Outstanding views, a tough climb, a cool creek cliff face, wobbly bridges, Scorched Earth Gap, and The Murder Hole are just a few reasons to hike Tinker Cliffs via the Andy Layne Trail. We were so close to this trail when we hiked Carvin Cove/Hay Rock that we knocked this hike out the same day. Tinker Cliffs is the third leg in the Triple Crown of great views/hikes in this part of Virginia, along with McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth.
It's around 3.8 miles to the top, but be prepared for an exhausting trek. You'll go through Scorched Earth Gap to get there, then look down on the valley where the Murder Hole cave is. Read the stories linked above about how they got their names, very interesting.
Mile 0.0 – The yellow blazed Andy Layne Trail begins at the rear of the parking area on Route 779 (Catawba Road). You'll cross two fence stiles before reaching the first of two bridge crossings of Catawba Creek. In some places over the next mile the trail was overgrown but manageable as of 2011. The first couple of miles you will hear the hum of the Roanoke Cement Co, this is their land they have generously allowed hikers to cross, so to get to the top you will just have to put up with the noise :)
Mile 1.2 – Arrive at the gate, and as long as you stay on the trail you are granted permission to go around the “No Trespassing” sign from the Roanoke Cement Co. The trail bears to the left around the gate, and in 100 yards bears to the right. The next portion begins the tough part of the hike, gaining 900ft+ feet before reaching the Appalachian Trail. One section has no switchbacks for about 0.4 miles.
Mile 3.0 – Reach the white blazed A.T. and stay right/south, this area is referred to as Scorched Earth Gap. Continue 0.6 miles south on the A.T. for a beautiful view to the north.
Mile 7.7 - Retrace your steps to return to the parking area.
Note: If you're adventurous and need more miles, you could continue south on the AT to McAfee Knob, this would be approximately 18 miles roundtrip from the Andy Layne parking area.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
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Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail hike:
Reviews For The Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail Hike (5 Most Recent)
Video. Six of us from Obsessive Compulsive Backpackers (Meetup) hiked this as a 3 day - 2 night trip 2-4 Nov 2012. We drove up Friday night and parked at the Andy Layne parking lot/trail head, hiked to the first stream crossing and camped in the cow pasture. Night temps mid 30's, sunshine, no clouds. Hiked up to Tinker cliffs, trail in great shape, about 1 hr 45 min, walking very slow. If you walk slowly enough to keep your breath the few steep sections are not so bad and pass rather quickly. Once you reach the AT junction, you're still not there yet, another 20 min or so. The cliffs have spectacular views. We followed the AT to McAfee Knob, 3-4 hrs, strolling taking pictures. Trail in great shape. Leaves had just fallen and were over 12" deep for many long stretches. Camped about 100yds past the shelter at McAfee. If you go 200yds there is a better site with metal fire ring and a picnic table!! Water is obtained from a cistern which is grated to keep the leaves out, water looks gray from the reflection, but is ok. Rained Saturday night, tents wet in morning, lows mid 30's, dense fog in the morning. Less than 30 min to the knob, more fog, took pix, headed down. Trail in extremely good condition. There are 2 more shelters before you reach the highway. About 3-3.5 hrs. Had our 'after hike' feast at the Homeplace Restaurant, highly recommend it.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 13, 2012
This was a great hike on a clear fall day. We could see for miles. I did lose my favorite water bottle however. It is a Camelback with the REI logo. I got it at the REI Columbia, Maryland grand opening November 2010. Lots of good memories connected with this bottle. If anyone finds it I would really appreciate it if you would contact me at email@example.com and I will cover any shipping costs required so it can find its way home to me.
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Peace and quiet. Only seen a few people. Had tinker cliffs all to ourselves. The climb to the cliffs is not easy but well worth the effort. Be prepared for a climb if your not a regular hiker.
Date of Hike: Friday, April 20, 2012
One of my new favorite hikes around roanoke . It is brutal for a novice(only been 1 year of hiking for me)but the wild life and flora make up for it.
me and my wife take pictures and would love to share and see others :-)
Date of Hike: Friday, March 16, 2012
Wow, what a great hike. Quite possibly my new favorite spot.Ijust overnighted this one Friday night. I started out of the parking lot at 5:45pm.From the get go it&rsquos a great hike. Almost immediately after you start the hike, you come to the first of a few &ldquofence crossers.&rdquoThese are just &ldquoA-like&rdquo frames built over fences to help you cross them. This first one can actually be bypassed as the fence next to it has been cut and pulled back. But do not get used to this as the rest of them must be used. After this first fence crosser there is a leisurely hike through the woods with a bit of a down grade to bring you to the level of the creek.You will follow the creek through the woods for a few minutes before coming to second fence crosser. Immediately past this crosser is the first of two bridges. Great views up and down the stream. Once over the bridge you will wind through the flat fields for a bit before coming to the next fence crosser. After going across this one you continue to follow the creek.There will be some campsites on your right, tucked up in the evergreen groves. Following the creek for just a bit longer you will come to the latter, longer and last bridge. Once this is crossed you will start to pull away from the creek with a gentle uphill climb.The final fence crosser will be reached on this slow slope.Once across this you are back to standard hiking: little up, little down, little twist, little turn.You&rsquoll hit 2 switchbacks before you come to the &ldquoNo Trespassing&rdquo sign/gate in the old fire road.You&rsquoll follow the fire road for a bit as it starts to dwindle to just a forest trail with one switchback. Then you&rsquoll take a sharp right turn and start hiking in a grassy clearing. This is the calm before the storm. You&rsquoll pass a metal gate post on your left, marked with the yellow trail markers and a black &ldquoB5.&rdquo At this point you will start the uphill. You&rsquoll also notice that the grade has turned from grassy to slaterock.Toward the top of this section you will head back into wooded trail. Then you hit the first hard uphill. It is at the top of this section that I hit the 30 minute mark on my hike. It&rsquoll level out for a bit then have a quick downhill. But what goes down must come up. The next section will be a challenge for most (I&rsquove hiked it when it&rsquos wet).At the top of this quick but steep uphill section will be about the halfway point on the hike. It will level out for just a while then shoot back up.You&rsquoll continue to climb for a while as this one is more of a gradual climb. It&rsquoll level out just before you start a series of 11 switchbacks before reaching the top.It&rsquos in this section that I met the only other hiker (possibly an AT-er from the look of him) I saw this day.Most of the switchbacks are fairly quick.The longest stretch is between #7 and #8.About 4/5 of the way between these you&rsquoll have the AT meet up with you. You&rsquoll notice the grade goes up again you finish the last few switchbacks fairly quickly before reaching the top. Between switchbacks #9 and #10 I saw a deer up on the left next to the rock face. After rounding switchback #11, you&rsquore on top.I hiked just a bit further and stopped at the campsite nearest the trail.I turned to walk out on the cliff face to look at the valley, when I turned around to my campsite there was a doe standing by the fire ring. I walked up within 15 feet of her before she walked away.I got to the camp site right at 7pm, right before sunset.With a ~30lb pack, I was pleased to be able to finish the hike in 75 minutes.I did the whole hike with only stopping once (to relieve myself).I quickly set up my ENO and started a fire.Then I sat and watched the sun set on the neighboring ridgeline.What a fantastic view. So glad I did this trip. I made supper and looked out over the valley while drinking hot chocolate. At some point a coyote in the valley started howling.Soon a whole pack started.This having been only my second solo run, it was a little unsettling. I finished supper and hot chocolate, hung my backpack, and crawled in my ENO at 9pm. Fell right to sleep. Woke up a few times but mostly slept right through till 5:30am. I got up, started the fire again, and got my coffee ready to percolate. Sun came up about 6:30am. I started making bacon and eggs, then cleaned up, packed up, and was on the trail on the way down by 9am.Stopping twice on the way down to relieve myself (stupid 5 cups of coffee), on the descent I only shaved 12 minutes off my time.Got to the parking lot right after 10pm.Great night for camping. The whole week they had been calling for rain that night, but I didn&rsquot get a drop the whole time. I could see lightening on the horizon, but I stayed dry. I will definitely be back sometime.