Roanoke Star: Hike the Star Trail to Spectacular Views Across Virginia’s Blue Ridge
I was eager to hike to the Roanoke Star. Also called the Mill Mountain Star, I’d seen the iconic steel star many times (mostly lit up at night in red, white and blue).
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. I tackled this hike last spring with my family.
The elevation gain is 774 feet – which doesn’t seem like much – but my kids petered out since it’s a steady uphill hike. It’s all downhill on the return, of course.
At 100 feet tall, the Roanoke Star is the largest man-made star. The steel star has been welcoming visitors to Virginia’s Blue Ridge since late-1949.
Some 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 Sharp Top.
|Elevation Gain||774 feet|
|Terrain||Mostly dirt & rock trails|
|Driving Directions||Click Here|
The trail begins at the base of Mill Mountain, winding through forested areas of pine, oak and maple trees to reach views of downtown 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 hike begins with a mild ascent up a gravel fire road for maybe .25-miles. You’ll then spy a trail sign nudging you to turn right onto the yellow-blazed Star Trail.
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 re-connect with the trail.
The hiking trail veers left and leads into the woods, following closely along the paved parkway for .3-miles or so.
As the trail meanders up the mountain, the terrain becomes more rocky, like you’re stepping on small quartz rocks. Then, at the 1-mile mark, a wooden bench.
At the 1.1-mile mark, the Monument Trail intersects with the Star Trail. Continue straight ahead to stay on the Star Trail. There’s another bench for a quick rest.
In another .5-miles – 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 scenic views from the overlook. 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 Mill Mountain Star.
It’s less than a 15-minute drive to the star from downtown Roanoke. The larger-than-life star is also a short drive from the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway.
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.
For scenic views from the overlook – minus a drive or a hike – click over to the Mill Mountain StarCam, which displays live images from the Roanoke Star.
Roanoke Star History
Sitting high atop Mill Mountain, the Roanoke Star has been calling those far and near to Virginia’s Blue Ridge region since 1949.
The larger-than-life star was intended as a promotion during the holiday shopping season, and was lit up in all-white on November 23, 1949 by the town mayor.
The plan was to take down the star after the holidays. So popular, however, the 10,000 pound star with 2,000 feet of clear neon tubes was never taken down.
The star stands year round above Roanoke. For more area hikes, check out my post on hikes near Roanoke, Virginia, which features 15 hikes near Roanoke.
Erin Gifford is the editor of Go Hike Virginia. She has completed more than 300 hikes in Virginia. She is also the author of three hiking guidebooks from Falcon Guides. Need help finding a hike? Check out the Trail Finder feature or send Erin a message.