Hiking is a recreational activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year and can be a wonderful idea for a family outing. With the upcoming fall foliage and cooler temperatures, hiking will become a special treat in this area of Virginia.
Roanoke, Virginia and the surrounding areas have a host of great hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty. However, for the purpose of this article, this author will mention her four favorites: Carvins Cove, McAfee’s Knob, Audie Murphy Trail, and Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail.
Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, the second largest city park in the U.S., contains the Carvins Cove Reservoir around which many people hike, mountain bike, and ride horses. This author’s husband and children have enjoyed many fishing trips on the reservoir as well as the whole family hiking around it. In this author’s opinion, the difficulty of this trail is easy and suitable for children.
Directions to Carvins Cove:
Take I-581 North towards I-81. Take I-81 North. Turn right off of exit at Exit 146 onto Plantation Road. Turn left onto U.S. 11. Pass Hollins University. Take a left onto Reservoir Road (Virginia 648). Follow the road until the end, which is the Carvins Cove area.
McAfee’s Knobstands approximately 3400 feet high, and the trail leading up to it is a 3.5 mile hike. Once one reaches the top, he or she is met with a breathtaking view of the Jefferson National Forest. This author would rate the difficulty level of this trail as moderate and would not recommend it for children under 4.
Directions to McAfee’s Knob Hike:
From Roanoke: Take 81 South to the 311 exit. Follow 311 to the little town of Catawba. The Appalachian Trail signs and a designated parking lot should be present on the left side of the road. If you hit the little town of Catawba, you have gone too far. From the parking lot, take the Appalachian Trail north and you are only 3.5 miles from perfect solitude.
Audie Murphy Memorial Trailis located on Brush Mountain and intersects the Appalachian Trail. It is a 1.5 mile loop from the parking lot at the top of Brush Mountain to the end of the trail which is indicated by a stone marker commemorating the life and death of Audie Murphy, an American war hero. Mr. Murphy died in a plane crash at a site near the trail on May 28, 1971. This hike is extremely family friendly and was recently visited by the author, her father, her children, and some members of her church family.
Directions to Audie Murphy Memorial Trail:
From Roanoke: Take Interstate 81South to exit 141. Turn left at the light at the end of the exit ramp. Turn right onto Route 311. Go north on Route 311 for approximately 10 miles, and take a left onto Newport Road (Route 624). Go approximately 7 miles to the Audie Murphy Trail sign. Turn right onto Audie Murphy Trail forest road, and go approximately 3 miles to the top of Brush Mountain (do not take any left turns). You will find a parking lot there.
The Hanging Rock Battlefield Trailstretches from Route 311 at Hanging Rock to Timberview Road in Salem. A Civil War monument marks the entrance of the trail on Route 311, and the trail is 1.7 miles long. It is a good level path and is suitable for children and adults alike. Although it is not as scenic as the Carvin’s Cove, McAfee’s Knob, and Audie Murphy trails, it makes for a wonderful family hike together.
Directions to the Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail:
To reach the Hanging Rock trailhead from Interstate 81, take exit 141 to Salem. Turn left onto VA Route 311. The parking area for the Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail is on the left, adjacent to the parking area for the convenience store or across Route 311 at the monument.