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.
Bridge Warning July 2013: One or both of the bridges crossing the Catawba Creek near the beginning of this hike have been washed out as per a report from the Roanoke ATC. The crossing of the creek is possible during normal creek heights but would require fording with water shoes.
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)
This was a difficult hike, but the views at the top were outstanding. The solitude was a huge bonus, especially when compared to other hikes in the area. There were no issues with directions on the trail since the blazings were clear and often. We finished the hike in just under four hours but we spent over an hour at the top. I highly recommend this hike to people in the area because of the great solitude and great views, but make sure you are ready for a steep climb! There are plenty of places to camp at or near the summit so a sunset or sunrise hike would be a possibility!
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 19, 2016
Warning to those taking this hike right now, there's a 1-2-year-old black bear along the Andy Layne that apparently has been spotted a few times. As we were coming down one of the steepest parts, it was at the bottom grazing on the trail. Not scared of humans but not aggressive, either. We got by it but it was a closer encounter than I really care to have.
However, the hike and the reward at the end were well worth the bear encounter and the sore 61-year-old knees this morning.
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 17, 2016
This is my favorite local hike. More challenging, like the second part of Dragon's tooth, but long and with an amazing payoff like Mcafee.
The first two miles will get your heart going. You'll find two stretches of steep terrain back to back. Then lots of switchbacks for a while. The final push to the top is kind of steep, too.
I started out at 9am and there were some folks in the parking lot, but I had the top to myself for a good 20 minutes. The view is just stunning.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 04, 2015
This was my first time hiking. My friend told me about this hike, it was one he did half way but never finished. We got to the trail head at about 10:30 that morning. There was only one car parked in the lot. We started hiking at about 10:45ish. The trail was very well maintained and the yellow blaze was easy to spot the whole way until we got to the AP trail blaze once there the white AP ablaze was also easy to spot and follow. The only "problem" we ran into was about 15 to 20 cows at the first water bridge. Once we got close enough to them the began to get up and move out of the way. We finally made it to the top at about 12:30. There was no one around nor did we see anybody on the way up. We hung out there for an hour took in the beautiful views. We started our treck down at about 1:30. It was as tough going up as it was down. We only ran into one person going down. We made it back to the parking lot at exactly 3:30. I would definitely recommend this hike especially in the fall. It is a very difficult hike but well worth it! A+
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 08, 2015
I did this one a week after doing Mcafee and Dragon's tooth. I was expecting it to be difficult, I wasn't going to kid myself like I tried to do with Mcafee, but sometimes you aren't as prepared as you think! This one definitely goes in my book as being the toughest of the three. However, the solitude, both on the trail and at the top made it worth it. It was just me and my friend at the top for about 30minutes. We started hiking at about 9:30 and passed 5-6 people on the way up and maybe 10-15 on the way back down. Much less traveled than Mcafee, but with a view I would say is pretty comparable. This gets only a 4/5 because I would still choose dragon's tooth in a heartbeat... and I feel like I need to get stronger to be allowed to say this is a favorite. I stopped numerous times on this one, like the page says, it's rough!