This 7.8 mile out-and-back is a section of trail we primarily did to work toward our completion of the entire Appalachian Trail in Virginia. This hike starts off in downtown Damascus and climbs 1,500 feet uphill to the Tennessee state line. There’s nothing in the way of views or noteworthy scenery – just a nice walk in the woods. We were lucky enough to have a great bear sighting on the trail.
We seem to have a penchant for picking record-setting heat weeks for our vacations. I guess it’s not that unlikely when you’re limited to traveling in the summer, but man… this was an especially sweltering day to hike! Back in 2019, we did a week-long AT section hike that ended in Damascus at the parking lot across from Mount Rogers Outfitters. That left a 3.9 mile unhiked section between town and the Virginia/Tennessee border. As most of our regular readers know, we’re slowly section hiking our way across Virginia, so we had to fill in this little gap when we had a chance.
We parked in a public lot off of Laurel Street and picked up the AT where we left off in 2019. Headed south through town the trail is actually road walk, there are blazes on utility poles and AT logos built into the brick walkway. You can see people have made individual donations to have namesake bricks placed along the town section of trail. In a couple tenths of a mile, we turned left on Beaver Dam Ave. and walked through a little town park.
The park has an old train engine, a replica of an AT shelter, and the famous Damascus AT Welcome Arch. You’ve probably seen countless photos of hikers posing under the arch. We both took the obligatory photo for ourselves. After going through the park, the trail turns right onto Water Street, passing through a residential area before turning sharply uphill into the woods.
From there, the trail goes steadily uphill for 3.4 miles. About halfway up the climb, there’s a large campsite adjacent to a water source. I imagine some thru-hikers like the free camping right outside town the night before a resupply. Since we were hiking in late June, we had the trail all to ourselves, as most AT hikers are far north by then.
We plodded uphill until we finally reached the sign marking the state line! We both took a few steps into Tennessee, just for fun! We had a quick snack, and headed back down. The hike was naturally much easier going back downhill. We even saw a large, healthy-looking black bear about a mile south of town. Most of the bears we’re seeing in the Shenandoah are thin and mangy, so it was great to see a bear looking so fit. There had been a sign at the trailhead leaving Damascus warning of an aggressive bear further into Tennessee. I don’t think it was this bear, because this bear crashed away into the woods as soon as we saw him.
Pretty soon, we were back in town. It was even hotter in town as we walked the final third of a mile in the baking sun. After our hike, we went to Mojo’s Trailside Café for lunch and Off the Beaten Path for ice cream. Both are great stops post-hike!