These guidelines are a great way to protect nature when you spend time on the trails and outside.
Nestled in the heart of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, Tinker Cliffs is an iconic local hike along the legendary Appalachian Trail. While it may not have the same fame as its neighbor, McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs offers a unique and breathtaking experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.
In this informative guide, we'll take you on a journey to uncover the beauty of Tinker Cliffs in Botetourt County, providing insights on the trail, directions, parking, camping options, and nearby attractions.
Before visiting Tinker Cliffs, please familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace 7 Principles. This section of the Appalachian Trail features some 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.
Please consider carpooling, ridesharing, or using shuttle services to limit overcrowding in the parking lot, and if possible, avoid visiting on the weekends - when the trail is most crowded.
Remember to pack out all trash you see and stay on the designated trail.
Tinker Cliffs is a stunning rock formation comprised of Tuscarora quartzite. These majestic cliffs rise from the mountainside, creating a dramatic and picturesque landscape.
The cliffs offer 180-degree panoramic views and a hiking experience that will leave you in awe. In addition to the gorgeous views at the summit, the hike along the way will lead you past unique rock formations, wildflowers, rushing streams, and lush forests.
The hike will lead you over Catawba Creek and through Scorched Earth Gap, offering a view of the valley where the Murder Hole Cave is located.
Hiking to Tinker Cliffs is a rewarding experience, but it's important to be aware of the trail lengths to plan your adventure accordingly:
From Route 779 (Andy Layne Trailhead): The most common starting point for hiking to Tinker Cliffs is the Andy Layne Trailhead, accessible via Catawba Rd./Route 779. The hike from this trailhead to Tinker Cliffs is approximately 3.8 miles one way, making it a 7.6 mile round trip.
This is a long, strenuous hike that rises over 1,900 feet in elevation, so be sure to wear proper footwear and bring plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
Follow the yellow-blazed Andy Layne Trail for the first 3 miles of the hike, and then stay right to head south on the white-blazed Appalachian Trail as you make your way to the summit. The summit offers a view of the Catawba Valley and looks back toward Catawba Mountain and McAfee Knob.
From the north: From Interstate 81, exit 150B, go north on US 220 for 1.75 miles. Turn left on Catawba Road (VA 779). Go 7.6 miles. The gravel parking lot for trail head is on left. This blue-blazed trail to the AT provides access to Tinker Cliffs.
From the south: From Interstate 81, take Exit 140 west (left turn) on VA 311. At first stop light, turn left to stay on VA 311 for 6.7 miles (passing McAfee Knob parking at top of mountain before descending into Catawba). At the bottom of the mountain, turn right onto VA 779/698 North. In 75 feet, turn right onto VA 779 (road splits) and go 2.3 miles. Turn left onto VA 600 and go 1.2 miles; continue onto Little Catawba Creek road for 4.2 miles. Slight left onto VA 779 – then turn right into Andy Layne parking lot at right in 0.1 mile.
The parking area for Tinker Cliffs and the Andy Layne Trailhead is located on Catawba Road/VA 779. Parking is available at the Andy Layne Trailhead, but it can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and during peak hiking seasons. Arrive early to secure a spot, and consider carpooling with fellow hikers to reduce the parking demand.
NOTE - Overnight parking is allowed in this lot.
Overnight camping is not allowed at the Tinker Cliffs themselves or along this portion of the Appalachian Trail. The camping restriction is designed to limit the environmental impacts of overnight camping and protect the natural beauty of the area.
However, there are nearby campsites and shelters along the Appalachian Trail where you can spend the night. Be sure to check trail regulations and obtain any necessary permits before camping.
Lamberts Meadow Shelter & Campsite are the designated areas closest to Tinker Cliffs where camping is allowed.
Tinker Cliffs forms an integral part of the renowned Virginia Triple Crown. This trio of hikes, including McAfee Knob and Dragon's Tooth, showcases some of the most breathtaking natural beauty the Appalachian Trail has to offer.
For the truly adventurous souls seeking a comprehensive exploration of the Virginia Triple Crown, the Triple Crown Overnight Backpack Route offers an exhilarating challenge and a deep immersion into the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
This route weaves together the McAfee Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon's Tooth trails, allowing backpackers to savor the essence of each hike while embracing the solitude of the backcountry. Along the way, hikers can set up camp at designated backcountry shelters or primitive campsites, gazing at the starry skies and sharing tales around a campfire.
This multi-day trek, typically spanning around 35 miles, offers a more profound connection with the landscape and a chance to witness the changing moods of the mountains from dawn to dusk.
Visit the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club website for additional details & information to help plan your next hike.
After your hike to Tinker Cliffs, there are several nearby attractions and things to do worth exploring:
McAfee Knob: Tinker Cliffs offers a view of Catawba Mountain and McAfee Knob, but you can hike the trail for yourself and experience one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail.
Hay Rock: Hike the opposite side of the mountain from Tinker Cliffs and make your way up to Hay Rock, another amazing hike on a portion of the Appalachian Trail in the region. Hay Rock features a gorgeous view of the Carvins Cove Reservoir.
Explore the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Blue Ridge Parkway, with its scenic overlooks and hiking trails, is less than 20 miles away and is perfect for a leisurely drive or additional hikes.
Dining: The Town of Daleville in Botetourt County features a variety of restaurants and dining options, either for fueling up for a picnic on the trail or a post-hike feast. Find delicious bagels and sandwiches at Donnie D's Bagels & Deli, burgers and craft beer at Town Center Tap House, great patio space & BBQ at Three Li'L Pigs Barbeque, pizza and Italian fare at Tizzone Wood-Fired Kitchen & Wine Bar, and coffee, smoothies, and lighter fare at Little Green Hive.
Things to Do: The Daleville Town Center regularly hosts live music and special events at its performance pavilion, and the area is also home to the weekly Botetourt Farmers Market. You can also find a great assortment of local products and souvenirs at Ikenberry Orchards & Country Store, as well as Bryant Orchards Farm Market. For additional outdoor fun, check out the award-winning disc golf course at the Greenfield Recreation Center.
Places to Stay: Botetourt County features a great selection of convenient accommodations near the trail, with the Super 8 near Exit 150 off Interstate 81 within walking distance of the base of Tinker Mountain (opposite side of Tinker Cliffs).
The following hotels are also located at Interstate 81 Exit 150, offering easy access to the Appalachian Trail.
Tinker Cliffs is a natural wonder waiting to be discovered. With its breathtaking vistas, challenging trails, and proximity to other attractions, it's a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Plan your trip, pack your hiking gear, and embark on an adventure that will leave you with lasting memories of Tinker Cliffs and its stunning surroundings.
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