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Top Hiking Festivals in the Blue Ridge

Hiking in Jefferson National Forest


Dahlonega Trail Fest
Dahlonega, Georgia
March 22-24, 2013

Only 70 miles from Atlanta, Dahlonega is the perfect site for the kickoff festival of the A.T. season. Guest speakers such as author Johnny Malloy and 16-time thru-hiker Warren Doyle give presentations and host clinics, giving this festival a decidedly educational feel. The town started the festival following their designation as an A.T. Trail Community, but it’s not just about the A.T. Canoeing, kayaking, and mountain biking workshops and activities are also planned.

Hot Springs Trailfest
Hot Springs, North Carolina
April 19-21, 2013

The A.T. runs down Main Street of this hamlet of 650 people, well known by hikers as the first “Trail Town” for north-bounders. Virtually the whole town turns out to line the streets for TrailFest, held at the end of April every year since 1995. Along with music and guided hikes, TrailFest has activities focused specifically on thru-hikers. These include a hiker’s chili cookoff, where each entry must include at least one ingredient from your pack. There are also Hiker Games and a talent contest, and a ducky race and family flotilla on the French Broad. The festival wraps up on Sunday with a community-wide pickup soccer game.

Sierra Club One-Day 100k Hike
Washington, D.C.
April 27, 2013

Since 1974, the Sierra Club has been hosting the One Day Hike, concurrent 100K and 50K hikes that take place almost entirely on the C&O Canal Towpath. The 100K hikers take off from the Thompson Boat Center in Georgetown and hike the towpath all the way to Bolivar, W.V. just west of Harpers Ferry. This long distance hike begins at three in the morning, with hikers completing the first two hours in complete darkness. Most see the sun come up over Great Falls on the Potomac, one of the more memorable sights on the route. The 100K hike has an average finishing rate of around 50 percent. The hike is fully supported, with over 100 volunteers manning aid stations and bikes to make sure no one falls too far behind.

Trail days
Damascus, Virginia
May, 2013

Damascus celebrates its designation as Trail Town, USA each spring with one of the largest hiking festivals in the East, drawing up to 20,000 people annually. Aimed to coincide with northbound thru-hikers coming into town in the spring, Trail Days’ hosts and vendors provide many services for those on the Appalachian Trail including free gear repair, medical screenings, and hot showers. More important than the services is the chance for A.T. enthusiasts and thru-hikers past, present, and future to mingle, culminating in a parade through downtown with thru-hikers as the stars.

National Trail Days
June 1, 2013

National Trail Days was created in 1993 as a response to a White House report stating that all Americans should live within 15 minutes of a trail through their city or town. While we as a nation are still trying to accomplish this lofty goal, Trail Days is a great place to start. Towns and communities hold their own events that vary greatly; anything from dog walks to mass bike rides are included. Each event is tailored to the needs of a particular trail or trail community. The main goal of the events is to raise awareness of existing trails, spark interest in building more, and promote trails as the path to a healthier lifestyle anyone can enjoy. In 2012, the American Hiking Association reported 157,000 Trail Days event participants nationwide hiked a total of 375,000 miles, biked another 200,000 miles, and paddled 33,000 miles. Not bad for one day.

Best of the Rest

Southern Ruck
Wesser, North Carolina
January 18-21,

Franklin April Fools Trail Days
Franklin, North Carolina
March 29-30,

A.T. Founder’s Bridge Festival
Wesser, North Carolina
April 3-6,

Aldha Gathering
Athens, West Virginia

For more great Race Ahead information check out these sections:


Trail Running

Road Running

Mountain Biking

Road Cycling






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