I hit the trail early on Saturday morning to hike to McAfee Knob. In the 23 years I've lived in Roanoke, I've hiked this trail at least 15 times. Why? Because McAfee Knob is a spot that never disappoints. It's a popular spot – reportedly the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail – so there are always hikers milling around at the top. You never hear anyone say, "Is that it? I expected more." Unless it is completely socked in by fog (as it was one time I hiked there with an out of town friend), McAfee Knob offers a breathtaking view that is always worth the effort.
The knob is best known for the rock ledge that juts out over Catawba Valley. Every hiker poses for a photo on that ledge. Some hikers are silhouetted by backlighting while others sit with feet dangling off the edge. There's more to it than that famous photo op. Follow along the edge around the bend and the views continue. You can pick out the ridgeline where the AT continues northward. You can even look into the Roanoke Valley and spot the airport on a clear day. In all, there are expansive views for probably 270 degrees.
Everyone who travels is destined for a let down sooner or later. Sometimes famous landmarks appear bigger on television than in real life. And there can be a fine line between a “historic” site and an old, run-down building. Some places just aren't as impressive in person as they seem on the postcards. McAfee Knob is not one of those places. Even though the video was taken with an inexpensive digital camera on a somewhat hazy summer day, you can see why McAfee Knob is well worth the 3.5 mile hike. I hope you’ll see it for yourself some day.