virginia hikes: Carvins Cove & Hay Rock – May 30, 2016 & July 30, 2020

The Triple Crown of Virginia is a small portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Roanoke, Va. It includes the proment points of Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker’s Cliff, and the most photographed outlook on the AT of McAfee Knob. For the typical backpacker of the Triple Crown of Virginia (RATC), it is hiked in a loop that involves rather mundane North Mountain (alltrails). However, I would recommend setting up a shuttle for a point to point hike instead so you can include a lesser known outlook through this section of the AT, Carvins Cove & Hay Rock.

The original hike report of Carvins Cove & Hay Rock was of an early summer hike in 2016 where we were joined by our friends Kevin, Shannon, Mat, and Vrushali. This re-post includes new pictures of the trail since then, a video, and updated formatting.

Our friend Mat at an overlook of Carvins Cove in 2016


  • name: Carvins Cove & Hay Rock
  • type: in & out
  • distance: 8.03 mi
  • elevation change: 1414 ft
  • time: 3:46 hours (3:04 moving)
  • location: Appalachian Trail near Daleville, VA (google map directions)


The AT here on Tinker Mountain curves around the boundary of Carvins Cove Natural Reserve (Roanoke Parks and Recreation) and is connected to the multi-use trail network here. Carvins Cove is the reservoir for Roanoke.


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The trailhead starts at the park and ride on VA-220 right off I-81 in Daleville and begins on a connector trail behind the Howard Johnson Motel.

In a few steps, the connector trail meets up with the Appalachian Trail (AT) and there is an informational post here.


From here, we continued straight taking the AT southbound. The trail descends down for the next third of a mile to Tinker Creek. Annie Dillard wouldn’t be happy with the recently built apartments a throws away from the trail.

Tinker Creek

The trail crosses Tinker Creek over a wide concrete bridge and the uphills start from here.

a new friend I met next to Tinker Creek in 2020, he was an old and grumpy fella

A few steps after the creek, the AT crosses a railroad tracks and heads back into the forest. Directly after the railroad, there are some recent trail work here and a slight reroute. I think this trail work was done to avoid some of the muddier areas of the trail. Make sure you take the left trail marked by the white AT blazes.

The initial uphill after Tinker Creek is at about a 6.4% grade and the next point of interest crossing a wide open area under the first set of high power transmission lines at the 1.1 mile mark. We’d be crossing these again once we were on the ridge.


The next section is the hardest as you gain majority of the elevation over the next 0.9 miles to reach the ridge of Tinker Mountain. The average grade here is 13.3%, but it gets progressively steeper topping out around 26.7% grade. The top is signified by a different set of high power transmission lines giving off a constant buzz and you can definitely feel the magnetic effects of. This is also the first overlook of the hike with views of Fulhardt Knob and Daleville to the east.

The eastward facing view provides a nice sunrise, which was my goal for the most recent hike here in 2020.

sunrise behind Fulhardt Knob

Carvins Cove itself is not visible from here even though there is a view to the west. The AT will stay up on the ridge for the remainder of the hike.

Continuing on the ridge, the first outcrop is about 0.4 miles at the end of the first downhill along the ridge. Here you’ll start seeing Carvin Cove toward the south.

Mark and Katherine at the first outlook of Carvins Cove on our happy hour hike in 2019

These first outlooks are your best bet for a nice sunset as there are no tree blocking your view to the west.


As you continue, you’ll find several outlooks. The views on these are all pretty similar. So it’s enjoyable whether you want to turn back earlier or go further beyond Hay rock.

Mat at the next outcrop in 2016

At the 2.8 mile mark, the trail crosses that first set of high power transmission lines again. The opening provides for a view out toward Daleville


and also to the west of Carvins Cove.

That is the last of the outlooks for next 1.25 mile stretch along the ridge, which continues to undulate up and down.


At the 4 mile mark, you’ll reach Hay Rock. The rock itself has been recently painted over in 2016.


This was to cover up the graffiti on the rocks. It’s a shame because the paint prevented any climbing possibilities on the underhang. Another reminder to practice leave no trace (LNT).

graffiti on Hay Rock in 2011

From the backside, you can scramble onto the top of Hay Rock for another view of Carvins Cove. There is a rusted clip in at the top of Hay Rock, perhaps a remnant from past climbing routes available here.

The view from Hay Rock is a nice view, but the trees to the west block any type of sunset.


Hay Rock is a natural stopping point on the hike, but if you want to see more of Carvin Cove from different angles or want a longer hike, there is no reason not to continue on. Below are some of the pictures taken by Christin during Roanoke Outdoor Meetup group’s 30-some mile hike in one day from Carvin Cove to Dragon’s Tooth. I decided I was good after 22 miles at McAfee Knob Parking lot.

From Hay Rock, the hike out is just to retrace your steps on the AT heading northbound.


The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.

  • view: 2. There are a few good overviews of Carvin Cove along the AT, a rarity in Virginia as there aren’t that many lakes. The trail also crosses some high voltage power lines that takes a little bit away from good views upon Daleville and Cloverdale.
  • difficulty: 1. There is some elevation gain to get to up to the ridge, which will make you breath hard a little. The recent reroute has helped with the muddiness of the trail at the beginning, though there could still be some. Otherwise, it’s not too bad.
  • technical: 1. The trail is your typically well marked AT, with the white blazes. Some scrambling skills are needed if you want to scramble up to the top of Hay Rock, but that isn’t included in this rating.

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