New students must find classes, dorm rooms and dining halls, but they also may discover local outdoor attractions such as the Cascades, McAfee’s Knob and Dragon’s Tooth.
“I found out about hiking through my freshman roommate,” said alumna Rachel Stair. “It was definitely through people.”
Outdoor activities became a regular part of Stair’s life at Virginia Tech.
“I like to go hiking whenever I get a chance,” Stair said, “Especially if a group of my friends are
Tech offers an outdoor educational service through the University Unions and Student Activities’ Recreation Services, Venture Out. Located in the BreakZONE of Squires Student Center, this program educates students about the outdoors through low-risk adventures.
These adventures include backpacking, canoeing, skiing, horseback riding and more. Through Venture Out, students can rent tents, sleeping bags and other camping equipment for their travels to local destinations.
Instead of waiting to learn about different hiking trails around the New River Valley through the grapevine check out the most popular outdoor attractions in the area:
“The Cascades is my favorite place to hike,” said alumna Amanda Thomas, “especially the scenic way.”
The Cascades are located in Giles County, which is northwest of Blacksburg. Elevated 2,200-2,900 feet above sea level, there is a lower trail for more experienced hikers and an upper trail for casual hikers.
A 69-foot waterfall that freezes almost every winter waits at the top of the hike.
The trail is open year round and parking is free. However, the Jefferson National Forest does ask for donations upon parking at the recreational center at the start of the trail.
To get to the Cascades, follow U.S. Route 460 west for approximately 13 miles to Pembroke, Virginia. From there, turn right onto Cascades Drive and keep straight for about four miles until the road turns into the paved Cascades parking lot.
“I liked it because I had never been before and after coming up this giant hill and coming into a huge clearing with a waterfall was amazing,” Stair said. “It was really rewarding.”
“If I had time to hike more, I would definitely go to McAfee’s Knob,” said rising senior Anne Curtis Saunders.
Located on the Appalachian Trail, McAfee’s Knob provides a one-stop spot to see Catawba Valley, North Mountain and Tinker Ridge. The 3.5-mile hike is a moderate hike, depending on physical fitness.
McAfee’s Knob is just off Route 311 between Catawba and Roanoke County.
The hike rises from about 2,000 feet to 3,197 feet in elevation. “It’s on the Appalachian Trial, so it’s a more challenging hike,” Saunders said, “but when you get to the top it’s the best view.”
The virtually 360-degree view gives you a jaw-dropping view of the Peaks of Otter, located in Bedford, over an hour north of McAfee’s Knob.
Some have more personal reasons for enjoying McAfee’s Knob.
“McAfee’s Knob is my favorite, for sure,” said Becky Ashton, who graduated in 2009. “My boyfriend, who is now my fiance proposed to me at the top. That and it has one of the best views.”
Though Dragon’s Tooth is known for being one of the hardest hikes in the New River Valley, it is only a 2.6-mile hike up Cove Mountain on the Craig County and Roanoke County line.
Like McAfee’s Knob, Dragon’s Tooth is also located on the Appalachian Trail and is marked by blue and white blazes to guide the way.
“Dragon’s Tooth is also one of my favorites because it’s more challenging,” Ashton said.
Ashton said this hike offers a different dimension than other area attractions.
“The last half mile is a little bit more like rock and mountain climbing,” Ashton said. “When you get to the top you can climb the ‘tooth’; there are giant rocks that protrude straight up the edge of the mountain and you can climb to the top of those.”
At its highest point, Dragon’s Tooth rises to just over 3,000 feet.