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The best hike / trail you have never heard of

Admit it. You have been bothered by the popularity of a watering hole, fishing spot, trail, hike, waterfall, climbing spot etc.

The goal is to find a place so lovely, so untouched that it serves as a private respite for you and your select invitees.

If you live near Roanoke Virginia (which I do) I imagine you have driven to the parking lot at McAfee Knob on the AT and thought “Ugh, there are so many people here today. Do I want to hike or wait?”

The desire to be alone in nature makes perfect sense. You are there to enjoy, be at peace, look, watch and learn. Strangers can get in the way.

So what if I shared my new favorite hike and camping site with you? What if I told you the chances of running into another human were slim, but the opportunity to see a view as spectactular as McAfee Knob was a guarantee?

Would you go get a pen and write down the name and how to get there?

The trail is a very short loop from parking lot to overlook – but there is much to do and see in the area.

From 1-81, Roanoke / Salem, take 311 West toward Craig County, New Castle. You will pass the Home Place restaurant, pass the parking lot for the AT, and keep going past New Castle. At the very top of Potts Mountain (about 10 miles I would guess past New Castle) take a right on Potts Mountain Road. About 2-3 miles down on your left is the Shawvers Run Wilderness, Hanging Rock Overlook. Park there.

According to a great website, the area just recently grew in size with 2009 legislation adding to Virginia’s protected wilderness.

On Potts Mountain Road

We wanted more of a walk and so we decided to include Potts Mountain Road into our “hike.”

The hope was that tired puppies would pull less on the trail and near the overlook. We enjoyed wildflowers, butterflies and a cool summer day (15 degrees cooler than Roanoke) even before the trailhead.

Within 1/4 of a mile from the start, we noticed a great camp site complete with established fire pit. It looked cozy, and safe. Room for numerous tents. I hope we can return some time for a night under the stars this fall.

And so began our short but lovely walk into the woods.

The trail was well marked but my yellow fuzzy four legged tour guide knew the way without consulting the yellow blazes.

She grunted, pulled and pushed until we reached the overlook, less than 1 mile from the start.

I am not a fan of heights, so I stood back to take pictures. And from what my husband described and experienced on the rocky outcropping at the top, I need to find a way to overcome this fear.

Whit and the dogs at the Hanging Rock Overlook

Ok, maybe that photo doesn’t do it justice. Maybe no photo can really bring you into the clean mountain air, and overlook that allows you to see miles and miles of open green valley and surrounding mountains.

Maybe you have to be there to understand the grandeur. Well, let me at least provide some motivation. This is what my family enjoyed from the rocky top:

The view from Hanging Rock Overlook

I didn’t share our secret place to ruin it. I shared with you so that more could enjoy this local treasure. So more would understand how blessed we are to live in the Mountains, where land is public for the purpose of being enjoyed.

Please let me know if you go — I hope to see you in Craig County, enjoying the view.  And please, don’t tell everyone you know about this hike. I would hate for the parking lot to be totally full the next time we go.

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