The Tennessee/Virginia border arrives at about mile 463 on a north-bond (NOBO) thru-hike of the A.T., just 3 miles south of the trail town, Damascus, VA. The trail in Virginia shares about 20 miles along the West Virginia border until it arrives permanently in WV just south of Harpers Ferry at mile 1016. With over 550 miles, one-fourth of the Appalachian Trail lies in Virginia. It varies from easy hiking to very difficult rock scrambling, from busy national parks to isolated wilderness areas. Substantial portions of the trail closely parallel the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Shenandoah National Park and the Skyline Drive.
Because thru-hikers step on and pass through three states (Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee) in the first 460 miles, the 550 mile hike through the lone state of Virginia can seem never-ending. This section is often wet and challenging because of the spring thaw and heavy spring rainfall. Some hikers experience “the Virginia Blues” as they deal with depression and fatigue on this part of the trail.
Because the state incorporates so much of the A.T., it is often divided into sections. So, let’s separate Virginia into four common divisions (and four separate blogs): Southwest, Central, Shenandoah National Park, and Northern Virginia.
The Southwest Virginia section of the Trail covers 166 miles from Damascus to Pearisburg. In the southwestern portion of the state, the Appalachian Trail brings the hiker very close to the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers. A short, half-mile side-hike off the A.T will bring the camper to the peak. Throughout the Mount Rogers area, the floral bouquets of rhododendron and azalea in June and July are worthy of a princess. This region, unfortunately, is also known for routine snowfalls from October to May, making it significantly colder than most other spots along the A.T. in Virginia.
Damascus, Virginia, promotes itself online as “Trail Town, USA, one of the most family-friendly small towns in the United States.” With a total population of under one thousand, the town is located in a beautiful area surrounded by national forests. The town’s website shares, “Damascus is for vacationers who are tired of sitting in traffic, waiting in long lines, and spending lots of money in crowded, hectic conditions.” http://www.damascus.org/index.html. Damascus is also the home to Appalachian Trail Days in May. Trail Days are designed to honor the thru-hiker with a parade, a town-wide yard sale, and free gear repair. Area retail, craft, and food merchants are set up in the Town Park. Many activities including eating contests, book signings, free medical screenings, free hiking dog check-ups, live music and free food fill the air with celebration and excitement. Many veteran thru-hikers return to Damascus each spring to join in the community of Trail Days.