Tag Archives: trails

Top Three Hikes Within an Hour of Lynchburg

By Rachel Van Tuyl

As summer draws to a close and November ushers in cooler temperatures, Lynchburg residents and students may find themselves looking for some beautiful hikes in the area. With so many natural areas around the city, it isn’t difficult to find hikes to fit any level of difficulty.

Husband and wife team Adam and Christine Anderson, who run the website Virginia Trail Guide, have grown up hiking Virginia trails, and offer advice to hikers who may not be very familiar with the area.

Sharp Top Mountain

Thirty-four miles to the west of Liberty University’s campus lies Sharp Top Mountain, which is visible from Liberty’s campus. The 2.6 mile hike is a steep uphill all the way to the top, so this trail will definitely give hikers a workout. A series of steps forms most of the trail, for a total of a 1,227-foot elevation gain.

Despite the trail’s difficulties, it still seems to be a popular destination among hikers.

“The trail is a little rocky and there are some stiffer uphill sections, but it is well worth the effort,” reviewer Dave Phillips wrote.

Adam Anderson has been hiking Sharp Top since childhood, and he has noticed more people taking the hike over the years.

“I always recommend (starting) a hike up Sharp Top early in the morning, so you can take in the beautiful view with a bit of solitude,” Adam Anderson said.

Crabtree Falls

Located just 45 miles from Liberty, Crabtree Falls is the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. It is a moderate hike with few challenges.

“Crabtree Falls is probably one of the easiest waterfall hikes in the Mid-Atlantic,” reviewer Melissa Moore wrote. “The waterfall is only a few hundred feet from the parking lot via a flat, paved path, (and) the viewpoint for the falls is right there next to the falls.”

However, Christine Anderson said that more experienced hikers who want a challenge can continue hiking beyond Crabtree Falls to either Spy Rock or The Priest.

“Both of those spots offer amazing views and are challenging add-ons to the Crabtree Falls Hike,” Christine Anderson said.

Although the falls are a beautiful location, they are not without their dangers.

“It also has the misfortune of being one of the deadliest spots in (George Washington National Forest),” Christine Anderson said. “The rocks are very slippery, but hikers keep leaving the trail and climbing out toward the waterfall.”

According to a sign at the falls, the rocks are slippery because of clear algae growing on them. But Christine Anderson said the hike is safe if hikers stay on the marked trails.

McAfee Knob

Perhaps one of the most well-known trails is the McAfee Knob hike, located about an hour from Liberty. The 8.8 mile hike, with its picturesque views, offers visitors unique photo opportunities. Thousands of hikers visit the area every year to have their picture taken atop the knob jutting out from the mountain.

For many, McAfee Knob holds special memories.

“I spent my birthday backpacking across McAfee Knob a couple years ago,” Christine Anderson said. “I got to sit on the ledge and dangle my feet over the view. It’s a gift to have a birthday in such a glorious spot.”

Since the Appalachian Trail crosses McAfee Knob, the area sees many visitors, and it is the most photographed area on the entire Appalachian Trail, according to Christine Anderson. She believes that the hardest part of the hike isn’t the trail itself, but rather trying to find a parking spot.

“With the rise of Instagram and other social media, casual hikers are choosing to visit this iconic spot in increasing numbers,” Christine Anderson said. “It can be hard to find parking, and the trail is often quite crowded.”

Hikers who want to try McAfee Knob can visit Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s website, which offers tips and other information on this hike.

“We’re lucky to be in a state that has so many wonderful hiking trails,” Christine Anderson said. “No matter what trail you choose, you’re going to see something great.”

Whether hikers choose to scale a mountain or visit waterfalls, it is important to plan ahead for hikes. This includes checking the weather, and having a trail map, first aid kit, water and snacks. Hikers can also look for a list of 10 essentials for all hikers.

“Looking at some of the sights you see on these three hikes will naturally cause you to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature,” Adam Anderson said. “With the crazy world that surrounds us on a daily basis, we could all use some of that to help ground us and think about our place in this world.”

Get Outside in Virginia State Parks!

Virginia State Parks provide wonderful opportunities for those who enjoy being outdoors and are looking for ways to use their time outside to give back to the community. Although almost all of the volunteers are users of Virginia State Parks, there are groups that sign up with members who have never visited them before. Both levels of experience are welcome, as all volunteers go through orientation and are supervised.

“There are volunteer opportunities that work for different age groups,” says Andrea Hasenfus, Camp Host Program Manager. “Retirees may be able to do a Wednesday gardening at noon, while someone who works a full-time job may be available to do trail maintenance on the weekends.”

There are also opportunities for young people. The Youth Conservation Corps is a great program for teens 14-17 who want to learn about conservation and working in parks. They spend three weeks living and working in parks around the state, supervised by college-age adults. Although the deadline to participate in this program has passed, visitors to the park may still get to see the group in action this summer. This is a competitive program. In 2017, 800 applications were received to fill 170 spots. If your child is interested in being involved in the future, it may be a good idea to sign up to volunteer and get some experience before the 2018 application process starts on December 1.

Joining a Friends Group is another way to contribute. It takes a lot of work to keep up state parks, and Friends Groups play a huge part in building and maintaining trails, helping staff visitor centers, working on educational outreach programs, and raising funds for park projects and facilities. There are several parks with Friends Groups looking for members. Being part of one of these groups has the potential to create a lasting impact for generations to come, as they also help with advocacy for the invaluable resources offered through the parks.

“Sometimes the most help, if you can’t put your elbow grease in on the trail, is to be an advocate. Whether you are a member of a friends group, or used to doing advocacy in the community, advocates are always great to have on our behalf.” explains Andrea.

For those who want a more immersive and active experience, the AmeriCorps program engages its members in meaningful service in Virginia State Parks by providing extensive training and professional development opportunities. They go through grants, and work on natural resource management in the parks. Some of them last all summer, and those who complete them receive an education award at the end.

There will be a big opportunity for volunteers on June 3 for Clean the Bay Day/National Trails Day. In fact, every park in the Virginia State Parks system will have a need for help that day. Those who wish to volunteer will not have to sign up through the website to be a one-time volunteer for the event. Simply show up at your local park and offer to lend a hand.

Visit www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks for a full list of parks in your area. Click on individual parks to see what they need.