New Protections for McAfee Knob

An expansion of nearly 600 acres will help protect McAfee Knob views and improve access to one of the Appalachian Trail’s most famous vistas. Photo by Gordie Zeigler @wheresgordo of model @lizisblonde.

McAfee Knob is a regional classic, offering one of the most recognizable vistas on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in the Virginia Blue Ridge. Last December, the views from this beloved scenic gem gained important protection after nonprofit organizations acquired three key tracts of land near Roanoke, Va.  

This will add nearly 600 acres of permanently protected land to the area, which will not only help preserve McAfee Knob’s iconic views, but will also help support better access to the trail and greatly improve conservation of the surrounding area. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the Conservation Fund worked to secure the properties. 

McAfee Knob offers a stunning 270-degree panoramic view of the surrounding valley and mountains from atop Catawba Mountain at 3,197 feet. According to the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, the McAfee Knob trail gets nearly 60,000 visitors a year and is one of the most photographed areas on the A.T., making conservation for the area even more vital. 

“The conservation efforts surrounding McAfee Knob continue the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s work to improve access for visitors, conserve the world’s most famous footpath, and protect views cherished by millions of visitors,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director for the ATC, in a press release. “The A.T. remains a work-in-progress, and through this partnership and others like it across the Trail landscape, the ATC is improving and protecting the A.T. experience every day, one day at a time.”

In the summer of 2019, the ATC was able to purchase the 243-acre “Hogan Hollow,”  which helped the ongoing efforts to preserve the famous views from McAfee Knob and added to a section of public land that encompasses the footpath near Tinker Cliffs. 

“Piece by piece and property by property, securing these lands adds to our ongoing efforts to protect the beautiful viewshed from the A.T. of the landscape surrounding the ‘Triple Crown’ from Dragon’s Tooth to McAfee to Tinker Cliffs,” said Heather Richards, Virginia state director for The Conservation Fund, in a press release. “The A.T. is an important economic driver to the surrounding communities, so protecting lands to enhance the overall trail experience for outdoor enthusiasts fits well with The Conservation Fund’s dual mission.”

Earlier in 2020, the ATC teamed up with Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) to raise $44,000 to conserve and improve a property neighboring the McAfee Knob trailhead on Route 311. Most of the funds came from individual donations from residents of Roanoke Valley and outdoor lovers across the nation. 

Once it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, fundraising efforts came to a standstill. But last August a voluntary stewardship agreement was signed between the ATC, The Conservation Fund, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC which enabled the ATC to secure the McAfee Knob trailhead property. The agreement also committed the Mountain Valley Pipeline up to $19.5 million to help the ATC continue to conserve land in the area and ultimately support outdoor recreation in Virginia and West Virginia. 

“Protecting the areas surrounding McAfee Knob is a clear example of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s focus on conserving the areas essential to the unique experience the Appalachian Trail provides,” said Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the ATC. “Land conservation is an essential element of our work, helping ensure the ecosystems and inspiring views the Trail is known for are available for all of us to enjoy and benefit from for centuries to come.”

Places to Go, Things to See: