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McAfee Knob

Salem, Virginia

based on 23 reviews



7.79 miles

Elevation Gain

1296 ft

Route Type



Added by Christin Healey

McAfee Knob is an out-and-back trail that leads to 270 degree views of the Blue Ridge mountains with great photography opportunities at the summit. This hike is located along the Appalachian Trail in Jefferson National Forest, Virginia.


McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed and picturesque locations along the Appalachian Trail. Once you reach McAfee Knob, you'll have almost 270 degree views of the the Roanoke Valley to the East, Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the West, and Tinker Cliffs to the North.

Due to the stunning view and location along the Appalachian Trail, this has become a very popular hike. Please help preserve this area by practicing Leave No Trace Principles and consider brining a trash bag with you to remove any trash you may come across. 

The Trail

From the parking lot on RT311: Cross the road and pick up the white blazed AT headed north. In about .4 miles you will reach an information kiosk where you will continue on the AT. About half way through the hike you will pass Johns Spring Shelter first, then Catawba Mountain Shelter where there is a spring with a white pipe for the constant (and only) water source on the hike. About 1 mile from the summit, you will cross over an old fire road and the AT will bear to the left for the summit -- all of the trail has clear signage and white blazes.

This is a steady climb to the summit, with an elevation gain of 1740ft over the 3.8 miles to the top from the parking lot at RT311, so it's a great workout. The hike is through the woods until you reach the summit, where you will have some of the best views of the Southern Shenandoah Valley as well as the photogenic rock overlook. For your return, simply retrace your steps for a total ~7.8-mile hike. OR, if you are photographing at sunset, you may opt to take the fire road back to RT311, shaving 1/2 mile off the trip, and making the return in the dark through the woods much easier (I highly recommend doing this or camping if you want a sunset or sunrise summit!).


Camping is not permitted in the areas immediately surrounding McAfee Knob. Camping is permitted at established campsites along the Appalachian Trail including Pig Farm, Campbell Shelter, Catawba Shelter, and Johns Springs Shelter. 


Park on  RT311 at the Appalachian Trail/McAfee Knob parking area: 37.380, -80.0896

Note that there are STRICT parking restrictions: Parking on RT311 outside of the McAfee Knob lot is not permitted and cars parked here can be ticketed or towed. If the lot is full additional options include:

  • Park and Ride lot in front of Orange Market on RT311 (1823 Thompson Memorial Dr, Roanoke, VA 24019)
  • Park and Ride off of I 81 Exit 140 

Getting There

From I 81, take Exit 141 to RT419/311. Head north for approximately 1/4 mile and turn right on RT311. Travel 5.5 miles north on RT311 to the top of Catawba Mountain. Here you'll reach the Appalachian Trail/McAfee Knob parking area: 37.380, -80.0896. 

Where to grab a bite after

McAfee Knob parking area is less than 10 miles from downtown Salem. Check out Abrakebabra for a quick bite or Local Roots Restaurant for a more sit down experience. In the mood for a burger? Head to nearby Troutville for a burger from Angelle's Diner.

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking


Most known hike in the area. View won't disappoint . A must do with tinker cliffs and dragon tooth

Done in Nov 2019. Got to the trailhead at sunrise. At the peak by 10am. Saw maybe three other people and were able to take advantage of the photo ops at the top. Would love to do the triple crown some day.

This is a classic hike in this area, and it’s right on the AT. Highly recommend. Took us about 3 hours of hiking time out and back, plus time at the top to take a break and enjoy the view. Very popular. The trail is in amazing shape. Arrived around 8:45 am on a Saturday morning and the parking lot was already full, so plan accordingly. You can park along the shoulder of a back road about 50 yards down from the lot.

McAfee Knob is the perfect hike to see all that the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer. Plentiful camping makes for a great backpacking trip.

Absolute hit and a favorite among family and friends. The views are incredible and (although everyone takes the same photo) the photo opportunities are prime. I've even seen a couple proposals up here!

Favorite hike in the Lynchburg area. It is awesome for sunrise hikes

Don't let the 8.8 miles keep you away from this hike - it's really not as bad as it seems! The first three miles are a breeze. The last 1.2 miles are a little harder but nothing extremely challenging. Very photogenic area, good hammocking spots at the top as well. Highly recommend going sunrise or early. This is one of the most popular hikes in the state so it gets busy really fast. PARKING - is another reason to get there early. THE LOT HAS LIMITED SPACE AND FILLS QUICKLY.


Breath taking sunrise and sunset view. Trail was moderate, suitable for family hike. Great for day hike or overnight.



Hands down one of my favorite sunrise hikes. If you don’t want to wake up incredibly early, you can backpack to one of the campgrounds/shelters and stay overnight and wake up to hike the rest of the way for sunrise the next morning. That’s what I did.

The hike was so iconic as it followed along the Appalachian Trail, you pass 2 AT shelters along the way. It just shows you how amazing it is to take a journey that large!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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