Trail Town USA
Damascus is known best as Trail Town USA, where seven nationally known trails intersect within its borders, but it is so much more!
Damascus is a place of stunning natural beauty, where the hills and peaks of the Appalachian Mountains and the murmuring or the creeks inspire you, whether your calling is outdoor adventure, or simply living in an authentic small town.
The Damascus lifestyle is adventurous and creative, yet laid-back and well-paced. It’s a place where you can be super-active, or where you can reconnect with nature, rejuvenate, and find your inner peace. Most importantly, it’s a place where you can find your own path.
Damascus residents cherish this lifestyle and invite you to as well!
• Damascus Branch Public Library
• Eula’s Hair Styling
• Hikers Inn
• Mt. Rogers Outfitters
• Town of Damascus
These businesses support the Trail by taking part in the A.T. Community Supporter program.
Featured Local Hikes
Damascus History Trail, with optional continued hike on Appalachian Trail:
HIKE 1: Damascus History Trail Walk.
Loop. Length roundtrip: 1.5 miles. Elevation: No elevation change. Difficulty: Easy. Parking: at caboose, Damascus Town Park (N 36.63531, W 081.79198).
- Mile 0.0: Begin at the red caboose in the Damascus Town Park. Near the caboose is a small black engine. This was used on narrow gauge railroads that hauled timber out of the mountains in this area.
- From the caboose, cross Rte. 58 on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rail trail now used by bikers. Continue about 2/10 mile to an informational sign next to concrete pillars. These used to support a water tank for the Virginia Creeper steam train. The train was named Virginia Creeper for its Virginia-Carolina route and its slow speed as it wound into the mountains. Learn how the train’s water tanks were filled and when steam trains stopped being used on this line.
- Mile 0.4 Retrace your steps to the caboose, then walk across the wooden Trestle. Locate Appalachian Trail boundary markers at edge of Trestle. The route of the A.T. in Damascus passed through this spot before it was moved to the main street.
Turn left at end of Trestle, walk one block, cross Laurel Ave. (the main street), and continue straight one block to the Old Mill and dam. Early town history information is on an informational sign near the Old Mill. Enjoy views looking over the creek near the dam behind the Old Mill and learn who was the original owner of the mill and what kind of mill it was.
- Mile 0.6 Retrace your steps back across Laurel Ave. and look for an informational sign about early Damascus churches near the Presbyterian Church (1907). Learn from the sign how many churches there are in Damascus now (current population: about 800).
- Continue walking down Laurel Ave. Notice white blazes on telephone poles. This tells you that you are on the Appalachian Trail. Also notice names on bricks on the sidewalk. People have purchased these bricks to commemorate their A.T. hikes or the hikes of friends.
- Turn right on Shady Ave. Walk past Damascus Diner and continue two short blocks, crossing the Virginia Creeper Trail, then one long block to Water St. Turn right.
Mile 1.1 When you turn right on Water St., the Rock School will be on your left. Locate the informational sign nearby. Except for the auditorium, which is used for community events, the Rock School is now apartments (Damascus children now attend Washington County schools.), but it was originally built in 1921 – and the labor to haul and set those rocks was supplied by local residents – a real community effort! Read the sign to learn about earlier schools in Damascus.
- Continue down Water St. a block past the Rock School and reach the Damascus Library. This building, part of the Washington County Library System, was built in 2012. Across from the Library is the Veterans’ Memorial Park and the Appalachian Trail Arch. The Arch welcomes Appalachian Trail hikers to Damascus and was built by an Eagle Scout. Also note the log trail shelter. When a new trail shelter was built in the early 1990s, Deep Gap Shelter was moved from south of Mt. Rogers to be displayed in Damascus.
- Go through the arch and follow the gravel path in the Town Park to the playground and gazebo. You will find an informational sign about the Damascus Depot, which was located on the present site of the playground, and the Hassinger Lumber Company. The Hassinger Brothers added spur lines onto the Virginia Carolina Railroad to carry cut and milled lumber out of the mountains near Konnarock.
- Those who would like to hike south for a little way toward Tennessee on the Appalachian Trail can turn at the Arch, continuing a block farther on Water St., and follow the white blazes up into the woods. See notes below under “Appalachian Trail hike south.”
Mile 1.5 Those who prefer only to complete the Town History walk can continue from the gazebo toward the caboose, where they started the walk.
HIKE 2: Appalachian Trail South to the TN-VA line:
Hike 2. Extension of Hike 1 – Hike on Appalachian Trail toward TN-VA state line: In and out hike. Length roundtrip up to 6.5 miles. Optional turnaround midway. Elevation gain to state line: 1,294 ft. Difficulty: Moderate; some uphill.
Note: Although by GPS, the hike on the A.T. from Damascus to the TN/VA state line is 2.25 miles, since the trail is not straight, the actual distance is about a mile farther.
A.T. South, Mile 0.0: From the Appalachian Trail Arch in the Damascus Town Park across from the Library, turn and follow the white blazes one block, then enter the woods at the Appalachian Trail sign between two houses. Follow the white-blazed A.T. as it curves around several small switchbacks, some with log steps or rock steps. Switchbacks minimize trail steepness and help prevent erosion. Volunteers from the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC), assisted by students from Appalachian State University, installed these steps in 2008. The entire Appalachian Trail, 2,190 miles from Maine to Georgia, is maintained by 31 all-volunteer trail clubs.
Here, the section of the A.T. past the switchbacks runs mostly on an old woods road which was used by local residents and also for hauling out timber. As on many sections of the A.T., there is a great deal of rhododendron, which blooms in May. American holly can be seen on the edges of the trail within the switchbacks.
Mile 1.8. Elev. 2,739 ft. Here is a campsite, fire ring, and a blue-blazed trail leading to a spring. Volunteer trail maintainers mark springs so hikers can replenish their water supply. Hikers carry water filters to remove harmful bacteria from water they use on the trail.
Those who wish may turn around at this point and retrace their steps back to the arch in the Damascus Town Park.
For those who wish to continue to the state line: About midway between the campsite and the state line, notice logs crossing the trail diagonally. These are waterbars, installed by trail volunteers to help divert water off the trail and prevent erosion. Another way to do this is to dig drainage dips.
Mile 3.25. VA-TN state line. (N 36.61430, W 081.82558) Elevation: 3,221 ft. Besides the boundary between two states, the Virginia/Tennessee state line on the A.T. marks the boundary between two national forests: the Cherokee and the Jefferson. For Appalachian Trail thru-hikers (those who complete a hike on the A.T. in a single season), this is the point for northbound hikers to start the long trek through Virginia. (A quarter of the Appalachian Trail, 550 miles, lies in VA.)
Note: Anyone who would like to cover this part of the trail with cars at both ends can leave a car for the end of their hike at Backbone Rock, about 4 road miles from Damascus. Then from the state line, they can continue into TN on the A.T.: just over a mile to the Backbone Rock Trail (blue blazed), then 2.5 miles farther to the Backbone Rock pkg. lot. See “A Visitor’s Guide to Short Day Hikes Near Damascus” for further information.
Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club
The Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club maintains 59.4 miles of the Appalachian Trail from the TN/VA line north to the South Fork of the Holston bridge, Rte. 670, in Teas, VA. The club welcomes guests on Trail work trips and recreational hikes. Visit www.mratc.org for schedule and more information.
ATC Volunteer Program
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is always looking for dedicated volunteers to help maintain the A.T. and assist in our visitor center and headquarters. Opportunities range from greeting visitors and providing information about local hikes to joining a Trail crew for week-long maintenance trips, gaining first-hand experience in what it takes to keep the A.T. open and enjoyable for millions each year. Learn more at appalachiantrail.org/volunteer.