Appalachian Trail Histories

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Shortly after the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club was organized, members began scouting optimal routes for the Appalachian Trail in the Roanoke area. The original route of the trail went south and east of Roanoke along what is today the route of the Blue Ridge Parkway. RATC members were more familiar with the geography of their area and proposed a new route along Tinker Ridge that brought McAfee Knob, the most photographed location on the trail today, into the new route of the trail. This photograph shows two RATC members on a day hike along Tinker Ridge in 1932.

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Five members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club on Whitetop Mountain in Southwestern Virginia at a "Tri-Club Meet." These multi-club meetings were common, especially among the southern clubs. In this particular case, the three clubs were the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC), the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club (NBATC) based in Lynchburg, Virginia, and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), then based in Washington, D.C. ATC Chairman Myron Avery organized a work trip to the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia over Memorial Day week and volunteers from all three clubs worked on sections of the trail from northern Floyd County down all the way to Damascus, Virginia, clearing trail, blazing the route, and enjoying one another's company. They all stayed at the lodge which used to be on the summit of Whitetop Mountain, which is where this photograph was taken.

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Members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club measuring the Appalachian Trail in Floyd County, Virginia, with Myron Avery, second from right with wheel. July 1940.

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Members of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) measuring the old version of the Appalachian Trail in Floyd County, Virginia, July 1940.

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After ascending the Indian Ladder out of the Dan River Gorge, thru hiker Gene turned and took this photograph of the Pinnacles of Dan from the Northeast rim of the Gorge. Espy was the second person to successfully complete a hike of the entire trail in one season.

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As he passed through the Dan River Gorge in July 1951, Gene Espy took this photograph of what he called "Growed over trail, Virginia" (on the reverse). The image was taken near the famed "Indian Ladder" that took hikers into or out of the Gorge. Espy was the second person to successfully hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one season. The image also gives a clear sense for how poor trail conditions were in 1951.

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In 1951, Gene Espy completed the second successful thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in one season. He took this photograph of the Pinnacles of Dan in July 1951, as he passed through the Dan River Gorge on his way north.

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The Dan River Gorge as seen from the summit of the Pinnacles of Dan, July 1951. This image, taken by Gene Espy during his thru hike -- the second successful thru hike of the Appalachian Trail -- offers a sense for how steep the drop was from the summit of the Pinnacles to the river below.

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The view south from the summit of Fisher's Peak, North Carolina, in the summer of 1951. This photograph, taken by thru hiker Gene Espy in July 1951 is one of the only known images of the view from the Appalachian Trail on Fisher's Peak when the trail still ran through this part of Southwestern Virginia. Gene Espy was the second person to successfully hike the entire trail in one season.

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Byllesby Dam on the New River as seen from Farmer Mountain in early July 1951. This photograph was taken by Gene Espy during his 1951 thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, the second such hike completed in one season.

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This photograph was taken by Gene Espy during his 1951 thru hike of the Appalachian Trail from the Jones Knob lookout, possibly from the fire tower that used to stand there. Espy was the second person to successfully thru hike the trail and likely took this photograph on July 1, 1951.

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This map depicts three of the routes of the Appalachian Trail in Southwestern Virginia -- the route laid out in 1931 by Shirley Cole and Roy Ozmer, the route used between 1933-1952, and the present route of the trail. The original route looped south of Roanoke and Salem to the junction of Floyd, Franklin, and Roanoke counties, before proceeding south toward Fisher's Peak in North Carolina. After 1933, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club convinced the ATC to shift the northern portion of this trail section north and west of Roanoke to bring it across Catawba Mountain, the location of Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob. After 1952, the ATC abandoned this original route of the AT and moved the trail more than 50 miles west to its present location west of Blacksburg.

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