This has been one of our favorite hikes for several years! This trip combines the Tinker Cliffs hike with the McAfee Knob hike.
Here's what hikingupward.com has to say:
The parking area off US779 (Catawba Rd.). [masked], [masked]
Outstanding views, a tough climb, a cool creek cliff face, wobbly bridges, Scorched Earth Gap, and The Murder Hole are just a few reasons to hike Tinker Cliffs via the Andy Layne Trail. We were so close to this trail when we hiked Carvin Cove/Hay Rock that we knocked this hike out the same day. Tinker Cliffs is the third leg in the Triple Crown of great views/hikes in this part of Virginia, along with McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth.
It's around 3.8 miles to the top, but be prepared for an exhausting trek. (Phil - not really, if you go slow and take your time) You'll go through Scorched Earth Gap to get there, then look down on the valley where the Murder Hole cave is. Read the stories linked above about how they got their names, very interesting.
Bridge Warning July 2013: One or both of the bridges crossing the Catawba Creek near the beginning of this hike have been washed out as per a report from the Roanoke ATC. The crossing of the creek is possible during normal creek heights but would require fording with water shoes.
McAfee Knob is one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as it winds its way through Virginia. Roanoke.com states: “In Virginia, McAfee Knob is the Appalachian Trail's poster and postcard image. Pick up an Appalachian Trail calendar and there's a good chance it's there.” The Knob has an almost 270 degree panorama of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the West, Tinker Cliffs to the North and the Roanoke Valley to the East. If you are going to do this as a backpack and plan on camping at the Pig Farm campsite or Campbell Shelter the total distance will be 9.5 miles.
It is a steady climb of around 1700’ in about 4.4 miles to the Knob from the VA311 parking area so you will get a good workout. On a clear day you will have some of the best views in the Southern Shenandoah Valley. Due to its popularity you will not be alone on this hike, but the overhang of McAfee Knob and its views make up for the lack of solitude.
Here's the plan:
We'll drive up Friday and park at the Andy Layne trail head. We'll then take one car the 10 miles to the where the AT comes out past McAfee Knob. We'll then hike the 3/4 mile to an area just before a stream to camp.
Saturday morning, we'll take our time and hike up to Tinker cliffs. After a break and photos, it's off to Campbell Shelter (just before McAfee). We'll camp and have a campfire, and possibly adult beverages.
Sunday, we'll hike the 4 or so miles to the trail terminus, stopping at McAfee Knob for the obligatory photos.
Then, probably the best part of the trip, it's off to the Home Place Restaurant for our 'victory feast'. Many say this is the best restaurant, with the best prices, on the entire AT!
We have hundreds of photos from previous trips, as well as videos on youtube: