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Hiking the Triple Crown of Virginia

Virginia's Triple Crown - Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob & Tinker Cliffs

The Triple Crown is an experience that features some of the best hiking in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

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.

Dragon's Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs are the three trails that make up the Triple Crown, and these three hikes are recognized as iconic vistas and unique landmarks of Virginia's Blue Ridge and the Appalachian Trail.

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 more information about each segment of the Triple Crown.

Virginia Triple Crown Map

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.

Dragon's Tooth

Dragon's Tooth

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.


Loop Option

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

Sunrise - McAfee Knob

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.


Loop Option

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.


Tinker Cliffs

Hiking with a Dog

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.


Loop Option

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

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 designed spots along the trail. These have been marked on the map below.


Other Resources

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!

Don't forget to tag us in your hiking adventures by using our #BlueRidgeDay hashtag on Instagram and Twitter.

Roanoke Valley Spotlight
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Over 600 miles of hiking & biking trails have earned us the title of "Best Trail Town" in the Blue Ridge Mountains.