Hikers, police express safety concerns over McAfee Knob trailhead parking lot closure

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – On Friday, VDOT crews were at work at the McAfee Knob trailhead parking lot building a new pedestrian bridge.

Construction on a $1.5 million project will take about a year and is forcing the parking lot’s closure. That means hikers will have to find street parking, which is already limited.

Siblings Kaitlyn and William Grimm drove four hours from Chesapeake, Virginia to hike McAfee Knob only to find the lot closed.

“The only parking lot near the trailhead is closed. So we weren’t sure what to do and just kept driving ‘til we found somewhere,” said William.

There is parking available on Old Catawba Road, however, drivers need to look out for “No Parking” signs. Signs that read, “No Parking Except on Shoulder” mean drivers need to park with all four wheels off the roadway.

“It’s a little confusing because one of the signs says you can park on the shoulder and two of them say ‘No Parking,’” said William.

“Just hoping not to get towed,” said Kaitlyn.

Sgt. Spencer Hoopes with Roanoke County Police said enforcement falls on the department.

“Towing is our last resort, but unfortunately that’s what we’ll have to do to keep the roads open and keep things safe,” said Hoopes.

The Grimms said other hikers will likely run into the same problem.

“It’s hard with the roads being so narrow too,” said Kaitlyn. “Not exactly safe to be walking on the side if you have to park farther away. Especially people with kids. You know, it’s not safe to have them walking on the side of the street.”

“It would have been nice if there was some notification on like Google Maps when you’re coming here saying it was closed or off-limits,” said William.

Shuttle service is over for the season and won’t pick back up until March 1, 2024. Hikers can also park at the Catawba Sustainability Center and take the Catawba Greenway, a 2.9-mile hiking loop that connects to the Appalachian Trail.

Hoopes recommends hikers carpool, wear bright, reflective clothing, and be careful walking along the road.

“If we’re parking down Old Catawba [Road], then there’s going to be a little bit of walking just to get up to the trailhead where you begin the hike,” said Hoopes. “That can be dangerous. Make sure you’re walking on the correct side of the roadway. You always want to walk against traffic.”

Most importantly, Hoopes said to plan ahead.

“If you get up there and there’s no place to park, certainly that’s frustrating and everybody gets that,” said Hoopes. “Make a couple laps around, maybe a spot will free up. Or unfortunately, you may have to come back a different time. Parking in a spot that’s clearly unsafe, is not the way to do that.”

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You can watch Lindsey during Virginia Today every weekend or as a reporter during the week!

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