Hike the Star Trail to the Iconic Roanoke Star

I’d wanted to hike to the Roanoke Star for quite some time. I’d seen the iconic man-made star so many times (mostly lit up at night in red, white and blue).

Thankfully, the 3.3-mile out-and-back Star Trail at Mill Mountain Park allows you to see the star up close in all its glory. So I took on this moderate hike last spring with my family.

The elevation gain is 774 feet – which doesn’t seem like much – but my kids petered out quickly since it’s basically a steady uphill hike. But then all downhill on the return, of course.

At 100 feet tall, the Roanoke Star earned the distinction of the largest man-made star. The iconic steel star has been welcoming visitors to Virginia’s Blue Ridge since late-1949.

Some even consider the Roanoke Star the Hollywood Sign of the East Coast. Naturally I had to hike this shady trail again when I was in the area to hike Flat Top and Sharp Top.

Trail Stats 
Length3.3 miles
Trail TypeOut-and-Back
Elevation Gain774 feet
Duration1.5-2 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock trails
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

The trail originates at the base of Mill Mountain, slowly winding through forested areas of pine, oak and maple trees to reach views of downtown Roanoke and the Roanoke Valley.

Here you’ll find a good-size parking area, with room for at least 15 vehicles. Note, however, that on fair-weather weekends, these spots can get scooped up quickly.

The First Steps

The hike begins with a mild ascent up a gravel fire road for maybe .25-mile. You’ll then spy a trail sign nudging you to turn right onto the yellow-blazed Star Trail. Then, a wooden bench.

It’s largely a dirt hiking trail interspersed with tree roots here and there, so watch your footing as you continue to climb. At the .5-mile mark, heads up as you prepare to cross over J.P. Fishburn Parkway.

Once across the two-lane road, ascend a few steps to connect with the trail, which veers left and leads into the woods, following closely along the paved parkway for .3-mile or so.

As the trail begins to meander up the mountain, the terrain becomes decidedly more rocky, almost like you’re stepping on small quartz rocks. Then, at the 1-mile mark, another bench.

At the 1.1-mile mark, the Monument Trail intersects with the Star Trail. Continue straight ahead to stay on the Star Trail. As a bonus, another bench for a quick rest.

In another .5-mile – at the 1.6-mile mark – you will reach what appears to be a fire road. Turn left here and you will reach the parking area in a few more steps.

Of course, you’ll see the Roanoke Star, too. Plus, there is a sizeable viewing platform adjacent to the Roanoke Star.

Take in the breathtakingly scenic views from the overlook. Then, pore over the signage identifying mountains in the distance, including Tinker Mountain and Read Mountain.

You’ll also find restrooms and a small parking lot at the overlook, allowing those not as keen to hike to the top on the Star Trail to see the Roanoke Star.

It’s less than a 15-minute drive to the star from downtown Roanoke. The larger-than-life star near the Blue Ridge Parkway is also known as the Mill Mountain Star.

While the views from the overlook are fantastic at mid-day, the overlook is also an incredibly popular spot for breathtaking sunsets over the mountains.

In the evening, the star lights in white lights until midnight. On patriotic holidays, like Flag Day and Memorial Day, the star is lit up in red, white and blue.