Jennifer M. Ore
Contributor | Unlikely Hiking Enthusiast
MacAfee Knob | The Distance — 8.8 miles
The Haul | You’ll climb about 1,740 ft.
Why it’s worth it | In two words; the view — probably the best view of the Southern Shenandoah Valley. Seriously, you’ve never seen anything like the iconic panorama from the crest of this trail. Accessible from VA-311, it’s arguably one of the most photographed points along the Appalachian Trail. It’s a well-defined trail that works its way steadily upward, getting a little steeper towards the top.
As far as terrain difficulty goes, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d place this trail at about a 4. Now let me explain my scale. You can think of number one as a parking lot stroll, and ten being Kilimanjaro. (As a side note, I never have, nor will I ever attempt Kilimanjaro. I'm not that ambitious and I like to eat cake. A lot.)
What to bring | As I've established, I like to eat. And if you are anything like me, you tend to be as dangerous as a constipated black bear when you're hangry. So pack a lunch. Take plenty of water and a camera because you’ll want both. Walking at a leisurely pace (with breaks to accommodate my mid to moderate level of fitness) this hike will take a large chunk of a day round trip. If you should you find yourself daydreaming with unnatural intensity about pizza by the time you reach the top of the trail, you can always take a less circuitous route on the way back by accessing an intersecting fire road.
If you are a backpacking enthusiast, like me, your main question is, “where can I camp?” Unfortunately, camping isn’t permitted in direct proximity of the summit. But from the MacAfee Knob Spur trail, follow the AT north about 7/10 of a mile to Campbell Shelter. I’ve not camped at this particular shelter, however, my AT guidebook tells me there are privies, plenty of room for camping, and a water source in relatively close proximity. (Always get the most updated information about a water source before you depend on it).
All in all, this hike is a great workout. The panoramic view at the summit will take your breath away (and not just because you are wheezing from the moderate hike).