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(Roanoke, VA). The Catawba Mountain Fire Road has been reopened to hikers following major work to improve the road for both emergency vehicles and the hiking public. The gated Fire Road runs parallel to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) on National Park Service (NPS) lands northerly from the A.T. Trailhead Parking Area on VA-311, approximately 10 miles north of Salem, VA. It serves as emergency vehicle access for incidents in the McAfee Knob area, a popular panoramic viewpoint and hiking destination, as well as forming a loop hike opportunity with the A.T. The road has been closed to all public use since January 11 for this project.

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On September 30, 2021, officials from Roanoke County, the Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center (CSC), the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission and other organizations cut the ribbon to open the new Catawba Greenway. Hikers now have two additional parking locations for a McAfee Knob hike and a four-mile loop hike that connects two portions of the Catawba Greenway via the Appalachian Trail.  AT thru hikers can now resupply at the Catawba Post Office without walking down busy State Highway 311 as well.

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Want to show your love of iconic McAfee Knob and support the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club?

McAfee Knob shirts are available in various styles and sizes via this link –  http://www.bonfire.com/store/ratc

Proceeds support the mission of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) to maintain 120 miles,16 Shelters/Privies and 53 Bridges on the AT from Lickskillet Hollow in Giles County to Black Horse Gap in Botetourt County. This includes Virginia’s Triple Crown, i.e., Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs.

http://www.bonfire.com/store/ratc

GOOD NEWS!

Beginning June 13. 2020 – The National Park Service reopened access to 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail known as the “Triple Crown”. The “Triple Crown” area includes the AT between VA Route 624 (Newport Road) and VA Route 652 (Mountain Pass Road), including McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. All sections of RATC maintained AT are now open.

Things to Remember:

Please follow all local health orders, including social distancing and practice Leave No Trace principles. No hand washing facilities exist on the trail, bring hand sanitizer. No restroom facilities exist on the trail or VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot

VA 311 McAfee Knob Trailhead Parking Lot is at 100% capacity and parking is not allowed on VA 311 – illegally parked cars may be ticketed and towed

No trail maintenance has been performed on the trail since March 15, 2020.Be prepared for trail obstructions.

Shelters and privies in all sections section remain closed

Plan your Triple Crown hike during the week, if at all possible. Weekend days can be crowded.

Enjoy your hike and BE SAFE!

Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy released the following statement, March 23, 2020;

“In these unprecedented times, I am making an unprecedented request: please stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). Whether your hike is for a couple of hours or a couple of days, staying away from the Trail minimizes the spread or contraction of COVID-19.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the Trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.

Appalachian Trail Friend/Supporter

McAfee Knob is one of the most beautiful and photographed spots along the 2,193 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) and one of the Roanoke Valley’s defining landmarks. A large partnership including the National Park Service, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) will be implementing significant improvements over the next decade, but public support is critical now to get the project off on the right foot.

Popular, but also problematic, anyone who has visited McAfee’s, and that’s about 75,000 people from around the world each year, know that crossing the road can be dangerous, parking can be difficult and amenities at the trailhead are limited. To address these issues our partnership has secured funding to construct a pedestrian bridge over VA 311, redesign the parking area and add signage with a similar look and feel to Shenandoah or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

One small, but critical piece of the puzzle is left: ATC is raising money to buy a 7 acre parcel of land immediately adjacent to the existing parking area (see map below) that would allow the National Park Service to consider a wider variety of improvements

The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club is looking for new volunteers to protect McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth as Volunteer Ridgerunners. The final Training Day of 2019 will be Saturday, September 7 from 9 am to 4 pm. Please email Kathryn Herndon-Powell or call her at 540-904-4316 to attend.

Volunteer Ridgerunners engage hikers in friendly conversations about the natural and cultural significance of this area and tips on best practices for enjoying the Trail safely and responsibly. They report on trail conditions and perform light trail maintenance to prevent small problems from getting worse–like dismantling illegal fire rings, packing out trash, and blocking social trails to discourage shortcutting. In 2018, 38 Volunteer Ridgerunners logged 1,125 volunteer hours, spoke with over 18,000 visitors and removed 570 gallons of litter!

If you want to join this lively group of dedicated stewards, you must:

–> Join the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club ($20/year)
–> Join the McAfee Knob Task Force Meetup group (free)
–> Commit to volunteer at least one weekend day per month (Fri/Sat/Sun), April through November
–> Attend a Training Day
–> Join an Orientation Hike

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The volunteers of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club wish everyone  a joyful holiday season! As part of the celebrations, RATC has added a new t-shirt to its store, honoring our section’s famed Triple Crown – Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. It can be ordered directly from the RATC store using this link and it comes in both red and green.

The back of the t-shirt, designed by RATC board member Chris Means, features the slogan, “Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Thighs”  and photos of Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs. The front has the RATC logo, designed by long-time RATC member Zetta Campbell. It features a hiker on McAfee Knob and the year of the RATC’s founding – 1932.

This is a great gift for anyone who has hiked the section or just loves the AT, and earnings go directly to the all-volunteer RATC, which maintains and protects over 120 miles of the AT in southwestern and central Virginia. We are one of 31 maintaining clubs along the AT and must earn all of our own funding.

The store continues to offer regular RATC t-shirts and hats in several designs as well through our partners at Press Press Merch.

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Past RATC president Diana Christopulos accepts Landsaver Award from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy President Bill Hackworth.

On Sunday, September 9, 2018, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club was honored to receive the 2018 Landsaver award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy in recognition of the club’s work in building, maintaining and protecting over 120 miles of the AT between Va 611 in Bland County and Black Horse Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. BRLC detailed the reasons for the award in its recent newsletter [with minor edits]:

In the backyard of the Blue Ridge runs the nation’s premier, continuous, long-distance footpath: the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly referred to as the “AT.” With a length of 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine that takes thru hikers from 4 to 7 months to complete, who takes care of this mammoth recreational gem?

That’s where groups like the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club step in. The recipient of this year’s Landsaver Award from the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy. the club was founded in 1932. It’s one of 31 similar clubs along the length of the AT, the purpose of which is to maintain, and address threat to the trail. This hard-working club oversees more than 120 miles of the trail between Bland County and Black Horse Gap in Virginia. Some volunteers walk a section assigned to them 4 times a year to monitor vegetation and pain the iconic white blazes. They do a great job, according to many thru-hikers. Jim Beeson, the current presidents of the club, completed the AT in 2016. For him, this area had some of the best parts of the trail in terms of maintenance and views. In fact, it encouraged him to join the club.

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UPDATE: The National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club have lifted the burn ban on the AT section that includes McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and the NPS and ATC have lifted bans previously in effect on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park segments of the AT. Effective December 7, 2016, small camp fires are again permitted in fire grates only at designated locations between Va 624 and Va 652. See our McAfee Knob/Triple Crown page for details on legal locations for camping and campfires, and be safe out there!

UPDATE: December 5, 2016. George Washington & Jefferson National Forest have lifted their fire ban. Please note that FIRE BAN REMAINS IN PLACE FOR NATIONAL PARK LANDS, INCLUDING THE McAFEE KNOB/TINKER CLIFFS SECTION OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, between Va 624 and far side of I 81.

UPDATE: 1:15 pm, Thursday, November 17, 2016.. FIRE BAN NOW IN EFFECT ON APPALACHIAN TRAIL FROM SPRINGER MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA TO US 33 IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK. See details of the full ban here.

The ban includes the entire “Triple Crown” section of McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs. NO CAMPFIRES OR OPEN FIRES at shelters, campsites or dispersed campsites. Campers may use their enclosed fuel stoves for cooking.

If you are thinking about camping in the woods and having a fire on federal land in our part of Virginia – think again. A prolonged dry period with almost no rain during the past 43 days means burning and campfires will not be allowed outside of developed camping areas in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest.  “We currently are working to contain two large fires on the Forest that are over 100 acres in size with new fires starting daily,” said Fire Management Officer Andy Pascarella. The fire ban begins Tuesday, November 15, 2016 and will expire Wednesday, February 1, 2017. See the full order here.

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