I wrote that Damascus sat alongside the Appalachian Trail. I was wrong – the trail goes through it, literally.
In fact, the town most likely gets more traffic via foot than car, and the only reason I say “most likely” is because there is no official stat on something like that – but I’m pretty damn sure it’s true. Surrounded on all sides by wilderness, rivers, and scenic farmland, the town of Damascus is the sort of place you go to lose the world and find yourself.
Its population is less than 1,000 people, and it feels like a loner town. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but let’s not confuse things. Beaufort is a place with a fair amount of young people and a lot of social energy thanks to the boating culture and nightlife, however Damascus is where you come to get away from the noise, to wander off in the woods by yourself and let everything quiet down. Hiking, biking, fly fishing, and back-porch happy hours are the main attractions.
The Appalachian Trail is why so many pass through – the sidewalk along the main drag in town is a part of it, which in its entirety runs 2184 miles from Georgia to Maine (most people start in Georgia because they can begin earlier in the year). Damascus is known for being friendly to hikers – the residents welcome them in as their own. If a hiker can’t barter with a local for the use of his lawn, they can certainly afford the cheap hostels (as low as $4/night). This makes Damascus a place hikers often put in “zeros,” a day in which no miles are walked.
It takes most hikers 5 to 7 months to complete the entire App Trail – it’s 2184 miles, remember? Not exactly the most reasonable or practical adventure-travel excursion in the world. A camping trip is, though, and one of the shops in town offers an interesting service for those looking to take a long-weekend outdoors.
Mt Rogers Outfitters provides shuttles to all major trailheads in up to a 100-mile radius, meaning you can park your car in Damascus ($2/day) and catch a ride 30 miles out, for example, then hike ten miles per day back to civilization. Shuttle prices vary from $15-$230 (depending on the distance), and I think this is a nice opportunity for people to get out of their local campgrounds and tackle a historic trail. Damascus is located only six hours from D.C., five hours from Richmond, four hours from Raleigh, and three hours from Charlotte.
Next post we’ll discuss the big draw for bikers in Damascus, the Virginia Creeper Trail, as well as some beautiful riverside lodging options.
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App Trail Photos: