Let's be honest, McAfee Knob off the AT near Roanoke, VA, is not a secret. If you find yourself at the summit, especially in the summer months, you won't be alone. Typically I like a lot of solitude to go with my hikes around Virginia, but this incredible spot may be the one exception. Because this iconic spot is right off the AT, there are always lots of thru-hikers along side the days hikers. The last time I was there, I met hikers from France, Austria, Germany, and Ohio. They were a few months into their south-to-north route, and crawled out of their tents early to make the easy one mile trek to watch the sun rise over the Blue Ridge.
And oh, what a site it is! Every time I have seen the sun rise at this magical spot, it has been a different experience as the weather is always changing in the mountains, and with every season comes new scenery to take in. And the truth is, this is just one of those hikes where sharing that moment with new friends makes it so much more enjoyable. Chat with any thru-hiker out there, and each and every one of them will have a story to tell. Want to make a friend for life? Bring a few extra candy bars to give out - trust me on this one.
Now let's get to this gorgeous hike itself. If you are aiming to see the sunrise here (which I highly recommend!) plan on leaving the parking lot about two hours before sunrise to make it up. Always bring a head lamp and hiking poles if you are attempting to start this one in the dark, and bring a few extra layers for the sometimes breezy summit. You can also break it up and set up camp at the shelter or the campsite, just be aware this area can get crowded so arrive early. Dogs are also allowed as long as they are on a leash, and be sure to bring some snacks and extra water for them as well.
So, whether you are visiting Virginia, or are a long-time resident, be sure to add this one to your list! The combination of mountain views, peaceful hike, and melting pot of people in this sleepy southern town is the perfect combination for lasting memories and a great way to experience the best of the A.T. Happy trails!