Grayson Highlands and the Virginia Creeper Trail
*Sylvia and I visited Damascus VA and vicinity in April 2014. Some things may have changed since so please check with the locals before heading out. But you will NOT be disappointed is all we can say.
Located in the very far southwestern corner of Virginia is the town of Damascus. It is probably the closest thing the Eastern US has to a ‘summer sports’ outdoor enthusiasts mecca. In fact, excepting Moab Utah and Bend Oregon, it might be as good as any hiking/biking town in the entire country.
They call it trail town partly because the Appalachian Trail runs right through it. But the trail actually runs through many towns; Damascus is not unique in this respect. It IS unique in the fact that the town has fully adapted itself to being a part of the trail and its culture. Each year it hosts a festival known as Trail Days that attracts perhaps 20,000 visitors to this town of less than 1000 people…tourism is booming here in this (for the time being) tiny town.
But while it is still very remote if approached from the eastern side, the state was widening the approach roads in from the I-81 corridor when we visited in 2014. We hope the town grows and prospers as it needs but maintains that small town feel.
Another Trail that is associated with the town is the Virginia Creeper Trail, a mostly downhill biking trail that follows old railroad grades. The section of it between Whitetop and Damascus is very popular with cyclists of all abilities.
Nearby Damascus is the Mount Rogers Scenic Area and Grayson Highlands State Park. Mount Rogers is the highest peak in Virginia. The mountain’s treed in summit is unremarkable, but the open areas just below its summit – the Grayson Highlands – are remarkable. A considerable section of the Appalachian Trail passes through the highlands, which for many are rivaled only by the Roan Highlands of Tennessee for views.
The area is also known for being inhabited by a certain herd of wild ponies. Many go here just to see the ponies, but there is a LOT more to see.
Sylvia and I made the 5+ hour drive up from the Raleigh area in April 2014 to visit all of these fantastic attraction, among the very best Virginia has to offer. There is easily enough to do here for a four day weekend or even longer.
We’ll start by highlighting some of the adventures on two (and four) feet before moving on the two-wheeled kind.
Next up: Hike the High Country