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.
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.
As you know, RATC is an active organization devoting countless volunteer hours to maintain and improve our 120 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Funds generated from membership play an integral part in the club’s ability to provide trail and shelter maintenance. If you are not an RATC member or have not renewed your membership please join or renew your Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) membership and support the stewardship of our 120 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) section with both your membership and financial support. Membership information is available at
Highlights of 2019 RATC activities include; • Resurfaced McAfee Knob/VA 311 Trailhead Parking Lot – $2,000 • Supported the “Virginia Triple Crown” Volunteer Ridgerunner Program – 52 Volunteers/1679 Volunteer Hours • Contributed $5000 toward purchase of Doc’s Way property to protect McAfee Knob view shed • Replaced roofs on Catawba, Wilson Creek, Jenny’s Knob, Laurel Creek and Doc’s Knob Shelters – $2500 • Replaced fire rings for 5 Shelters – $1100 • Repaired foot bridges at VA 620, VA 621 and VA 785 – $1000 • Held weekly trail maintenance hikes resulting in 350 steps being installed on Dragon’s Tooth, Sinking Creek (Niday Shelter side), Curry Gap and AT/McAfee Knob. • 83 RATC Trail Maintainers worked >5500 volunteer hours to maintain our section of the AT • Assisted Konnarock Crew with War Spur trail relocation • Performed emergency repairs to Fulhardt Knob Shelter after fire • Offered 60+ recreational hikes covering a wide range of difficulty and distance
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.
As a result of the COVID -19 pandemic we are all experiencing new and challenging times in our lives and on the Appalachian Trail.
In response to the best guidance available on effective ways to slow transmission the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) is suspending all club and trail-related activities for a least the next month to give local communities and the country time to realize the full impact of the virus.
The RATC annual meeting scheduled for March 28, 2020 will be postponed and rescheduled at a future date.
This is a rapidly changing situation and acting with an abundance of caution is the best course of action.
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
Want more solitude than the Dragon’s Tooth/McAfee Knob/Tinker Cliffs corridor on the Appalachian Trail? Just on the other side of the Catawba Valley, the NORTH MOUNTAIN TRAIL in Jefferson National Forest offers about 12 miles of hiking and camping with far less traffic. The downsides: you may encounter a few mountain bikers, there are no water sources after the first mile, and there are very few views when the leaves are on the trees. But this moderately difficult hike offers great views when the leaves are down – between November and late April or early May. Plan a one-night backpack or allow at least 6 to 7 hours for a day hike. You can position cars at each end (Andy Layne/Tinker Cliffs trailhead and Dragon’s Tooth trailhead.)
The Hiking Upward website offers an excellent map and a detailed description, although the mileages differ slightly from those provided on Forest Service signage. The Forest Service map is geared to people entering from the next valley west but it does include a description of the Catawba Trail that begins near the Andy Layne Trail parking lot. The entire North Mountain hike has excellent signage.
HISTORY. On March 1, 1978, problems with some local landowners forced the relocation of the Appalachian Trail away from McAfee Knob and on to North Mountain on the other side of the Catawba Valley in the Jefferson National Forest. This situation did not last long. On January 24, 1982 Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club volunteers Siegfried Kolmstetter, Charles Parry, Andy Layne, Mac McDaniel and Larry Wood brushed out the first mile of the new trail back to McAfee Knob. Although the AT is no longer there, North Mountain remains an outstanding hike, especially between November and April, when the leaves are down and the views most expansive.
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:
As we get ready to start a new hiking season, both hikers and maintainers might enjoy this piece I wrote in honor of Katahdin guide and caretaker Roy Dudley after finishing a complete section hike of the AT in 2008. Enjoy!
Hikers are from Venus, Maintainers are from Mars ~ Dedicated to the spirit of Roy Dudley, an early Katahdin guide who knew the ways of Pamola
By Diana Christopulos (“DC Turtle,” 2008)
Once upon a time on a long winter night, Pamola, spirit protector of Katahdin, sent for Beaver, his steady minion. “I will put an end to the noise of Hiker and Maintainer always complaining about each other,” said the thunder god, stretching his gigantic wings and flexing his eagle talons. “Their petty insults can be heard from Springer Mountain to my thrice-hidden lair.” Pamola swiveled his stately head and looked off to the south. “Bring them to me! Maybe I will finish them off.”
So Beaver went to the low country and found Hiker, who was enjoying a long zero day, lying on his sofa and eating a Snickers for dessert after a gobbling down Ramen noodles and Slim Jims.
The mountains are calling and I must go. In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. John Muir
One man who answered the call of our mountains was Dr. Siegfried J. Kolmstetter, who joined the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club in 1971 and passed away on February 13, 2019.
He and his wife Ursula maintained the McAfee Knob section of the AT for over 25 years.They came to the Roanoke Valley in 1970, where he worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salem for 28 years. The VA hospital recognized Siegfried with its “Hands and Heart” award on February 14, 1992 for his compassionate attitude and unselfish service on the behalf of veterans.
On March 16, 1971 – the same year he joined RATC – Siegfried led his first hike to McAfee Knob, guiding a Brownie troop and their leader to the summit.
On March 1, 1978, problems with some local landowners forced the relocation of the AT away from McAfee Knob and on to North Mountain. This situation did not last long, and on January 24, 1982 Siegfried joined Charles Parry, Andy Layne, Mac McDaniel and Larry Wood in brushing out the first mile of the new trail back to McAfee Knob.