Hot Spot

McAfee Knob Revisit 2017

Catawba, VA

Each year, over 90,000 day hikers, backpackers and thru hikers visit McAfee Knob, the most photographed point on the Appalachian Trail. In 2015, McAfee Knob was selected to be a Hot Spot due to impacts including illegal camping, illegal fires, unprepared hiking causing an increase in search and rescue efforts, onsite alcohol use, and trash. The volunteer McAfee Knob task force, born out of the 2015 Hot Spot, worked to mitigate these impacts by informing visitors about the proper preparedness and legal camping areas, picking up trash, and dismantling illegal fire rings. The continued increase in visitation has caused these issues to persist. In 2017 the Leave No Trace team returned to the area to continue their education efforts with key stakeholders and members of the general public.

During this Hot Spot, we trained 60 volunteers and created a Plan Ahead and Prepare video for use by key stakeholders


The Leave No Trace staff hosted an effective communication workshop for members of the McAfee Knob Task Force. This group’s sole purpose is to educate visitors, especially those who are engaging in less-than-Leave No Trace practices. Since these volunteers already had a general understanding of Leave No Trace skills and ethics, the team focused on teaching them strategies they could use to best communicate these practices in positive and constructive ways having positive effects on visitor behavior.

The Leave No Trace team also spent time educating visitors at the McAfee Knob Trailhead. The Traveling Trainers distributed coffee to those hiking to, and coming back from, the Knob. During those interactions, they informed hikers about the severe impacts affecting McAfee Knob as well as the Leave No Trace skills and ethics they could practice to prevent these impacts. As part of the Hot Spot efforts, the Traveling Trainers put together a site-specific Plan Ahead and Prepare video that the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Appalachian Trail Club can use to help visitors prepare for their hike as a way of preventing future impacts in the area.

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