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The Triple Crown is an experience that features some of the best hiking in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.
The three legs of the Triple Crown are:
It provides hikers and outdoor enthusiasts the opportunity to conquer three of the region's most popular trails and encounter some of our most spectacular views. It can be completed over multiple trips to Virginia's Blue Ridge, or for the avid adventurer, there's the option to create a 32-mile loop that could be completed over the course of multiple days.
During this portion of the Appalachian Trail, hikers will be rewarded with incredible overlooks, unique rock formations that create opportunities for bouldering, shelters for a rustic camping experience, and challenging trails that you can check off your bucket list!
Keep reading for more information about each segment of the Triple Crown.
Please adhere to Leave No Trace principles to help ensure the Virginia Triple Crown remains an enjoyable hiking experience for locals and visitors for years to come.
Protecting the natural environment and maintaining its beauty is an essential part of what makes the Appalachian Trail and Virginia's Blue Ridge an amazing destination.
Learn more by visiting the Leave No Trace website >
In addition to respecting Leave No Trace principles, we also ask that you schedule and plan your hikes responsibly. The Triple Crown features three of the most popular hikes in Virginia, which leads to issues with overcrowding in the parking lots and along the trails.
For hiking to McAfee Knob, visitors are encouraged to utilize the special McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle Service, which operates Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from March through November. Shuttle Service Information & Tickets >
If hiking with a group, we strongly encourage you to carpool to limit the number of vehicles in the designated parking areas at the trailhead.
And if possible, we recommend hiking during weekdays or at off times to help avoid large crowds.
Remember to park only in designated parking lots - cars parked along the side of the road and in undesignated areas will be towed.
The following is a helpful map that can serve as a resource for hiking the Triple Crown, with information about camping shelters, parking lots, and where each summit is located.
Begin your adventure at the Dragon's Tooth Parking Area off Route 311.
Don't be fooled by the fact the hike to Dragon's Tooth is only 2.3 miles (4.6 out-and-back). The first 1.5 miles of this journey wind along streams and easily identified, well-marked trails, but then you'll be tested by the climbing and steep ascent to the top. The final 0.8 miles of the hike will test your bouldering skills and make use of iron climb bars in place to assist as you make your way up rock walls.
At the top, the climb pays off with a stunning view of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains on the horizon. For an even more unique view, climb to a spot on "The Tooth" - a 35-foot tall quartzite rock spire that reaches into the sky.
Trail Info: Hiking Upward - Dragon's Tooth Trail Guide >
If you're hiking the entire portion of this stretch of the trail, continue north on the Appalachian Trail for 7.5 miles until you reach the McAfee Knob Parking Lot, which officially begins the second leg. The alternate option is to return to the Dragon's Tooth Parking Lot and drive south on Route 311 for 4 miles until you reach the McAfee Knob Parking Lot.
McAfee Knob is one of the icons and most recognizable points along the entire Appalachian Trail, as well as the most popular hike in Virginia's Blue Ridge.
The pronounced rock ledge that defines McAfee Knob provides a stunning 270-degree panoramic view that can serve as the perfect setting to watch the sunrise. It's also where hikers capture breathtaking photos of people standing and sitting on the edge of the mountain.
It's a moderately difficult hike that takes approximately 4-6 hours if you do the out-and-back trip from the McAfee Knob Parking Lot off Route 311. You could also begin your hike at the Catawba Sustainability Center (5061 Catawba Creek Road | day-use parking available/no overnight) and complete the approximately 10-mile round trip hike.
To avoid dealing with finding a parking spot at the crowded trailhead lot, take advantage of the special McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle Service, which operates Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from March through November.
Trail Info: Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club - McAfee Knob Trail Map >
If you're completing the Triple Crown in one trip, you'll opt to continue north on the Appalachian Trail instead of making your way back to the parking lot. From McAfee Knob, it's approximately 5.5 miles to Tinker Cliffs along the trail.
If there's a hidden gem of the three segments of the Triple Crown, it's Tinker Cliffs.
Following the Andy Layne Trail off Catawba Road, this 7.7-mile out-and-back hike will test your strength as the trail features nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
Once you reach Tinker Cliffs, which are made from limestone that's over 250 million years old, stand in awe of the Blue Ridge Mountains to your south, which includes Catawba Mountain and McAfee Knob. From an elevation of 3,000 feet, it's an amazing view.
Note - a portion of this hike winds through private property so please respect all signage and stay on the trail.
For those completing the Triple Crown as a loop, once you reach Tinker Cliffs, you continue north on the Appalachian Trail until turning left onto Andy Layne Trail. Follow this trail until you reach the parking lot at Route 779 and cross the road to connect with the yellow-blazed North Mountain Trail.
Turn left and head south on the trail along the ridge of North Mountain until you reach Route 311. Turn left and hike south on Route 311 until reaching the Dragon's Tooth Parking Lot to complete the loop.
Camping is prohibited on McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. There are numerous camping shelters along this portion of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia's Blue Ridge. Please camp only in designated spots along the trail. These have been marked on the Triple Crown Map.
The four designated camping shelters located along this route are:
Visit our Hiking section to learn more about the outstanding trails in Virginia's Blue Ridge, including our list of 10 Great Trails. You might also like visiting our 7 Natural Wonders of Virginia's Blue Ridge!