Damascus, Virginia has an adventure for everyone, from family-friendly biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail to hiking the highest peaks in the state, and everything in between.
Also known as Trail Town USA, the Appalachian Trail enters the state of Virginia just a few miles outside of Damascus, then runs down the sidewalk of Main Street. The Virginia Creeper Trail stretches across the middle of town two blocks to the south. Wheeled tourists pass through on the TransAmerican and TransVirginia road cycling routes, as well as the Virginia Bird and Wildlife Trail, Crooked Road, Boone Trail Highway, and Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR) motor routes. Damascus is a gateway town to Mount Rogers, the highest peak in the state of Virginia, at an elevation of 5,729 feet.
Choose Your Adventure
Before you hit the trail, stop by the Damascus Trail Center. The center opened in 2022 as a partnership between the Town of Damascus and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). Friendly staff are available to answer questions and connect visitors with a wide range of outdoor resources across the region.
The Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the most famous biking trails in the country, is a top pick and attracts an estimated 200,000 visitors per year. Book a shuttle with any of the eight bike outfitters in town and cruise downhill along the scenic 17-mile section from Whitetop Station back to Damascus. The trail is beginner-friendly and passes through Jefferson National Forest on a relaxed railroad grade. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, bring along a fishing pole or swimsuit and plan for a few extra stops along the way.
At the edge of town, step into Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. This 200,000 acre tract of public land includes four wilderness areas, elevations of over 5,000 feet, and over 500 miles of trails. In addition to the Appalachian Trail and Virginia Creeper Trail, find backcountry horseback riding on the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail and ridgeline mountain biking and trail running on the Iron Mountain Trail. Drive the highest road in the state to the summit of Whitetop Mountain for unbeatable sunset views. Hike among wild ponies on the high elevation balds at nearby Grayson Highlands State Park for sweeping 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Although Damascus gets a lot of hype for its trails, one of its best-kept secrets is the abundant waterfront access. Trout streams Whitetop Laurel, Tennessee Laurel, and Beaverdam Creek all converge in town to form the South Fork of the Holston River. Whitewater boaters love to chase the seasonal flows of Whitetop Laurel Creek and the milder South Fork of the Holston. Flatwater paddling can be found at Beartree Lake and South Holston Lake. Accessible fishing spots are located at Creek Junction Accessible Fishing Trail and Beartree Lake. There are cold, clear swimming holes around nearly every bend, both along the Virginia Creeper Trail and at Backbone Rock Recreation Area.
Looking to try something new? Let the locals be your guide and choose from guided fly fishing with Experience Damascus, horseback riding with Appalachian Horseback Riding Adventures, herbalist hikes with Appalachian Teas and Botanicals, or book a hiker shuttle with Lumpy at Mount Rogers Outfitters.
Pick up your morning coffee at Mojo’s Trailside Cafe and Coffee or Main Street Coffee and Cream. For a heartier sit-down breakfast, the Damascus Diner is the best around. On Saturday mornings from May to October, stop by the Damascus Farmers Market for your pick of produce and fresh-baked snacks.
At the end of the day, refuel at one of the local restaurants. The first stop off of the Virginia Creeper Trail is Wicked Chicken Winghouse and Tavern, known for its sandwiches, wraps, bowls, and wings. Swing by 7 Trails Grill for locally sourced burgers, wood-fired pizza, and Catfish Fridays. For upscale dining, have a seat on the waterfront patio at the Damascus Old Mill Inn and order the filet mignon or blackened trout.
Ice cream before dinner? Find a wide selection of hand-dipped ice cream flavors at both Wicked Chicken and Main Street Coffee and Cream. If you don’t want to wait until you get back to town, stop halfway down the Virginia Creeper Trail in Taylors Valley at Hellbender’s Cafe.
Take your pick of spirits and cocktails at Appalachian Heritage Distillery, the only (legal) distillery on the entire Appalachian Trail. Grab a local beer at The Damascus Brewery. Both watering holes are dog-friendly. Find rotating taps at most of the restaurants and a bourbon bar at the Damascus Old Mill Inn. Follow the sound of music to discover new artists along main street on most weekends.
Extend Your Stay
Damascus boasts a variety of lodging options and a long list of reasons to extend your stay. Choose from traditional bed and breakfasts, cabins, RV and tent camping, hostels, and a boutique hotel. Most of the lodging is just a short walk or bike to downtown – a different kind of park and ride.
Popular bed and breakfasts include Lady Di’s B&B, Barrett House Riverside Lodging, and The Dancing Bear. Not only do you get a place to sleep and a delicious meal, but you can also expect an extra dose of small-town hospitality and invaluable local knowledge.
Find your home away from home at one of the many vacation rentals in town. For larger groups, book multiple cabins at Damascus Cabins or Creeper Trail Cottages, or stay together at the six-bedroom Virginia Creeper Lodge. For a unique boutique hotel experience, Brinkwaters offers thirteen suites and charming amenities right on main street.
Bring your own lodging to Damascus Creekside RV Park or Laurel Creek RV Park. Find more private, scenic campgrounds nearby at Backbone Rock Recreation Area and Beartree Lake Recreation Area.
If you’re thinking of extending your stay in Southwest Virginia, use Damascus as your basecamp and venture out to catch a performance at the Barter Theatre, try your luck at the new Bristol Casino, ride offroad at Doe Mountain Recreation Area in Tennessee, and check other Virginia state parks off the list with Hungry Mother State Park and Natural Tunnel State Park.
Plan your next adventure here.