3-Day Hiking in Southwest Virginia

If you like to explore the outdoors with amazing trails, wildlife and scenic views, you surely need to make hiking Southwest Virginia your next hiking vacation destination. 

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Virginia is for Hikers!

The southern end of the Shenandoah Valley has plentiful hiking trails within the old Virginia mountains, the most famous being The Appalachian Trail, which extends 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from Georgia to Maine. If you would like to enjoy just a piece of this trail, and others, then Southwest Virginia is the place to be.

Where to Stay in Southwest Virginia

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke, Virginia is rapidly becoming known as Southwest Virginia’s playground for outdoor enthusiasts.  The “Star City of the South”, Roanoke is ideally situated to cater to those who enjoy kayaking, canoeing, biking, hiking, camping and more!  Within minutes of any of the several hiking trailheads in the area and with a historic farmer’s market, great restaurants, and local breweries like Big Lick Brewery or Deschutes Brewery, making Roanoke your “home base” is ideal for an inexpensive and breathtaking hiking vacation.

Big Lick Brewery Roanoke Virginia
Big Lick Brewery
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When to Go for the Best Hiking

Without a doubt, the spring and fall are the best times to visit Virginia, as I mention in my Virginia travel guide – not just for being the least expensive times to visit but to also take advantage of the season change temperatures and colorful fauna and foliage.  Autumn is my favorite time in Virginia as the plethora of leaf colors against blue skies brighten up the mountains in which few other states can compare – don’t forget to bring your camera! Yes, Virginia is for hikers. Definitely.

Where to Hike - 3 Day Itinerary

McAfee Knob hiking trail Virginia
Hiking trail

The “Triple Crown”

If you’re looking for fabulous scenic views along the Appalachian Trail, then you’ve found it in McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs – more affectionately known as the “Triple Crown” of hiking in Virginia.

Day 1 - McAfee Knob

Along the Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob is the jewel hiking experience for scenic views. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Roanoke, this hike can be done in a half day (4 to 6 hours) or a full day, depending on how leisurely you wish to hike.  However, if this is your first trip to Southwest, Virginia, I recommend allowing for a full day and bring a lunch.  Before heading back to Roanoke, catch dinner at Catawba’s Home Place Restaurant for classic, Southern cooking. You’ll surely have built up the appetite after this day of hiking.

  • Where:  Catawba, Virginia
  • Coordinates / Map:  37.3929° N, 80.0367° W
  • Elevation:  3,197 feet
  • How long:  8.8 miles round trip
  • Difficulty:  4/5 stars
  • When to go:  Limited parking is available at the trailhead so go early in the morning. Click here more information on McAfee Knob hiking.
View from McAfee Knob Virginia
View from McAfee Knob

Day 2 - Dragon’s Tooth

For a second full day of hiking, take in more views on the Dragon’s Tooth trail. Just four miles up Route 311 past the McAfee Knob trailhead is the Dragon’s Tooth trailhead and departure point to more breathtaking, Blue Ridge Mountain scenery.

  • Where:  Catawba, Virginia
  • Coordinates / Map:     37.3695755° N, -80.1597674° W
  • Elevation:  2,228 feet
  • How long:  5.7 miles round trip
  • When to go:  Limited parking is available on Route 311 just past the Catawba Grocery.  Click here more information on Dragon’s Tooth.

Day 3 - Tinker Cliffs

For your third day of hiking, Tinker Cliffs on Tinker Mountain, Troutville – a thirty-minute drive from downtown Roanoke – is sure to please in foliage, rock formations, and scenic views.

  • Where:  Troutville, Virginia
  • Coordinates / Map: 37.425485° N, -79.944127° W
  • Elevation:   3,000 feet
  • How long:   7.7 miles round trip
  • When to go:  Limited parking is available at the trailhead so go early in the morning. Click here more information on Tinker Cliffs hiking.
Hiker on Appalachian Trail McAfee Knob Virginia
McAfee Knob hiker

If you liked the Southwest Virginia hiking scenery from the above three trails and want a similar experience close by, why not try hiking Blowing Rock, North Carolina?  Just a 3-hour drive southwest of Roanoke, you’ll sure to enjoy what amazing landscape Blowing Rock has to offer, not to mention its amazing, hometown dining.

More Virginia Outdoor Opportunities

If the more difficult level hiking is not your thing, don’t worry because the Roanoke region has more outdoor options.

Carvins Cove

Again, just minutes north of Roanoke, Carvins Cove is another local favorite hotspot for hiking and biking trails, boating and horseback riding.  This natural reserve has three parking lot entrances  – the Boat Dock, Bennett Springs, and Timberview – depending on what you wish to do. One-day parking costs only $3 at the local kiosks, cash or check accepted.  For an easy, leisurely stroll, try the Tinker Creek Greenway-Hollins Trailhead that winds partly around the southern side of the 630-acre reservoir.

Tinker Creek Greenway-Hollins Trailhead Carvins Cove Virginia
Tinker Creek Greenway-Hollins Trailhead, Carvins Cove

Roanoke Greenways

Enjoying your stay in Roanoke and wish to see more of it?  Roanoke has 30-miles of greenway paths that can take you all around the city via foot or bike.  There are family-friendly picnicking and playground spots dotted throughout.  For those into more physical fitness, try the work-out equipment along the paths.  From downtown Roanoke, try the Roanoke River, Mill Mountain and Tinker Creek Greenway that keeps the Roanoke Star on Mill Mountain always in sight and the Roanoke River a constant companion from Wasena Park to the base of Mill Mountain and beyond. If you’re feeling up to it, hike to the top of Mill Mountain and catch a view of the Roanoke Valley, a MUST when in Roanoke.

Bicyclist on Roanoke Greenway
Roanoke Greenway

Mill Mountain / Blue Ridge Parkway

Don’t want to hike or bike up to Mill Mountain?  You can always drive.  The Roanoke Star is Roanoke’s landmark locals proudly point visitors to.  If you wish to explore more of the region, keep driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway for more stunning, mountain scenery.  The parkway goes for almost 500 miles, from the Shenandoah National Park in Afton, Virginia to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Cherokee, North Carolina so how far you go is up to you. Remember Blowing Rock, North Carolina?  The Blue Ridge Parkway goes right by it!

Let Me Hear From You

I would love to hear if this was helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below!

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Gwen is the Founder of CORR Travel and a global traveler and photographer with over 25 years of solo travel experience. She is also the Founder of the www.CORRConcepts.com sustainability blog. Travel is her passion and environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection is her "religion".

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