Thursday, May 10, 2012

Appalachian Trail, VA - Andy Layne Trail to Tinker Cliffs to McAfee Knob

The Appalachian Trail in Virginia - Appalachian Trail Conservancy

This hike was done as a shuttle hike.  I parked at Lot A (Appalachian Trail parking lot on Hwy 311) and hired a very nice gentleman from the Appalachian Trail Shuttle List to shuttle myself and my dog to Lot B (Andy Layne Trail parking) where we started the hike.

Lot A (Appalachian Trail parking lot on Hwy 311)
GPS Coordinates 37.380017,-80.089887

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Lot B (Andy Lane Trail Parking Lot)
GPS Coordinates 37.457589, -80.017241

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Trails Illustrated Map #788 Covington Alleghany Highlands - National Geographic
Picture of trail map in kiosk at AT parking on Rt. 311

Tinker Mountain -
McAfee Knob -
Catawba Mountain -

APPALACHIAN TRAIL SECTION HIKING: - AT section miles 708.6 to 698.7

HIKE DISTANCE:  14 miles

Take the yellow-blazed Andy Layne Trail from the parking lot.
Plaque on the rock at the beginning of the trail.
A kiosk a little farther along the trail.  There are 4 stiles on this trail (the wooden ladder over barbed wire fencing).  The first stile by the kiosk can be walked around as there is no fencing in place.
You will probably encounter cows.  This little calf had been frolicking around and leaping in the air.  It was too darned cute.  In that moment I realized just how happy I am being vegetarian.
First bridge crossing over Catawba Creek
Lots of mud if it's been raining recently.
Unique rock walls at Catawba Creek.
Second bridge crossing over Catawba Creek.
If you have a dog along, the stiles will most likely present a challenge.  My dog in particular, is scared to death of climbing them and I was concerned about this hike as I knew there were 4.  Fortunately, I found a solution...
I carry a small fleece blanket to sit on for breaks and it worked beautifully to cover the barbed wire so Shawnee could belly crawl under.
The trail goes around the gate so it's OK to trespass if you are a hiker on the trail.
The trail will start to ascend steeply...
... and switchback up...
... to the Appalachian Trail.  The sign at this intersection says Hwy 311 is 9.1 miles but it's about 2 miles more than that.
Coming up on Tinker Cliffs.
Outstanding views from Tinker Cliffs.
Waiting for someone to fall off the cliffs?
The Appalachian Trail passes right along the edge of the cliffs but there is also a trail a few feet into the woods that provides an alternative for those of us who get shaky in the knees. 
The hike follows this entire ridge all the way over to McAfee Knob, the high point on the right.
The hike along the ridge is mostly through woods but there will be another view to the east along the way.
Nearing McAfee Knob, the AT touches briefly on a power cut with views before reentering the woods.
Getting closer as the AT winds through rock formations.
Just off the trail to the right is a nice rock outcrop but it's not McAfee Knob yet, although it's a lot less crowded.
You'll be approaching this sign from behind so it's easy to miss.  You'll need to turn right on a short side trail to get to...
McAfee Knob!
Our McAfee Knob photo was taken by AT thru-hikers "Sugarplum" from Georgia and "Mad Hat" from Minnesota.  They had left Georgia in early March and had just completed 700 miles, 1/3 of the Appalachian Trail.
From Mc Afee Knob, looking back along the ridge over to Tinker Mountain on the left.
Continuing on towards our car that we left at the AT lot on Highway 311.
A kiosk shortly before the parking lot.

[ 0.00]    Start on the yellow-blazed Andy Layne Trail at the rear of the parking; no fence by first stile
[ 0.55]    Cross second stile (dogs can get under barbed wire) then cross bridge over Catawba Creek
[ 0.75]    Cross third stile (large dogs cannot get under wire unless covered and lifted) then another bridge over Catawba Creek
[ 0.85]    Cross forth fence style (dogs can get under wire on the left side
[ 1.20]    Follow trail to left of gate with no trespass sign
[ 1.60]    As trail turns right, Roanoke Cement Company to the left but hard to see with foliage
[ 3.15]    Right on white-blazed Appalachian Trail at huge boulder
[ 3.85]    Views of Catawba Valley begin at Tinker Cliffs
[ 5.70]    Trail dips into a saddle where a woods road crosses over - keep straight uphill
[ 5.85]    Partial view to left
[ 6.40]    Nice break spot with views on top of rocks to left of trail
[ 6.65]    Views of to the left
[ 8.85]    Shelter on left
[ 9.00]    Campsite with picnic table on left
[ 9.20]    Trail comes out into power cut briefly for views before reentering woods to the right
[ 9.75]    Small rock outcrop (not McAfee Knob yet) with view on right
[ 9.90]    Turn right on rock surface side trail just before parking lot distance sign (McAfee Knob sign faces other way); retrace and continue south on AT
[10.70]   Cross power cut
[11.30]    Cross over fire road
[11.60]    AT turns right where campsite is on left; shortly after side trail to left leads to shelter
[12.90]    Shelter on left
[13.60]    Kiosk on right, short side trail to left to views, continue straight on AT
[14.00]    Cross Route 311 to parking lot


  1. Thank you for this post. I loved it. I used to live off of 311 for a few years near New Castle. Reading this post brought a smile to face, and great memories. Happy hiking and Thank you for taking the time to post all the hikes!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! How lucky you are to have lived in that area. As a teenager I lived in Fredericksburg (graduated from Spotsylvania Sr. High) and never appreciated (or knew) what was so close just on the other side of the state. Now I want to move back to Virginia again! It's so incredibly beautiful and there is so much to see.


    2. Nice, we went up their yesterday. This was my favourite pic.

  2. Looks like an amazing hike! Thanks for providing such great information and pictures. I realize this was 2 years ago, but do you remember the name of the gentleman you hired from the Appalachian Trail Shuttle List. We are planning on doing the same hike and are coming from Indiana, so we will need shuttle service. Thanks, Jes

    1. You will love the hike and it is so worth getting a shuttle to be able to do the whole thing. Homer Witcher in Central Virginia is who shuttled us. His contact info is on the AT Shuttle List:


  3. Thank you! Homer told me to tell you "Hi!"

    1. Oh, how sweet! When you see him please tell him my dog Shawnee and I said "Hi" back!