Hike service

McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle welcomes 155 hikers in first month of service

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) — Since launching a month ago, the McAfee Knob Trailhead Shuttle has seen 155 hikers. Roanoke County Transit Planner Paula Benke calls it a success.

“We’re very excited because this is a much-needed service that will help individuals easily get to the trailhead and begin their hike,” Benke said.

During the 2020 pandemic, many people turned to outdoor activities like hiking. McAfee Knob is the most photographed lookout on the Appalachian Trail.

“It was something we needed to look at and really put plans in place to help ease that congestion,” Benke added.

The idea for the shuttle was born and began offering rides on September 2.

“With September it may seem like a light month to some people, but it gave us plenty of time to work on some things and see what worked really well,” Benke explained.

Benke found three ways to improve service. The website has been updated to be more accessible with fewer clicks. And they also gave drivers tablets to accept appointments.

“With Hurricane Ian and knowing that going forward we would be looking at each day individually instead of suspending service all weekend,” Benke said.

These changes come just in time for the beautiful fall colors, attracting many people to enjoy the mountain.

“The number of seats that reserve earlier where people actually plan from mid-October to late October where we see groups of more than 20 people,” Benke said. “I think the numbers will only go up from here.”

In case you prepare to see the red, orange and yellow of McAfee Knob in the coming weeks, the shuttle has updated its schedules. This month it runs from 7-6:30 p.m. due to the early sunset.