Virginia’s Triple Crown: Tinker Cliffs, McAfee Knob, and the Dragon’s Tooth

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If you live in or near Virginia and love hiking and you haven’t yet hiked this hike, well you should be ashamed. The “Triple Crown” of Virginia hiking offers some of the most spectacular views on the Appalachian Trial and some of the best views in Southern Virginia.

On Memorial Day Weekend 2014, I joined five others from the Mid-Atlantic Backpackers Meet-Up for a spectacular weekend of hiking mostly along the Appalachian Trail. The hike we did mostly follows this: http://www.hikingupward.com/JNF/TinkerCliffsAndyLayneTrail/ but then continues on along the AT to McAfee Knob, down to VA 311, and then up the AT to Dragon’s Tooth. We hiked this as a two night, two and a half-day shuttle from north to south.

Friday, May 30, 2014–Day 1

The six of us from the Mid-Atlantic Backpackers Meet-Up met around 5pm Friday at the Centreville Park and Ride before carpooling down to our initial trailhead near Roanoke, Virginia. By the time we got to the Andy Lane trailhead on VA 779, it was somewhere near midnight. Although we still had to drive cars down to the southern terminus of the hike (Dragon’s Tooth trailhead parking lot on VA 311), most of us were too tired to move the cars at night, so we decided to hike in only a short ways (less than a mile) and then move two of the cars to the southern end of the hike in the morning.

Our hike leader didn’t really remember where the intended campsite was so we camped in the meadows among the cow paddies. It was less than ideal, but we were all tired enough at 1am to not let it bother us.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

We woke rather late the next morning, ate, and filled our water bottles for the morning section of the hike. The next section of the hike included some significant uphill as we climbed up to Tinker Cliffs. We met a few NOBO AT hikers along the way.

IMG_0587I’m not sure why, but one of my fellow hikers really wanted me to do a push-up on the edge of the Cliffs. The view was gorgeous. We stopped here to take in the view and have a light lunch.

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We then continued on to our campsite for the night, just uphill from Campbell’s shelter. I arrived about 3:00pm along with fellow hiker WaWa. We knew that this was our destination for the night, so we put down our packs to wait for the others in our group. We all hike at different paces, so we will all agree on stopping points so that we can know where to expect everyone as the day goes on.

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WaWa and I decided we wanted to see the sunset on McAfee Knob, so after dinner we hiked the additional mile up to the knob with headlamps and puffy jackets in our pockets to watch the sun sink below the peaks of the Blue Ridge mountains.

That night we had great conversation around the table as we listened to the tales of a couple who were thru-hiking the AT together who had joined our camp for the night. What I remember most about the conversation was how the guy’s best experiences always seemed to involve food. I guess it’s true what they say about thru-hikers–they are always hungry!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The next morning several us got up before the sun would rise, to again hike up, this time with full packs, to McAfee knob to see the sunrise over the mountains. The photo below shows the unbelievable view from the top of the cliffs. IMG_0576

At the top of the cliff, we ate our breakfasts, and waited a bit to warm up before continuing on down the mountain to the parking lot across US 311. At the parking lot, we put our packs in the cars we drove here for the shuttle back to the start of the hike. With then only small day packs, we hiked up the 2.5 miles to the Dragon’s tooth.

IMG_0596Getting up to the top of the Dragon’s tooth as you can see in my photo required some fun climbing and a chimney shimmy! I was not as adventurous as some in my group at the top of the tooth. I don’t mind heights much, but I also don’t want to be stupid close to the edge!

After resting for a while at the tooth, we hiked back down to the cars, completed the shuttle back to the cars at the original trailhead, and then began the drive back to Northern Virginia.

This was an incredible trip with fantastic views: five star rating! I strongly suggest everyone in the area interested in hiking/backpacking doing this at some point.

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