If you are looking for an easy hike that provides for plenty of cascading stream views, the hike to Stiles Falls provides for a high views to work ratio. So it is a great hike for beginners or kid friendly hike. But it is a busy one for those same reasons.
The hike was closed shortly after we hiked here back in March, so I delayed in writing it up until now.
During peak foliage season, popular hikes like McAfee Knob can become very crowded. It seemed like standing room only up there just this past weekend (reddit). For such reasons, I only hike to McAfee during the weekday and for either sunrise or sunset. For the weekend, there are plenty other options along the Appalachian Mountains with outlooks. Angel’s Rest is such a place located about 30 minutes west of the Virginia Tech campus, yet we had plenty of time at the two major viewpoints all to ourselves during this peak hiking season.
This report was reposted on October 17, 2020 to include a video, new photos, and updated formatting.
McAfee Knob is among the most popular hikes in southwest Virginia and said to be the most photographed place on the Appalachian Trail with its own wikipedia page. The popular nature of the hike is a reason I avoid this hike typically and head over to Tinker’s Cliff unless I am doing a sunrise hike. When Keith visited last year, I had planned to write about our sunrise hike and even took a GPS track on it. However, that hike was completely in the fog.
About 1 year to the day, Keith visited us again so we gave sunrise another shot. As you can see, it was quite a nice success. Given we hiked mostly in the dark, I headed up there again to take some updated pictures of the trail for this report a month later during the peak foliage season. With Amtrak restarting train service to Roanoke from D.C the week I’m publishing this post, hopefully this will be just in time for you to plan a southwest VA getaway.
When a group of friends were looking for some camping time near D.C., I remembered some prime spots along Little Stoney Creek during our hike of the Big Schloss, Mill Mountain, and Little Stoney Creek loop. While the discussion begin as car camping, they didn’t mind the mile walk along Stoney Creek to reach the best campsite
Our group included Audrey, Dave, Bradley, & Brenna.
along the creek.
Don’t worry, our food choices were still inline with car camping.
We ended up base camping for two night giving us a free day to do a hike in the area, which ended up being Little Schloss. What was a surprise with the amount of wildflowers along the trail from a recent burn.
Here in Virginia, especially northern Virginia within the reaches of Washington D.C., the best way to avoid crowds on the popular hikes is to hike over the weekdays. So we visited the popular Buzzard Rock to break up the drive down I-81 on a Tuesday.
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.
Being opportunistic is a good way to avoid the crowds when it comes to popular trails. It may mean getting up before sunrise, starting out late in the day, or still heading out when it’s rainy. With many of the frontcountry campgrounds still closed, certain trails are a little less crowded than normal. This included the Sherando Lake area, which is known as the jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains and typically sees hundreds of campers a day.
There is nothing like having to cross a knee high stream to keep you cool on a hot and humid summer day in Virginia. Ramsey’s Draft provided exactly that as the trail cross the stream several times. While there are a couple longer backpacking loops here, we chose a moderate day hike loop that included Jerry’s Run.
It is clear how the popular peak of Big Schloss got its name, for schloss is German for castle. The peak appeared very much like one on our approach from the north on the Mill Mountain trail. It was indeed the highpoint in this popular area for backpackers, which is otherwise a monotonous green tunnel during the early parts of summer.
The Roanoke Star sitting atop of Mill Mountain is the largest free-standing illuminated man-made star (wikipedia). It is where the city of Roanoke, VA gets its nickname, Star City. On the way into the city or atop prominent peaks in the area like McAfee Knob and Fort Lewis Mountain, the star can be seen above the city (though you’ll need to know where to look and maybe squint).
In the middle of COVID-19, the trails on Mill Mountain was as local as it got.
If you’ve read enough of these hike reports, a common theme you’ll find is that I love hiking next to running creeks, streams, and rivers. As we get into the summer in Virginia, they can also provide a perfect respite to the hot and humid weather in the form of swimming holes. So after a week of none stop rain, I was excited to go check out a hike featuring some swollen creeks and wide swimming holes.