McAfee Knob - JNF Roanoke
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Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail - Mount Union, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.7 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,945 ft
Jefferson National Forest
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Parking area off US779 (Catawba Rd.). 37.45754, -80.01730

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 0.6Cross the 1st Catawba Creek Bridge, parallel Catawba Creek with unique cliff face on opposite side of creek, then reach the next bridge.
  • Mile 0.8Cross the 2nd Catawba Creek Bridge. Start the 200ft climb to the gate.
  • 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 3.6View to the northwest of Broad Run Mtn and to the Northeast of Fincastle.
  • Mile 3.81st view of Catawba Valley but a better viewing area is about 200 yards beyond.
  • Mile 3.852nd view of Catawba Valley. Great place for lunch and taking in the views. McAfee Knob is clearly visible to the south
  • 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.
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Hiker Reviews For The Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: 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.

By: Rating: 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+

By: Ashley Rating: 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!

By: G.Zanatakos Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Overall decent hike, steep areas. I would suggest going later in the year when its more dry. The trail was very muddy. Its comparable to Dragons' Tooth. If you're looking for good view and a challenging hike, this one is for you. Not recommended for children.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 18, 2015
Lovely hike, however quite sloppy this time of year! I would recommend going early in the morning while the mud is frozen. We started out at about 10am and the mud was frozen and the trail was nice and neat. On the way back around 1pm, the trail had defrosted into a slippery slop! Each hiking boot felt like it weighed 5 lbs because of the mud stuck to it! It hasn't really even been rainy lately. Just beware of the mud. You'll want to bring your hiking poles! Still has amazing views and one of the very best hikes in the Roanoke area. I love it also because it's not nearly as busy as McAfee's Knob, and provides a widespread rural view of our beloved Blue Ridge Mountains.

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