Damascus, VA’s Outdoor Recreation
Spend a few hours in Damascus, and it’s easy to see why it’s nicknamed the "friendliest town on the Appalachian Trail." Located at the crossroads of more than half a dozen hiking, biking and cultural pathways, the town has become a popular outdoor destination thanks to its beautiful mountain scenery and Southern charm. Some visitors find it hard to leave.
“We’re a hub where everybody stops,” says Linda Brown, the Assistant Librarian at the Damascus Branch Library and Visitor Center. She and her husband moved to town nearly 20 years ago, after vacationing in Damascus for years. “It’s quaint. It’s got a lot of really pretty, old homes. And people are very, very friendly.”
Walk the Appalachians
It’s easy to find yourself strolling along the Appalachian Trail in Damascus. In fact, the town’s main street actually runs on top of the world-famous footpath. Lined with historic houses, antique shops, and outdoors stores, it’s a popular gathering spot for hikers as well as cyclists riding cross country along the TransAmerica Bike Route, one of the bike trails that runs through town.
“So we don’t find it strange to have people from all over the world sitting next to us at the coffee shop,” says native Michael Wright, owner of Adventure Damascus Bicycles in downtown Damascus.
In May, the annual Trail Days festival draws thousands of hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The weekend-long celebration includes music, film screenings and author presentations. One of the highlights is the hiker’s parade through downtown, where residents and visitors playfully soak one another with water balloons and squirt guns.
Bike the Blue Ridge
During summer and fall, casual bicyclers and families flock to the Virginia Creeper Trail. The 34-mile bike path, which runs along a former railroad from Whitetop Station past Damascus, is a gentle, downhill ride through some of Virginia’s most stunning views.
“It’s probably the most popular thing to do when you come to Damascus,” says Linda Brown. “I ride it at least 3 or 4 times a year. My favorite season is in the fall, when the leaves are in color.”
Rent a bike and hop a ride to the top from one of the many bicycle and shuttle services in town, such as the Shuttle Shack, a family-run store just a block off the trail. Then spend the afternoon pedaling across old train trestles as you wind through the Blue Ridge mountains. There are dozens of picnic spots along the river if you get hungry, or pull off at the Creeper Trail Cafe, which serves up burgers and hotdogs as well as delicious chocolate cake.
Whether it’s hiking, biking or just soaking in the views while chatting with new friends, residents like Michael Wright know how to enjoy nature.
“If anyone likes the outdoors,” he says, “they’re going to love Damascus.”
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