GetBackpacking! Virginia’s Triple Crown (4 days, 35 miles)


On this 4-day, 35-mile trip you’ll visit the three most iconic spots on the Virginia portion of the Appalachian Trail: Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob. Views abound on this trip, and you’ll work for them. However, this trip includes a training program that should whip you into shape for the challenge ahead.

Oct. 24-27, 2024

4 days, 3 nights

35 miles

2 in stock


We’re kicking off the summer backpacking season with a classic: Virginia’s Triple Crown. This 35-mile route includes three icons of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia: Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob. About 25 miles of this hike is on the AT, about 10 miles is on the North Mountain Trail. This is a loop hike, requiring no shuttle.

Key information

October 24-27  (Thursday through Sunday)

Distance: 35 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous. This trip has a total elevation gain of 8,185 feet and four major climbs (see below)

Hike plan 

4-day, 3-night trip

Thursday. Begin at 1 p.m. from the AT trailhead at VA 311 northwest of Roanoke, Va. (about 2 hours from both the Triad and Triangle, a little more than 3 hours from Charlotte). Hiking the loop counterclockwise, we will visit McAfee Knob and camp for the evening at the Campbell Shelter on the AT. Distance: about 5 miles.

Friday. Begin at 9 a.m. We hit Tinker Cliffs mid-day, do a solid climb up North Mountain to the ridge, camping for the evening near the summit. Distance: 10 miles.

Saturday: Begin at 9 a.m. We spend much off the day — about 10 miles — on the ridge of North Mountain. We camp for the evening at about the 11-mile mark. We’ll set up camp and do a 3-mile out-and-back to Dragon’s Tooth. Distance: 11 miles in full pack, 3 miles in day pack.

Sunday: Begin at 9 a.m. The hike out is just under 7 miles, with one climb near the beginning, then a relatively mellow hike back to the trailhead.

This is a challenging hike. There are four significant climbs on this trip:

  • Day 1: 1,234-foot vertical gain in less than 3 miles, beginning at mile 1.0.
  • Day 2: 683-foot vertical gain in 1.4 miles, followed by a 1,200-foot vertical gain in 2.3 miles
  • Day 3: 1,145-foot vertical gain in 2 miles

Additional details

You will need to be in good backpacking condition for this trip, and we plan to help with that in two ways:

  • Recommended training hikes. Upon signing up, you will receive a list of recommended training hikes that, hopefully, aren’t far from where you live that will give you the elevation training you will need for this trip.
  • Zoom hike preparation meeting on Wednesday, July 24, at 6 p.m. We will discuss the trip and how to prepare for it, especially how to prepare for those challenging climbs using the resources at your disposal and your available time.

This event also includes

  • eguide for the hike, including an overview map and maps for each day, route guide for each day, tips on what to pack for this hike, overview of the hike and more.
  • GetHiking! Tips: Finding Your Way, a quick-tips guide for hiking off-trail (this trip is entirely on trail, but way-finding skills are vital on a long backpack trip)
  • GetHiking! Tips: Water Crossings
  • GetHiking! Tips: Hiking in the Rain
  • GetHiking! Tips: Night Hiking
  • Zoom trip planning meeting on Monday, October 21, at 6 p.m. 
  • Guided trip, with two guides, one in the lead, one sweeping so you’re never the last hiker.

Dates to remember

April 17 (Wednesday), 6 p.m.: Zoom hike preparation meeting

June 17 (Monday), 6 p.m.: Zoom trip planning meeting

June 20-23 (Thursday thru Sunday): The Trip

Refund policy

Full refunds will be offered for cancellations made 14 days or more prior to the event. Credit will be give for cancellations made 3 to 13 days before the event. No refunds for cancelations made 2 days or less before the start of the event.


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