Sometimes, you just have to get away. The grind, the rat race, the hassles of the day-to-day can build until you feel like damp blanket sapping the warmth of life. But there is always the outdoors; there is always the escape of the woods and the rivers and the mountains. Re-fuel your soul with one of these weekend trips.
The Backcountry Trip
With the Appalachian Trail right outside town, there is no shortage of backpacking options in the Roanoke area. This three-day loop will take you to McAfee Knob (the most photographed spot on the A.T.), then past Tinker Cliffs, along the ridge-line North Mountain Trail, and then up to Dragon’s Tooth, before returning to the trailhead.
Triple Crown A.T. Backbacking Trip
Length: 31 miles
Elevation Gain: 8,681 feet.
Day One: Begin at the McAfee Knob trailhead off of Route 311 (Catawba Valley Rd.) just west of Salem. Head north along the A.T. toward McAfee Knob, stopping at the Campbell Shelter, about .7 beyond McAfee for the night.
Day Two: Continue north on the A.T. on the ridge line and along Tinker Cliffs before splitting off onto the Andy Layne Trail. Camp near the bottom of the Andy Layne Trail.
Day Three: Continue across Andy Layne Trail to the North Mountain Trail and head south along the ridgeline to the intersection with Rt. 311. Camp near the Dragon’s Tooth Parking area just to the east of the road.
Day Four: Climb to the top of Dragon’s Tooth, then follow the A.T. north back to the McAfee Knob parking area.
If you are not an experienced backpacker or have young kids who love the outdoors but may not be ready for too many miles on the trail, car camping is a great alternative. All your gear is easily accessible, and most car camping spots are located near lakes, rivers, or trails so there are many opportunities for day-time activities. One of our favorites is Blowing Springs Campground outside Warm Springs in the George Washington National Forest. This campground offers both open, sunny grassy areas and wooded areas for pitching your tent. Nearby Back Creek provides entertainment with stocked trout, swimming holes, and the 1.3-mile Back Creek Gorge Trail.
We know. Sometimes camping just doesn’t cut it. For the outdoor enthusiast who is done with the dirt, but still wants some outdoor experiences, check out Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan. Along with deluxe accommodations and food, Primland’s 12,000 acres include hiking and mountain biking trails, private fly fishing streams, horseback riding, sporting clays, and even stargazing from their custom Observatory Dome and telescope. Primland is the perfect spot for a family to indulge while also having immediate access to all the Blue Ridge has to offer, a rarity for a luxury resort.
With the Family
Got some campfire-’n’marshmallow lovers at home not quite ready for the full rustic camping experience? The region’s state parks offer an array of not just campsites and cabins, but also trails, lakes and activities to start building the love of the outdoors.
Just a few highlights:
• Douthat State Park in Millboro, the granddaddy of them all, has 35 cabins of all sizes and 87 campsites, nicely nestled amid the park’s nearly 5,000 acres of mostly wooded lands and all not too far from the 50-acre lake.
• Smith Mountain Lake State Park in Huddleston is on the shoreline of the state’s second-largest lake, which is home to great boating and fishing. Twenty cabins and camping facilities ranging from tent to RV highlight the stayover options at the park that also offers 13 miles of trails and a 500-foot beach.
• Claytor Lake State Park in Dublin has three miles of shoreline along Claytor, as well as 13 cabins, three lodges and 110 campsites.