Damascus, VA: Trail Town, USA

damascus va trail days
Trail Days, a week of camaraderie and fun.
Photo by Julie Kroll

In ancient times, it was said that “all roads led to Rome.” Today, the same might be said of Damascus, VA. Damascus is the Blue Ridge Mountain town where seven recreational trails converge: the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, and Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail. Damascus is a short distance from hundreds of miles of other hiking, horse, and biking trails. The Chamber of Commerce uses the nickname Trail Town, U.S.A. “There are so many trails around here that some hardly ever get used,” said Dennet Dwyer, a mountain biker who lives in town and works at a nearby lumber company.

Damascus caters to hikers. The town offers e-mail service at the town hall, mail pickup and registration at the post office, a shuttle service, laundry, a hostel, and a pharmacy to the Appalachian Trail’s thru-hikers. The economy seems built on foot traffic; some businesses are supported entirely by hiker dollars.

Appalachian Trail Days banner
Thousands of hiking enthusiasts descend on Damascus, VA, every May.
Photo by Kristi McFarlin

Damascus Trail Days Festival

Each year on the weekend after Mother’s Day, Damascus celebrates its relationship with hikers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts by hosting the Trail Days Festival. Trail Days is part reunion, part Mardi Gras. Hikers congregate annually to renew old friendships, tell tall tales about their hiking experiences, and have fun.

The festivities begin with a 5K race and a town-wide yard sale. Young women up to age 18 may enter the Miss Appalachian Trail Days pageant. There are games galore, including Appalachian Trail Jeopardy. There is abundant bluegrass music, food, vendor displays, workshops, a hikers’ talent show, bike rides, hikes, storytelling, and a parade. You’ll typically find more than 100 vendors and dozens of events.

There is lots of parking available for visitors who are not “hiking in,” and accommodations can be found at nearby motels and bed-and-breakfasts. For adventurous spirits, tent camping is available.

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