Hiking & Camping on McAfee Knob

I had the great idea of going to Puerto Rico for my 28th birthday. I wanted to follow some of my favorite travel bloggers and turn a year older in a foreign place. I didn’t want gifts or dinner or brunch, I just wanted to get away.

You’ve probably guessed, but Puerto Rico didn’t work out (…yet!). And if I wasn’t getting to swim in the Caribbean, I wanted a budget-friendly, adventure-filled weekend. I remembered seeing photos of a beautiful lookout on the Appalachian Trail and decided what better way to celebrate a birthday than on top of a mountain!

McAfee Knob is just outside of Roanoke, Virginia about 3.5 hours from Washington, D.C. It’s recognized as one of the most photographed places on the entire Appalachian Trail.

The weather didn't completely cooperate with us, so a two-day backpacking trip turned into one overnight trip.

The best decision Mike and I made all weekend was fueling up pre-hike at Scratch Biscuit Company. The food was cheap and fast but delicious and filling. A real Southern breakfast. I got the chicken and egg biscuit with a side of cheese grits. Mike got a chicken biscuit with a side of biscuits and gravy. We both ordered way too much.

We then drove to the A.T. parking area in Catawba, Virginia and began our trip. We hiked the 4.5 miles up the trail with our moderately heavy packs. It's a steady climb of about 1,700 feet that feels much more difficult when you've got an extra 20 pounds on your back. When we reached the lookout, we took a quick peek at the views and then kept walking on the trail about another mile or so to find a spot to set up camp. 

We stopped near the Campbell Shelter on the trail. After setting up our tent, heating up ramen noodles, and refilling our water from a nearby creek, we relaxed a bit before making our way back up the mountain for sunset views on McAfee Knob.

Although we weren't in the right spot for a good sunset, it was still nice spending the last night of my 27th year on top of a mountain. I loved climbing the rocks to different viewpoints and testing Mike's fear of heights. We even brought up a candle and birthday treat. Zebra Cakes taste pretty darn good after a day of hiking. (Actually, Zebra Cakes always taste great).

McAfee Knob
McAfee Knob

Our headlamps lit the way back to camp where we sat around the fire until my eyes wouldn't stay open any longer.

Waking up on top of a mountain might be my new birthday tradition. Forget about foreign country birthdays, this adventure was just as good. Mike and I are looking forward to more camping trips this summer, so please send all recommendations my way. Or leave a comment below!

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