McAfee Knob - JNF Roanoke
One of the most photographed locations
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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
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3.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,945 ft
Jefferson National Forest
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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
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: Freckles Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Hiked today with my best friend and daughter. Pretty strenuous hike, but well worth the effort. Amazing views from the top. Just be careful of the sliding acorns!

By: Tanner Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 20, 2014
This was by far one of my favorite hikes in the New River Valley to date. The hike up to the cliffs is pretty moderate, with switchbacks cutting back and forth as you go up the mountain. There are a few steep parts, but there are logs embedded in the ground and its not vertical, so, you should be fine. When you reach the top, you won't be disappointed as you get an absolutely stunning 180 degree (if not more) view of the New River Valley. Highly suggest you put a stick in front of you as you walk, or wear long pants, as I walked into about 100 spider webs. I was the only one on the trail the entire time I was on it (to and from) so the solitude is nice especially on a weekday.

Trail is clearly marked as you go up. Andy Layne trail is marked for three miles through private property with yellow blazes. Eventually you reach a couples signs that direct you onto the Appalachian trail, where you make the rest of the hike to the Cliffs.


By: HOkie Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 21, 2014
The bridges are back! There was a lot of standing/running water from all of the recent snow melting with the weather being in the 60s recently but we were prepared with proper boots. This hike was quite challenging, I would reccomend a walking stick for sure because there are many areas with steep hikes--but the view makes it totally worth it! There was a lot of snow on the ground at the top, but luckily somebody had hiked it earlier & we followed their footprints. Fantastic hike. We should have planned more time, it took us about 4 hours roundtrip with a stop at the top for late lunch!

By: Tony and Gretchan Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 30, 2013
Very challenging hike, but beautiful! We heard of the STEEP mountains, and saw that to be true. We borrowed hiking poles, and were very glad for that, also thankful we didn't take our hiking dog. We were ready for the bridge to still be out, but were told about .2 miles upstream was a concrete bridge, that helped a lot! Our brave son, and our exchange student, however, did use a log to cross the stream! The view on top was very worth it, just had to be very careful not to get too close to the edge. We would definitely do this one again, with trekking poles always!

By: Jen Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Bridge is still out but you can avoid getting wet. Awesome hike!

    View all 19 reviews for the Tinker Cliffs/Andy Layne Trail hike
Late June
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