Welcome to part two in our exploration of the most amazing places in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountains — this time exploring some of our most fabulous Public Lands.

Fort Valley

Photo by Leon Reed

This quaint locale is best described as a “valley within a valley.” Tucked away in the heart of Shenandoah County, Va., Fort Valley sits amidst the Massanutten mountain range. In all, the valley is 23 miles long, but it is never wider than three miles.

The primarily agricultural valley is closed in except for a narrow gap on the northern side that opens for a road initially built during the Revolutionary War at George Washington’s command. Passage Creek also makes use of this gap as it flows toward the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, boasting a reputation for trout and, when the water level is high enough, paddling.

Local outdoor-oriented businesses make use of the surrounding George Washington and Jefferson national forests by offering activities like guided horseback riding. The area also has mountain biking and hiking trails and several state and private campgrounds. — MM

MORE INFO: Located in Shenandoah County, Va. Visit: virginia.org/Cities/FortValley

McAfee Knob

Photo by Freyda Strackeljahn

Pick up an Appalachian Trail calendar and you’re sure to find a breathtaking snapshot of the iconic McAfee Knob. An enormous rock slab juts out of a rock face from one of the world’s oldest mountain formations, giving the hiker a striking view of much of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains.

The knob, which has an almost 270 degree panorama of the Catawba Valley, North Mountain, Tinker Cliffs and the Roanoke Valley, sits alongside the Appalachian Trail in Catawba, Va.
A four-mile hike with a steady climb of nearly 1,300 feet from the VA311 parking lot along the AT classifies this trail as a definite “calf-burner.” Wildlife is abundant on the hike up to McAfee Knob, with white-tailed deer, eastern fence lizards and even the rare American chestnut; just a few of the flora and fauna that may be seen on the hike.

McAfee Knob is a frequent stop for AT hikers, and during the spring and summer months you may have the opportunity to meet thru-hikers and learn about their time on the trail.
Two campsites on the trail provide excellent base camps from which to watch the sunset or wake up early and catch the sunrise from the knob.

Visit during the weekdays to avoid the crowds, and when the forecast is sunny and inviting. Be sure to have a buddy photograph you on the knob. It’s well worth it. — MH

More Info: 30 minutes outside of Roanoke on VA 311. Visit: roanokeoutside.com/mcafee-knob-trail


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