Editor's note: This article was edited on April 6, 2020 to correct any language that could have insinuated the Collegiate Times is encouraging people to violate local and national recommendations during this time. Read our official statement on the matter here.
It’s no secret that Blacksburg’s surrounding geography is gifted with numerous hiking trails on which one may encounter beautiful waterfalls, various mountain ranges or the very Mountain Lake Lodge where “Dirty Dancing”(1987) was filmed.
While officials are recommending hikers stay off the Appalachian Trail and several trails are closed (see the bottom of the article) during this time, you can take full advantage of these beautiful trails when COVID-19 is over:
Roughly a three-hour hike, the Dragon’s Tooth trailhead takes hikers on a relatively steady uphill climb until the last 1/2 mile that requires some careful rock scrambling until you reach your final destination. The peak has a magnificent view as you look between two rock structures that look eerily similar to a pair of teeth, hence the name. The views beyond the geography of the hike are relative to those from the peak of McAfee Knob.
If you’re willing to make the hour-and-a-half drive from Blacksburg, Sharp Top Mountain is a hike for those who yearn to be challenged. Brittany Donnelly, a hiking blogger based in Roanoke, said, “This one had amazing views, (but was) hard though!” This hike is worth the challenge with a 360-degree view once reaching the summit.
Donnelly recommends this hike as well. Located in Catawba on the Appalachian Trail, McAfee Knob is about an 8-mile hike round trip that leads to an overlook point that gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of the Catawba Valley. Considering this trek’s popularity, it is among the more crowded trails in the region. As you sit upon the lookout point you can see the mountains and rolling hills for miles.
This trail is among the shortest in the area and is located behind the famous Mountain Lake Lodge. Not only do you get to trek toward a peak with multiple lookout points upon the valley, but you get to explore the lodge where Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze acted in “Dirty Dancing”as well. Throughout the lodge grounds, notable settings from the film are marked with plaques detailing specific scenes and behind-the-scenes information. Unfortunately, the famous lake where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray practiced the famous lift has since been drained.
While this trail is not a true “hike,” anyone looking to get out of the house can take advantage of the Pandapas Pond route on which visitors can walk on quaint forest trails and along the vast pond. Throughout the trails are various picnic tables and benches to sit and take in the surrounding nature.
This trailhead is a rather scenic one as you walk toward the stunning falls that are deceivingly larger than the photos on Instagram give them credit for. The hike is an accessible 3-mile hike perfect for all levels of hikers and is child friendly. This destination draws a crowd during the summer months as the water becomes warm enough to swim. Unfortunately, this trail is temporarily closed as a result of the coronavirus. Once the trail reopens, however, the falls are worth the visit.
In light of the recent developments regarding COVID-19, it’s difficult to remain positive in such times of uncertainty, but spending time in the outdoors is proven to have a positive impact on one’s mental health. Blacksburg and the New River Valley are lucky to have such wonderful scenery, especially now, but make sure you're being responsible and staying safe during these times.
Update: McAffee Knob, Dragon's Tooth, Cascade Falls and Pandapas Pond are all closed due to COVID-19.