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Flanked as we are, here in the Roanoke Metro, by the Blue Ridge Parkway on one side and the Appalachian Trail on the other, we may have as concentrated a set of National Park highlight spots as anywhere.
Our 16 candles for the big cake break down this way: eight along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (yes, a National Park Service property), six just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and two at Booker T. Washington National National Monument.
• Climb Sinking Creek Mountain from Va. 621 to the Eastern Continental Divide; about 7.5 miles out and back. OK views, but the Divide sign is the cool thing.
• Climb Brush Mountain from Va. 620 to the Audie Murphy Monument; about 7.5 miles out and back. Nice lunch spot with views and a decorated monument for a decorated veteran.
• Take the Dragon’s Trail from Va. 311 to the A.T. and then up to the formation. About 5 miles out and back. Some rocky stuff as you get close to the big rocks.
• Take the A.T. from Va. 311 to McAfee Knob (if you can find a parking place in the lot). Just under 8 miles out and back to what’s generally recognized as the most photographed place on the 2,100-mile trail.
• Take the Andy Layne Trail up Tinker Mountain to the A.T. and up to the formation. Just under 8 miles up and down. Great views and always a great breeze.
• Take the A.T. from U.S. 220 in Daleville up Tinker Mountain to where the blazes take you out onto the rocks to look down on Carvins Cove. About 5.6 miles up and down.
• Walk the Cornelius Creek Trail from the end of FR 59 to the A.T. and the north for half a mile to Black Rocks for a great-views lunch. About 6.5 miles up and down.
• Walk the A.T. from Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 76.3 (parking is at 76.5; Apple Orchard Overlook), to views from Apple Orchard Mountain summit, highest spot on the trail headed north until you get to New England. About 2 miles in and out.