What You Need to Know Before Hiking in the Virginia Mountains


(WFXR) – This week, first responders came to the rescue of two hikers who fell 30 to 50 feet in different parts of southwest Virginia, which is why WFXR News spoke to experts of hiking on the safety precautions to take before tackling certain trails.

(Courtesy of Bedford Fire Department)

On Sunday, May 29, the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Service said a hiker – identified as 23-year-old Paul Classen of the Netherlands – died after falling about 50 feet from the summit of McAfee Knob at Masons Cove and being airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital that morning.

Then, just before 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday, June 1, the Bedford Fire Department said it sent crews to Sharp Top Mountain near Buzzards Roost to help an injured hiker who allegedly fell about 30 feet. After a 30 minute walk, first responders reached the hiker, pulled him off the trail and took him to the Roanoke Memorial.

According to Don Defreeze, hiking guide and operator of Excihiking, which offers hiking and camping services and supplies in Appalachia, if you’re hiking, bring the essentials.

“An extra shirt or something can be used for a bandage, or in case you get cold or wet or something, but then you have to think about your food supply, how far you go,” Defreeze said.

Additionally, Defreeze recommends bringing medication; long pants; suitable hiking shoes; canned foods; a first aid kit; and especially water.

Next, it says you need to know the type of terrain you are about to walk on.

“If you’re in a position where it’s very steep, and you can have rocks and very loose dirt in some of those places,” Defreeze explained. “Also try not to cross these when it’s raining and torrents of water, as you can very easily lose your footing in the mud.”

WFXR News’ Defreeze and Kelsey Jean-Baptiste even climbed atop boulders on their McAfee Knob hike on Wednesday, June 1. However, Defreeze admitted that getting too close to the edge can be dangerous, so he demonstrated the importance of foot placement.

“In a way, maybe I’m adapting to even a more serious situation, maybe you want to push your limits a bit. I know I have another rock that I can get down on, so I don’t am not in danger here,” Defreeze said.

With all this information comes a question: what are the best beginner trails for learning to hike in the Commonwealth?

According to assistant store manager for Walkabout Outfitters, Jake Smith, there are plenty.

“I know a really good one for beginners is Bottom Creek Gorge. It’s a bit towards Floyd, sort of a Bent Mountain area. There are several trails, it’s a nature reserve with a waterfall. It’s not too rocky, not too steep anywhere, and it’s a really good base. said Smith.

If you’re looking for advanced trails, Smith says Tinker Cliffs, Dragon’s Tooth, and McAfee Knob—all of which are in the Roanoke Valley—are the best options. However, he urges you to be smart and prepared.

Hiking experts warn anyone trekking the advanced trails that you need some level of experience. That being said, never try to tackle these rides without confidence or comfort.


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