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Damascus is known as Trail Town USA, and for good reason — located directly on the Appalachian Trail, with white blazes steering the footpath straight down main street, the Town’s culture is very much influenced by hiking. In total, there are seven trails that cross through downtown Damascus, including the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, the Crooked Road Music Trail and the Iron Mountain Trail. In addition, the nearby Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area has over 400 miles of hiking trails.
If you’d like more information about hiking in the area, pay a visit to one of the Town’s outfitters — they’re the local experts! The Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club is another local resource, offering social hikes, guided hikes and work hikes for all ages. Check out our Hiking page for more info about hiking in the area.
Damascus is home to a number of bike trails — most notably the Virginia Creeper
, a world-class trail belonging to the Rails to Trails Hall of Fame
. The Creeper runs 34 miles from the highs of Whitetop Mountain to the river valleys of Abingdon, VA, passing through a number of historical sites along the way — a popular family outing is to take a shuttle to Whitetop Station and then ride 17 miles back to Damascus, almost all downhill. Damascus has several Bike Rental and Shuttle companies
that run shuttles to Whitetop year-round.
There are hundreds of miles of mountain biking trails near Damascus for those who want to challenge themselves. The most prominent of these is the Iron Mountain Trail
, which runs straight through town. Damascus is home to the trail’s annual Iron Mountain Bike Race
, which combines both cross country and downhill. The Virginia Tourism Website
has a good list of other biking trails in the area.
Damascus is located right along Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail
— on both the Mount Rogers Loop and the South Holston Loop. Neotropical songbirds usually found nesting further north can be spotted breeding in this region — in the summer, these include the black-capped chickadee, golden-crowned kinglet, Blackburnian warbler and even the red crossbill and northern saw-whet owl.
The Birding Listserv at the Virginia Society of Ornithology can provide research material for serious birders.
Damascus is right next door to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area
, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
and Grayson Highlands State Park
. Camping in the area ranges from deep-woods backpacking to the comfort of an RV. The Virginia Creeper Trail’s website
has a good list of campgrounds close to town.
There’s no shortage of summer festivals around Damascus, but by far the best known is Trail Days
, the Town’s annual hiker festival — with upwards of 20,000 visitors attending each year, Trail Days is the biggest hiker festival in the world! Many attendees are former Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who use the festival to meet up with friends from the Trail — a lot of them are current thru-hikers! Other local events can be found at the Town’s Events Page.
Whitetop Laurel Creek
in Washington County, Virginia is one of state’s largest and most beautiful wild trout streams. Approximately seven miles are stocked trout waters located on both private and public lands, with an additional five miles of special regulation waters flowing through the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area. Within the special regulation sections, anglers have the opportunity to catch brook, brown, and rainbow trout while enjoying the scenic mountain atmosphere. The Virginia Creeper Trail’s website
has more information about fishing in the area.
Damascus has its very own 9-hole green at Deer Field Golf Course
, located on Highway 91 about 1 mile NE of downtown in a beautiful mountain setting. Call 276-475-5649 for more information and tee times.
There are a number of horse trails around Damascus, including the 67-mile Virginia Horse Trail. Camps specializing in horse riders are also available. Visit our Horse Riding page
for more info about horse riding in the area.
Bows, rifles, shotguns, and muzzleloaders are all permitted during the appropriate seasons in the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area. Crossbows are not allowed. Whitetails, turkeys, grouse, squirrels and several other species are abundant. Visit our Hunting page
for more information about hunting in the area.
Laurel Creek and the small streams feeding into it are becoming major whitewater destinations for individual paddlers and clubs within a hundred mile radius of Damascus. The lower Laurel offers comfortable class I and II runs from below Damascus to Alvarado. Whitetop Laurel has class III and IV rapids when the water is high.
On warm weekends Damascus is both a destination and a stop along the way for bikers heading into the challenging curves of local highways and roads, including US 421, known colloquially as The Snake
. The Shady Valley County Store
, just a few miles away, advertises “Three mountains, one valley, 489 curves.”
Both professional and amateur photographers find a wealth of opportunity in the towns, forests, and waterways of the Southwest Virginia area.
Options abound for runners visiting Damascus. The most accessible is the smooth, cindered track of the Creeper Trail, which offers 17 miles of traffic-free running in both directions from downtown.
If you love running in the woods, or if you’re just interested in trying it out, you’re invited to join the Iron Mountain Trail Runners on Facebook. Here’s a statement from one of the members: “Sometimes we schedule events ahead of time, but sometimes it’s just a last minute post. We love visitors and if someone is heading to town, they could post when and what they were interested in running and if anyone is available they could schedule a meetup.” Another resource is the State of Franklin Track Club.
Damascus offers visitors the chance to walk the streets of a small town and witness a simple beauty that’s vanishing from many areas of the United States. The Town also boasts plenty of opportunities to take off into the woods and explore nature. With hundreds of miles of trails to choose from, or the tranquility of downtown Damascus, walkers have plenty of options for an extended vacation.
Damascus is located right down the hill from Whitetop Mountain, connected to the summit by the Virginia Creeper Trail. Towards the top is the exciting Creeper Zipline
— a number of outfitters in town offer shuttle services and advance tickets at the rate of $25/person. While you’re visiting, it’ll probably be worth your while to bring a bike and ride back to town on the Virginia Creeper!