Description - In 1921, U.S. Forest Service planner, Benton MacKaye wrote a magazine article suggesting a trail be established to connect Mount Washington in New Hampshire to Mount Mitchell in North Carolina. As a result, in 1925 the Appalachian Trail Conference chose the exact path, flagged the path, built various sections, including shelters, bridges and steps. They even wrote guidebooks to aid the hiker and backpacker. In 1968, Congress passed the National Trails System Act, making the A.T. and the Pacific Crest Trail (a Canada to Mexico path) the first National Scenic Trails. Today there are ten clubs in Virginia that help maintain the trail which now extends from Mount Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain, Georgia.
- The white-blazed Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states, 8 national forests, 2 national parks and numerous state parks. The A.T. enters Virginia at Damascus which is just southwest of Mt. Rogers. It weaves around and into the Mt. Rogers Ranger District of George Washington & Jefferson National Forests (elevation approx. 5,700 feet). It continues eastward around Pine Mountain (Virginia's Pine Mountain, Kentucky has one also.) and up onto Hurricane Mountain. The path heads north a few miles south of Marion and continues north crossing Interstate 81 and ascending Walker Mountain. It descends Walker Mountain into the gorgeous Rich Valley and back up to the top of Brushy Mountain. It descends again and travels along side Medley Valley heading northeast. Ascending back up on Brushy Mountain once again, the trail encounters campgrounds, White Pine Horse and Walnut Flats. Both of these areas offer drinking water. The trail continues to ascend to almost 4,000 feet at Sugar Run Mountain which offers a spectacular outlook. The elevation descends slightly but basically remains at 4,000 feet while traveling on Pearis Mountain. The trail cross the New River where New River State Park resides hosting one of Virginia's most popular mountain biking, hiking and equestrian paths. There are access points and overnight parking for the A.T. from this park. This is also an area from which you may obtain fresh drinking water and a pleasant location for day-rest. No overnight accommodations. The trail then follows the Virginia / West Virginia state lines for approximately 8 miles before heading back east to Sinking Creek Mountain, Catawba Mountain (named for the beautiful rhododendrons) and up to Tinker Mountain. These three mountain ranges are all just north of the large metropolitan area, Roanoke. The A.T. then travels along side the Blue Ridge Parkway and up into the Glenwood / Pedlar Ranger District where camping and fresh water is available. The trail continues north intersecting with many other National Forest trails. It travels by Crabtree Falls, a popular destination during the summer and fall, and crosses the beautiful Tye River. The trail then meets up with the Blue Ridge Parkway once again and parallels it to completion. The Blue Ridge Parkway then becomes Skyline Drive, part of the Shenandoah National Park, and the A.T. follows it passing visitor centers, campgrounds and spur trails to countless waterfalls all the way to Compton Gap. At this point, Skyline Drive heads west and the A.T. takes off into the woods heading northeast. Elevations at this point, range around 2,000 feet. The trail meanders past vineyards and creeks up to Sky Meadows State Park. There is trail access, fresh drinking water and overnight parking at Sky Meadows. (Note: Appalachian Trial users must use the primitive campground when camping within Sky Meadow State Park park boundaries, and they are required to pay the $8.00 per site, per night fee. There are honor fee envelopes and a pipe safe located in the campground at the information board. A.T. hikers who wish to park in the Sky Meadow's lot overnight without camping within the park must pay the daily parking fee.) The trail descends to about 1,312 feet above sea level and maintains that height for a number of miles crossing Rt. 7 and eventually the Potomac River and South Mountain Natural Environmental Area. The A.T. heads almost due north from this point up into the state of Maryland.
Recreation - Sky Line Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, State Parks, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests and all of their amenities, including trout fishing, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, overlooks and more are major features along the Appalachian Trail.
Climate - Virginia generally has mild winters and warm humid summers. The mountainous Blue Ridge area where most of the Appalachian Trail lies, has cold winter months with temperatures ranging from 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) and dropping below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celsius). The state's summer temperatures vary by region. The summer mountainous Blue Ridge temperatures range from below 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celsius) to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius). Naturally, temperatures due vary from mountaintops to valleys to the eastern portion of Virginia.
The Appalachian Trail enters Virginia just south of Damascus and exits just north of the Potomac River. There are hundreds of access points. Many along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Shenandoah National Park, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Sky Meadows State Park and New River Trail State Park. Many of these areas offer overnight parking.