• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Beginner

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    8.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1740 Feet

Bathrooms
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Romantic
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife

McAfee's Knob offers up classic Blue Ridge views with great photography opportunities at the summit. This is also a great intro to hiking on the AT.

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 4.4 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 8.8 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!).

Pack List

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Hiking shoes
  • Hiking poles (steep and rocky terrain!)
  • Snacks
  • Pack

If camping:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
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Reviews

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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.

20 days ago
20 days ago

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!

6 months ago
6 months ago

This is one of my favorite local hikes although these days it's a really busy trail the 8 mile round trip is worth the view though last time we hiked it we went to watch the sunset from the top and didn't realize how fast the trail got dark so being unprepared as we were it was a little rough at times.

6 months ago
6 months ago

Breath taking view! Worth the 8 miles round trip.

7 months ago
7 months ago

This hike is "on point" in so many ways

11 months ago
11 months ago

Great views just the trail is always crowded

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

This is the most photographed spot on the A.T. And it's no wonder why. Yes, it's a long hike but not overly strenuous, and oh so worth it once you get to the top!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Nice little hike, 8 miles round trip. Exactly as described. Expect to pass 5-10 groups on the trail on the weekends with 10 more groups hanging out up top. People are considerate with regards to moving out of people's picture shots.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

If you're a local or just passing through, McAfee Knob is one the best best and top rated hikes in Va. Which, as other reviewers have said leads to a crowded overlook. That being said, everyone has always been nice and respectful of pictures opportunities and space. It's a long hike. I wouldn't call it a strenuous hike, but the distance alone makes it feel like one. An absolute must hike destination.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

This one is a perfect "I wanna get out but not work too hard" hike. It is a long 7 miles but the trail is incredibly easy. Not strenuous at all. We saw a bear cub last spring walk right across the trail.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

All around great beginner dayhike. If you're just getting into hiking, the Fire Road alternative to the AT is a great way to the top. A lot less strenuous and more direct. same starting point and easily seen when the hike begins. The views are just picture perfect. Also If you can manage to head there on a week day that'd be best, for it can get quite busy.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

To avoid some crowds and enjoy a really unique hike, don your headlamps and get up to McAfee's to watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east. The hike itself is not particularly difficult, the gradual ascent is manageable, but if you don't want to take it you can walk along the fire trail about half way to the top before connecting with the trail again.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

If there was only one section on the southern half of the Appalachian Trail I could hike it would be McAfee Knob! This place is incredible!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

This is kind of what I'd consider a "bucket list/must see" spot if you're a hiker in VA. I agree with the reviewer who said its a good winter hike. I sort of took that to the extreme- I went in early March and camped out and it was windy and got down below 10 degrees on the mountain. If you're geared up for it it's worth it though. The hike itself can be tough at times- mostly thru the woods with a fair amount of elevation gain. That gorgeous view is worth it though. Even in that crazy weather we encountered quite a few people on the trail, and even though we got to the top shelter early, there was no room (full of partiers- as was the St Johns shelter) and we had to find a tent site. I guess that's the price we pay for being in the perfect spot to catch the sunrise view. Seriously though- if it's that crowded in the bitter cold I cannot imagine what it's like when the weather is nice. Seems like a super popular spot for VA Tech students.

about 2 years ago
about 2 years ago

McAfee Knob has one of the best views in Virginia, but be prepared for the crowds. Sometimes the parking lot fills up so be sure to get there early. Both sunrises and sunsets are great from atop the Knob.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Really epic overlook. Obviously a photogenic spot. The hike itself is sort of lacking, and can get extremely busy in the spring/summer. My recommendation is to go in the winter, since the leaves are off (giving great views early on in the hike) and there are way less people. Certainly worth a go. Next time I'll want to camp to get sunset/sunrise views.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

Christin Healey Explorer

Explorer, adventure seeker, lover of life and all things creative.

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