines regarding public health and social distancing and to practice Leave No Trace principles, including packing out all trash. National Park Service News Release >
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 4.4 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 8.8 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 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.
Please adhere to Leave No Trace principles of disposing of any waste and doing your part to help keep this wonderful trail accessible and enjoyable for others for many years to come. Respect the wildlife and natural environment of the area and minimize your impact so as to maintain the integrity and quality of the trail. For day hikes, please do not travel in groups any larger than 25 people. Learn more about what you can do to help preserve the outdoors by visiting the Leave No Trace website >
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. Parking is prohibited on Route 311 near the trailhead and cars parked along the side of the road will be towed. If you're in a group with multiple vehicles, please consider using the Park & Ride lot in front of Orange Valley Market at the intersection of Route 419 & Route 311. 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.
Work up an appetite during your hike and then head down Catawba Mountain for a Southern feast at The Homeplace. This all-you-can-eat family style restaurant (open Thursday-Sunday) is a popular spot for Appalachian Trail hikers who indulge in fried chicken, cobbler, green beans, and all your favorite comfort foods in a classic, farmhouse setting.
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!