Slackpacking Virginia

Destination: Damascus, Virginia

| Activities: Hiking and Slackpacking

The Appalachian Trail truly has mythic status and for many of us, hiking it is a dream. But then we look at the reality of it and find the prospect of carrying a 30-40 pound pack on our back and sleeping on the ground rather daunting. Solution? Slackpacking! We offer many slackpacking trips along the trail and this beautiful section in Virginia is one of the best! We'll cover a little over fifty miles, returning at the end of the day to our lodging in the friendly little town of Damascus. We cover significant mileage on this trip so it still requires being in good shape. Maximum group size: 12


  • Hiking one of the most beautiful sections of the Appalachian Trail
  • Enjoying wild pony herds, amazing vistas, beautiful mountain streams and fall foliage
  • Hiking thru Rhododendron Gap, Fat Man's Squeeze, Buzzard Rock, The Scales - all classic AT landmarks
  • Returning to a comfortable bed and hot shower at the end of every day
  • Earning your trail name and learning the lore of the Appalachian Trail
  • Carrying only what you need for the day on your back

Departures and Prices

September 01 to September 07, 2024
$3295.00 - FULL
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  • 2-3 experienced AGC guides based on group size
  • Six nights lodging
  • All meals from dinner on Sunday through breakfast the following Saturday with the exception of one dinner
  • Daily shuttles back and forth to the trailhead

What's not included: Airfare to/from Virginia (TRI), travel to Damascus, one dinner, alcoholic beverages, guide gratuities.

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip involves hiking from 7 to 13 miles a day (see the itinerary for daily mileage) with significant elevation changes and footing that is both rocky and uneven at times. It requires being in very good physical condition. While you can always choose to stay in town for the day, there are no options for shortening the daily hikes. This trip is rated 4. Prior to beginning the trip, participants should be engaged in aerobic conditioning for at least 40-50 minutes 4-5 times a week. Additional endurance exercise (e.g., going for a 2 hour hike once a week) and/or strength training is usually required. Rating: Rating: 1 2 3 [4] 5.

This is a hiking trip on the Virginia section of the legendary Appalachian Trail. You will be hiking in the mountains with constant elevation gain and loss on a trail that is rocky at times. We're staying in the legendary (but small) trail town of Damascus and there will be time to visit some of the shops there.

We will be spending 6 nights at our accommodation on Main Street (specific details will be sent with the Pre-departure Document). Our ‘home’ sleeps a maximum of 22 and has 4.5 baths. Plenty of room to move around, good gathering spaces, and a spacious kitchen. Wifi and linens are provided. Please note: Unless you are requesting a single supplement, rooms/roommates will be assigned as you register. Using VRBOs is a wonderful way to enjoy slackpacking trips but note that VRBOs are homes and rooms will not be uniform. Some rooms will be larger/smaller than others and beds will range from day beds to king beds. Having a single supplement guarantees a room to yourself – not all single supplements will have ensuite bathrooms.

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

Note: When we hike through Wilderness Areas, we will split into 2 smaller groups to adhere to group size requirements.

Welcome to Damascus! Meet at 5PM at our lodging for the week, a large VRBO on Main Street of the small town of Damascus, Virginia. If you are flying in, the closest airport is Tri-City airport (TRI) in Bristol, VA and you can arrange a shuttle from the airport to our lodging with Mt Rogers Outfitters (more information will be sent with the Pre-Departure Document). We'll meet at the lodging, settle into our rooms and after dinner, get acquainted and go over all the information regarding our upcoming week of hiking. (D)
Our first day on the AT! Leaving Damascus we'll make note of the wooden stairway descending the final few feet from Straight Mountain to the final path into Damascus. We'll pass this landmark each morning until, on our last hiking day, we get to descend it and walk into Damascus.

After shuttling to our 'put in point' and taking pictures, we'll embark on our journey on the fabled Appalachian Trail. Our trail starts at Dicky Gap, where the AT skirts the northern slope of Iron Mountain, passes through deep canopy, and continues along rolling terrain sprinkled with rocks, boulders, and a few steeper climbs before reaching our first AT shelter: Hurricane Shelter. After a brief stop we’ll continue our climb to the top of Iron Mt. From there we descend to Fox Creek Gap with its cascades and pools of refreshing cold mountain water; a beautiful spot to enjoy before being picked up and shuttled back to Damascus for a hot shower and a great home cooked meal. Overnight: Damascus (B, L, D)

Distance: 8.5miles Elevation Gain: 2,470' Elevation Loss: 2,300'
Starting at our ending spot from yesterday, we'll begin a sustained but moderate climb up the north side of Pine Mountain to another AT shelter - Old Orchard. This part of the trail is very pretty with lots of small water crossings and beautiful foliage, flowers, and rocks. We'll take a break here before continuing our climb to the top of Pine Mountain where the views are magnificent. After admiring the view, we'll descend to an area known as The Scales. Passing through The Scales we will once again climb - this time up Stone Mountain with beautiful vistas accompanying us. This will be our first opportunity to see the wild ponies that inhabit this part of the trail as well as giving us a great view of the fall foliage around us. As we re-enter the forest canopy, we'll be walking thru the Little Wilson Wilderness area and over both Big Wilson Creek and Little Wilson Creek before arriving at another AT shelter - Wise Shelter. Leaving the shelter we will make our way, yes - you guessed it, 'up', toward Massie Gap where our shuttle will be awaiting our arrival. Overnight: Damascus (B, L, D)

Distance: 9.8 miles Elevation Gain: 2,694' Elevation Loss: 1,463'
Although the mileage may appear to be less for today, it is the most strenuous day of the week but also one of the prettiest! Old growth forest, Grayson Highlands, Fat Man's Squeeze, Wilburn Ridge, Rhododendron Gap – all these are part of our path today. Vista after vista and "Sound of Music" moments await. The AT shelter in this section is Thomas Knob - another perfect opportunity for a break and gazing at the panoramic vista from the rocky prominence just behind the shelter. Leaving the shelter area, we will take a bit of a side trip as we follow the path that leads to the top of Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. The hike to the top (optional) will take about 1 hour and steadily climbs with an elevation gain of about 500 feet in less than 1 mile. There are no views from the summit but the old growth forest we hike through is beautiful. Returning, we'll continue toward our destination for today, Elk Garden. Overnight: Damascus. (B, L, D)

Distance: 7.1 miles with 2 optional miles Elevation Gain: 1,683' (+230' with Mt. Rogers) Elevation Loss: 1,886' (-230 with Mt. Rogers)
Back to Elk Garden this morning, we continue making our way south. Our destination today is Creek Junction Station - right where the AT and the Virginia Creeper Trail intersect and the former location of a stop on the railway line servicing Damascus and Abingdon. Our hike continues to give us beautiful meadows, gorgeous views, and dense canopy. Today we'll enjoy the view from Buzzard Rock and drink in the beauty of a lovely patch of pine forest. The AT shelter we pass today, Lost Mountain Shelter, is located among one of those pine forests and offers a beautifully peaceful settings for a shelter - if that shower and another great meal weren't awaiting us perhaps, we'd just stay the night! But we will continue, crossing and following Laurel Creek for a while and eventually making our way to our takeout spot for the day, Bear Tree Gap where our shuttle is waiting. Tonight you have the opportunity to explore the delicious restaurant selection in Damascus. Overnight: Damascus (B, L)

Distance: 13.2 miles Elevation Gain: 2,881' Elevation Loss: 4,281'
It's hard to believe but this is our last day (at least for this trip!) on the AT. We'll pick back up at Bear Tree Gap, keep hiking south and walk triumphantly into Damascus! Along the way we'll stop by a deep woods pond for a frog concert, summit Straight Mountain overlooking the Virginia Creeper Trail, and enjoy that stairway walk we've passed each day, down to our final path into Damascus. (B, L, D)

Mileage: 11.6 Elevation Gain: 3,149' Elevation Loss: 2,072'
Farewell Virginia AT! You are free to leave any time after breakfast. As a reminder if you're flying, the Tri City (TRI) airport is approximately 1 hour from Damascus and you can catch a shuttle through Mount Roger's Outfitters. (B)


(45 reviews)
4.6 Food
4.5 Lodging
4.7 Safety

*These are the unfiltered reviews of women who have been on this trip in answer to the question "What made this trip special for you?". We take reviews very seriously and often tweak itineraries based on feedback. Please feel free to contact us about any questions you have.

Sort By:
Most Recent

Kraemer S.
9 months ago

Tanya N.
10 months ago

Guides and accomodations, great planning.

Audrey S.
10 months ago

Great guides! Alicia and Emily were awesome and really helped make the trip enjoyable. Also all of the ladies in the group! Everyone was so friendly and fun to be with.

Gail T.
10 months ago

This was my first time on the AT and this section provided lots of variety from tree tunnels to ponies to sweeping vistas to an optional short detour up to the highest point in Virginia, Mt Rogers (a magical forest--highly recommend!). As always on AGC trips, the guides were amazing and the camaraderie of the group was wonderful.

Pamela W.
10 months ago

This was a great section of the AT to hike with highlights including Fat Man's Squeeze, Buzzard Rock and of course seeing the ponies in Grayson Highlands State Park. It was fun even with rain part of 2 afternoons. Having options the last day for completing the route on either the AT or the Virginia Creeper Trail (part way) was really nice, especially with the rain. The accommodations were wonderful with lots of space to spread out and the food was delicious (especially the orange cardamom olive oil cake that we all wanted the recipe for). Alicia and Emily were great. I always feel safe on these trips and my husband especially likes knowing that I am with guides who are well trained and know what they are doing.

Sherrie G.
10 months ago

Great ladies, fantastic guides and amazing food!

Laura R.
2 years ago

Loved hiking the AT with my Mom and a great group of ladies. Will be my last hiking trip in a long time since I am pregnant, so this was a very special trip for me. The guides were fantastic! Tallie's knowledge of this second of the AT is beyond impressive.

Camille S.
2 years ago

Debby H.
2 years ago

Being able to hike and meet new people

Debbie B.
2 years ago

Loved the hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Barbara T.
2 years ago

I am not sure how to rate this trip overall. I feel I was misled on the difficulty of the hikes. I had asked a number of times if what I had been doing fitness wise was appropriate for this trip and was told I was in great form for the trip I clearly was not. I run 2-3 miles 3 days a week, a spinning class 3 days a week, do the elliptical 4 days a week, lift weights/condition 3 days a week and average 8 miles a day walking outside or on a treadmill. I was blown away by the ruggedness of the AT. This particular group of women was made up of 3 of us with no experience on the AT and 9 who were super experienced with hundreds of miles completed and the goal of doing the entire trail over time. I wish I had been warned what a feat it would be for someone just starting out. And possibly steered to a different trip like the Shenandoah Lodge to Lodge trip that looks like a more suitable one for a newbie on the AT

Rese C.
2 years ago

I loved meeting women from across the country who are interested in hiking and exploring new places - and getting to check off a section in a many-years-long quest to hike the Appalachian Trail was great, too!

Stacy C.
2 years ago

It was the right level of challenge, and the right level of luxury. I liked hiking and then coming home to a tasty meal and a hot shower!

Elizabeth P.
2 years ago

Tali is a wonderful guide and very knowledgeable. Mel had never hiked the AT so she knew nothing about the trail which seemed unusual for a guide. I have never been on a trip where the guide wasn't an expert on the trail and the area. I loved the trail and the hiking

Wendy S.
3 years ago

Jill C.
3 years ago

Patty B.
3 years ago

Pam F.
3 years ago

Pamela H.
3 years ago

This in only a 4 because the first AGC trip I attended was so great I was expecting the same experience again. This experience was not bad at all (as I mentioned above), but just different, so now I know that the expectations will vary from trip to trip.

Doris E.
3 years ago

Beth E.
4 years ago

Accommodations were amazing as were the trip leaders.

Necia W.
4 years ago

Deb C.
4 years ago

I just love the AT and like to experience the different sections.

Wendy W.
4 years ago

Elizabeth F.
4 years ago

Was looking forward to seeing the ponies at Grayson Highlands, and they didn't disappoint. Going to the top of Mount Rogers exceeded my expectations. Wasn't expecting the different microclimate, and the cloudy/misty weather conditions that day further enhanced the experience. Finally, I was not expecting to be able to hike ahead at my own pace. That was such a treat!

Andrea B.
4 years ago

It was the optimal amount of challenge for me. The right amount of risk and relaxation. Tali and Wendy were incredible, and their personalities and expertise added to the experience.

Karen A.
4 years ago

Beautiful lodging. Wonderful people!

Mary R.
6 years ago

Highlights- The commraderie, the terrain, food I wish there had been more sharing about the AT, its history, use of its resources, maps and systems etc; all may not have needed but more “formal” sharing on hiking tools and tricks of the trade-

Madeleine R.
6 years ago

The amazing vistas we encountered. The connections made with other women with whom we traveled. Having coffee and sometimes breakfast outside, too.

Janis K.
6 years ago

Karen G.
6 years ago

Hiking on the AT with a wonderful group of women

Elizabeth G.
6 years ago

Wonderful scenery, good accommodation, great food, great guiding.

Alice R.
6 years ago

I really enjoyed beautiful countryside we hiked through. The views were spectacular. I also enjoyed meeting the other ladies participating.

Tracy W.
6 years ago

I'd have to say first and foremost was the company. It was a fabulous group of ladies who all shared similar interests. Also, the views.

Betty R.
6 years ago

This trip pushed me to a new physical level. It was great. Guides so supportive, and our group coalesced perfectly.

Antoinette K.
6 years ago

Group dynamics, Claire, scenery, laughter, feeling of accomplishment, challenge

Barbara M.
7 years ago

Lori B.
7 years ago

Very slow pace by lead guide and group was walking along like a freight train and we were so tight it was hard not to step on one another heels.

Tara R.
7 years ago

The best part was that the group of women was so easy to get along with and had zero drama, even when yellow-jackets tried to create lots of drama!

Sarah K.
7 years ago

beautiful scenery, good food, wonderful guides and a great group of women

Sherri C.
7 years ago

Briar Ridge past Mt Rogers--where you could see to North Carolina--after a close encounter with the wild ponies--equal to Angel's Landing as a peak experience. Also, perfect weather despite predictions, amazing.

Tricia S.
7 years ago

Enjoyed spending a week with like minded individuals that were strong and willing to be active.

Maya L.
7 years ago

Wonderful group of women, good hiking. My only issue is with the accommodations (see below).

Charlotte P.
7 years ago

Elizabeth A.
7 years ago

Wonderful group of participants. Hardworking, helpful guides.

  1. Where do we eat?

    The guides will be cooking breakfasts and some dinners at the lodging.Other dinners will be in restaurants where you can order off the menu. Before you leave in the morning the guides will put out lunch 'fixings' and you'll take a packed lunch. You'll go out for one dinner where you can order off the menu; other nights you'll relax in the lodging and have dinner there.
  2. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    We can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-intolerant although we can not guarantee a completely gluten-free diet, if we know well in advance. If you’re severely allergic or if you have other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register. If you’re vegan, you may want to bring some additional protein bars.
  3. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we'll randomly pair you up with someone else.