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Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia
Picture of Slackpacking Virginia

Slackpacking Virginia

Destination: Damascus, Virginia

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 40-50 pound pack on our back and sleeping on the ground rather daunting. Solution? Slackpacking! We already offer slackpacking trips at the beginning and end of the trail; in 2016 we're adding this beautiful Virginia section. 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;

Highlights

  • 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 15 to September 21, 2019
$1525.00 - FULL
Join Waitlist
September 13 to September 19, 2020
$1595.00 - Available
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Inclusions

  • 1 - 2 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.

Details

This trip involves hiking from 7 to 13 miles a day (see the itinerary for daily mileage) with significant elevation changes and footing that may be 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: 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 two accommodations that are next door to each other. A Step Away is a large vintage 2 story, vacation rental home that sleeps 5 - 6 guests. It has 4 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, good gathering space, a spacious kitchen, Wifi, linens, many other amenities. We will also have several rooms at the nearby Hikers Inn.

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.

DAY 1
Meet at 5 p.m. at Mount Rogers Outfitters, an outdoor store on the 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 there with Mt Rogers Outfitters. We'll have dinner out and then go to Between the Trails, our lodging for the trip. We'll review the trip and go over the information you need to make sure that you stay healthy and happy for the week! D
DAY 2
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 descend it and walk into Damascus. After shuttling to our 'put in point' and taking the requisite first pictures, we'll be off. 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 that promised shower and a great home cooked meal. Mileage: 8.5 B, L, D
DAY 3
Starting at our ending spot from yesterday we'll begin a sustained but moderate climb up the northern 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. Mileage: 9.8 B,L,D
DAY 4
Although the mileage may appear to be less for today, it is the most strenuous day of the week and one of the prettiest days of the trip! 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. Mileage: 7.1, optional mileage +2.0 B,L,D
DAY 5
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 to the intersection of the Virginia Creeper Tail and the AT where our shuttle is waiting. Mileage: 10.3 B,L
DAY 6
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 Creek Junction Station, 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. Mileage: 13.5 B,L,D
DAY 7
After sharing one final breakfast, you are free to leave any time after breakfast on Saturday. Please note, for planning purposes, the airport is approximately 1 hour from Damascus.

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  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.
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