As of September 1st, 2019, I have completed the Triple Crown of the Blue Ridge Mountains!
1. McAfee Knob (September 3rd, 2017)
McAfee Knob is one of the most recognizable points along the entire Appalachian Trail. The pronounced rock ledge provides a stunning 270-degree view that exceeded our expectations. We got there early enough in the day we were able to snatch one of the last parking spots in the SMALL parking lot near the McAfee trailhead. Although the hike is 8.8 miles round trip, with 1,740 feet in elevation change, it felt easier than some hikes M and I had completed in the past. To our surprise, the majority of the trail we were all alone. It was only when we reached the summit that we found everyone else. We ate some bananas, took our pictures on the ledge and hiked back. Overall, it was a great, first experience to follow the white blazes along the Appalachian Trail, and to see such beauty at the end of the hike.
2. Dragon's Tooth (September 4th, 2017)
Dragon's Tooth was much more challenging than McAfee Knob, so don't let the 4.6 miles round trip fool you. It's a rugged, but rewarding hike. It offers incredible views of the area and an opportunity to see some of the unique geological features of Cove Mountain. We got there around 7:00am, and only saw a few cars in the parking lot. That's exactly what you want to see! The first 1.5 miles of the hike wind along streams and are easily identified. Once you reach the second half of the trail (the Appalachian Trail portion), you will be tested by your climbing abilities. The last .8 miles of the hike, you make use of iron climb bars, sheer rock walls and challenging directions (look for the arrows). It was a difficult hike with a small day pack on, so we couldn't fathom how the backpackers do it. Just throw your pack down the mountain and climb down after it?
Once we reached the top, we were rewarded with stunning views of the Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains and utter solitude. We decided to get an even better view and climbed to the top of "The Tooth", which is a 35-foot tall quartzite rock spire. "Magical" would be the word that describes the view from atop The Tooth. We left in perfect time, for about 30 minutes after we departed from The Tooth, we saw crowds of people heading to it. For us, the area was much more special and beautiful without the crowds of people, so we were thankful we missed that. Overall, this hike was my favorite of the two I hiked and would definitely recommend an early morning visit to everyone.
3. Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail (September 1st, 2019)
Tinker Cliffs is the final leg of the Triple Crown of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and was the last hike we had to do to complete our Triple Crown adventure. Two years early, almost to the day, we completed legs 1 and 2, so when we got the opportunity to complete the last leg we couldn't wait to get started. Tinker Cliffs is definitely the hidden gem of the Triple Crown. The 3.8 mile hike to the top features panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and nearly 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
We arrived in the later morning and were still able to get a parking spot at the trailhead. Almost immediately upon entering the trail, you begin your ascend to the cliffs. Over rocks, across streams, past herds of cows and through meadows you go until finally you reach the top. We were fortunate enough to not come across hordes of people like on McAfee's Knob, so we were able to find a place on the cliffs, relax and enjoy the view.