Tinker Cliffs is a popular hike in Botetourt County, Virginia known for the beautiful cliffs overlooking the tree lined Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s also one of the three destinations along Virginia’s Triple Crown. We want to make sure you know what to expect along the trail, but more importantly at the stunning vistas.
Tinker Cliffs is famous for it’s wide views along the rocky cliffs and for the steep climb along the Andy Layne Trail. While this is one of part of the Virginia Triple Crown, Tinker Cliffs is much less visited than McAfee Knob or Dragon’s Tooth.
Part of that is because the hike to Tinker Cliffs is tougher and longer than either of the other two hikes. Don’t let that keep you from visiting, this is an awesome hike with much of the same iconic views draw thousands to McAfee Knob every year.
Tinker Cliffs via Andy Layne Trail
Length: 7.5 miles Elevation Gain: 1950 feet Difficulty: Strenuous
Great For: Wide mountain views, long day hikes
Location: Catawba Rd, Botetourt County, Va
When to Visit: Spring, Summer, Fall
How we rate it: 4/5, the view at the top is stunning and while the trail is tough, you’ll have a great experience.
How long does it take: 4 – 6 hours, this time could easily stretch to 8 hours if you prefer a slow hike but most people will be done in under 6.
Getting to the Andy Layne Trail
You can find the Andy Layne Trail on Catawba Rd in Botetourt County between Daleville and Catawba. You’ll want to download directions and any trail maps you might want before you get near the trailhead.
There is no cell signal at the trailhead so you might consider using the park and ride in Daleville if you are planning on meeting a friend for the hike. The parking lot at the trailhead is on the smaller size, especially compared to Dragon’s Tooth and McAfee Knob.
When you arrive it’s easy to find the trailhead. There is an information kiosk with trail information. Among the information at the kiosk there is a brief biography of Andy Layne, the man the access trail to Tinker Cliffs is named after.
Even though the biography is short, it paints a picture of a man truly dedicated to the trail that would eventually bare his name.
What to expect on the hike to Tinker Cliffs
Like many of the hikes near Roanoke the hike begins in a valley and rapidly climbs to a ridgeline. Aside from a very brief descent from the trailhead down to Little Catawba Creek and Catawba Creek, you’ll find that the Andy Layne Trail is a steep climb.
Stick to the trail on this hike. The Andy Layne Trail passes through land owned by Roanoke Cement Company.
There are a couple of nice bridges across the creeks and if you are lucky you may even see a cow or two along (or in) the trail.
The trail varies between steep climbs up stairs and less intense sloping grades. Make sure you bring plenty of water and take breaks. On the most intense section of the hike you’ll be ascending a long set of stairs that looks like it should lead to a mountain monastary.
This section of the trail is tough. Your legs will be screaming once you reach the end of the climb. As exhausting as it is on the way up it’s worse on the way down.
Even if you don’t normally hike with poles, bring them on this hike to save your knees on the way down.
There is a large boulder to take a break at along the way up. You’ll see a branching trail at the rock, make sure you stick to the Andy Layne Trail. It’s well marked and easy to follow.
From the rock there is one more steep climb to reach the Appalachian Trail. At the intersection with the Appalachian Trail you’ll notice the blazes switch from blue to white. Turn to the right to head towards Tinker Cliffs.
The section along the Appalachian Trail is mostly flat. It won’t take very long to reach the first overlook.
Tinker Cliffs Overlooks
There are a lot of different overlooks, I counted 10 separate overlooks. There is a bit of a gap between several of them so make sure you don’t stop after you reach the first couple.
This is what I love about Tinker Cliffs. The views are big like McAfee Knob but you have so much more space to spread out. Every time I’ve been to Tinker Cliffs I’ve been able to find a private overlook to relax and watch the mountains.
When to visit Tinker Cliffs
Tinker Cliffs is safe to visit in any season, although snow and ice can stick to the trail for days after a storm. Most of the trees along the hike are deciduous so it isn’t as pretty in winter. But in fall it’s beautiful.
The last two weeks of October and into the first few days of November the mountains around Roanoke light up with color. That’s when most of the trails are busiest, but Tinker Cliffs never sees the volume of visitors that many other great trails around Roanoke get.
Mid to late May is another great time to visit Tinker Cliffs. The leaves on the trees are still new and bright green and the air is still crisp. This time of year the summer haze hasn’t settled on the mountains so the view stretches further than in the heat of summer.
Tinker Cliffs is an awesome trail that you should consider visiting or revisiting if it’s been awhile. It’s a challenging hike but you can find some of the most amazing views in the area along the stunning cliffs.