One of the most iconic locations along the 2,193-mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.), McAfee Knob has become one of Central Virginia’s most defining — and most visited — landmarks. Approximately 45,000 people visit McAfee Knob each year, often overflowing the trailhead’s small parking lot on the opposite side of the heavily trafficked Route 311.
In order to address parking difficulties and minimize risks for both pedestrians and motorists, a coalition of partners is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to construct a pedestrian bridge over Route 311, redesign the McAfee Knob parking area and install informational signage to help guide hikers to the trailhead. Spearheaded by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), the National Park Service (NPS), the VDOT and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), this project will significantly improve safety and the overall visitor experience.
“Visitor safety is one of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s highest priorities,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director of the ATC. “This project will help pedestrians easily and safely cross over to the Appalachian Trail leading to McAfee Knob’s summit, and additional parking areas will minimize the number of people who choose to park on the side of Route 311. However, we’ll need everyone’s help to make this project a reality.”
Construction of the pedestrian bridge is currently scheduled to begin in 2025. However, a small-yet-critical part of the project has not yet been finalized: funding is still needed to purchase a 7-acre parcel of land adjacent to the existing parking area. This land will allow NPS to consider a wider variety of improvements including bathrooms, safer entrances and exits to the parking area, and more orderly parking. The ATC and RATC are currently raising the $200,000 needed to acquire this parcel and remove existing structures before transferring ownership to NPS.
Significant donations to this project have already been made by RATC and 2019 Cox Conserves Hero National Winner Diana Christopulos. The ATC invites supporters of McAfee Knob and the A.T. to help complete this project by making a donation at appalachiantrail.org/mcafee.
A public information meeting on the pedestrian bridge project is being scheduled for this summer. The final date for this meeting and more information about this project will be posted at appalachiantrail.org/mcafeeknobproject.
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