Damascus: Trail Town USA

by Mary and Bill Burnham

Trail Days Hiker Parade

Main Street, Damascus doubles as the Appalachian Trail, and where the hiker leaves trees and wildflowers behind, they'll find a 'Friendship Path' instead. Many residents offer hikers food, rides or a place to bed down. Homes double as B&Bs that service AT thru-hikers, as well as the many day-trippers who come to enjoy the extensive recreation all around Damascus.

Each May Damascus plays host to thru-hikers, anyone who ever hiked the AT, or even thought about it, during Trail Days, coinciding with a time when the greatest number of northbound AT hikers reach Damascus. It's a group camp-out with drum circles, outdoor talks, a talent show, and a hiker parade with water balloons Invariably, a hiker wedding takes place sometime during the weekend.

Photo courtesy Richard Smith

Virginia Creeper Trail

Also passing through town, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile rail-to-trail from Abingdon to the North Carolina border. Originally an Indian footpath, the railroad claimed the route at the beginning of the 20th century for logging timber-rich forests.

It was so steep in places the engines slowed to a crawl, hence the name creeper. Reclaimed as a recreation trail in 1977, it's a favorite with bikers who can catch a van ride to the top of Whitetop, then glide 17 miles downhill to Damascus.

Mount Rogers

Hiking Mount Rogers

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area gives you access to innumerable miles of hiking and bridle trails through high mountain meadows where wild ponies roam freely. The highest peak in the state is Mount Rogers, at 5,729 feet, reached by a rigorous hike along the Appalachian Trail. Click here to read about hiking to the summit.

Virginia contains 550 miles of the 2,176-mile AT from Georgia to Maine, more than any other state. Many say this section through Mount Rogers high country region is the most scenic--and most difficult.

We wrote the book!

Several trails in Mount Rogers National Recreation are featured in the Burnhams' award-winning book, Hiking Virginia, with mile-by-mile cues, history and maps.