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.
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.”
“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.
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.”