A land of adventures, a dearly loved trail town on the Appalachian Trail, a perfect place along the Virginia Creeper Trail, all things Appalachia, a charming small town, home of Trail Days, and one of my most favorite destinations. All of the descriptions listed came to mind when first thinking of how to express all that Damascus, Virginia, is to me and countless others. If you live in Knoxville and are looking for a getaway to nip your wanderlusting, drive northeast for about three hours and you’ll find everything that you’re looking for and more!
A visit to Damascus can certainly be done as a day trip from Knoxville. However, to truly experience the spirit of the area, I highly recommend that you stay at least a night or two if you can. From bed & breakfast spots in town to cabins in the hills and camping locations, you have plenty of options. My top three choices?
In The Heart of Damascus: Dragonfly Inn
If you want a downtown Damascus experience, you can’t pass up checking out the Dragonfly Inn. Ralph and Patti Wilson are living the not-so-retired dream retirement as hosts for this perfect home of southern hospitality, as well as their highly rated Damascus Diner. They provide guests with a high quality and traditional inn stay in the heart of town. One look at reviews and there’s no doubt that you’ll be treated to a gem of a place with friendly folks that are gracious and welcoming. Oh, and “The Best Breakfast in Town” at their diner is included in your stay, too. Be sure to stop in before heading off for a day of adventures.
Trailside in Green Cove: The Haven at Green Cove
The Haven at Green Cove stole my heart on a cold December day while waiting for a friend to complete her Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike just minutes away at Grayson Highlands State Park. Locally owned by Scott and Alison Little, this cozy and beautiful AirBnB is filled with art, handmade quilts, pieces of Damascus, intriguing books, and a level of hospitality that immediately makes you feel as if you’re just staying at a friend’s place. One of the biggest perks of the home is the fact that it sits just steps away from the Virginia Creeper Trail, historic Green Cove Station, Green Cove Community Center, and the Little’s community-based, brick-and-mortar outdoor shop, Green Cove Collective. Stay on a day when the food trucks are set up and you’ll be in a one-stop spot for a place to stay, play, shop, and eat. You can’t go wrong with this one!
Escape at Rugby Creek
I’ll start Rugby Creek off by saying that this “Stay” feature could easily be given its own writeup. Rugby Creek Cabins is home to an Overlook Cabin, a Gypsy Wagon Tiny Home, Mountain Top Cabin, Pond Side Tiny Home, pet-friendly accommodations, overnight stables for horses, and others. Their website is a fantastic source of information on all things to do nearby, and they’ve even included downloaded maps for you. If all of that wasn’t enough, they are also connected to Rugby Creek Animal Rescue, a non-profit that is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, retirement, and adoption of at-risk, injured, and geriatric animals.
Eat & Drink
Mojo’s Trailside Cafe & Coffee
Located in downtown Damascus and right along the Virginia Creeper is a dining spot that I can’t miss anytime I’m in town. Mojo’s Trailside Cafe & Coffee has been a favorite of mine since my first stop in this beautiful little town. Their menu includes Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits, Cali BLT, Paragon’s Pancakes, Huevos Rancheros, Southern Steak Bagel, Trail Tacos, fresh locally baked cake, a variety of both hot and cold drinks, and just about anything else that will make your mouth water and have you stopping in every time you visit. Service is always excellent, food is fresh and delicious, and the overall vibe is laid-back and fits the trail perfectly.
Wicked Chicken Winghouse & Tavern
Lover of wings and yummy things? Stop off at Wicked Chicken Winghouse & Tavern. This Damascus grub hub is packed with wings, burgers, sandwiches, homemade sides, gourmet cheesecakes, and more. They have a great outdoor seating area for beautiful mountain days, so if you’re wanting to take in some fresh air while enjoying a great ambiance and great selection of food, Wicked Chicken is the spot!
Damascus Brewery offers up good vibes, local brew, live music, and the ideal place to wrap up a day of riding bikes, hiking, or just wandering the area and experiencing all that this little corner of Virginia has to offer. Owner Adam Woodson describes himself as the brewery founder, daddy extraordinaire, and the first employee. And, well, I think that’s the perfect kind of local guy doing great things that I’d love to support, what about you? Their unique flavors range from Beaver Fever, to Honey Mango Sour, to “The Lightest Thing We Have” and many others.
Grayson Highlands and The Appalachian Trail
The Land of Wild Ponies and the Appalachian Trail is one of the top outdoor destinations in the Damascus area. Located near the two highest mountains in Virginia, Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Grayson Highlands State Park offers never-ending views, historic places to explore, a section of the AT, waterfalls, outdoor picnic areas, camping, as well as horse trails and horse camping area. On the park’s website, you’ll also find fun events like this month’s Old Time Barn Dance. Do a little research, plan out your day, and always remember to practice responsible stewardship on our public lands and leave no trace when you play!
The Virginia Creeper
One of the features of Virginia that I love is that they have taken their old railroad grades and turned them into trails for their Rails to Trails program. The top spot on the list is the Virginia Creeper, and while you’re in Damascus, you’ll be next to a 17-mile section that runs from Whitetop Station into downtown Damascus. You can rent bikes in town, get a shuttle lift to the top, and then enjoy the ride back down. Plan on giving yourself plenty of time to make stops and explore. I suggest that because on my first ride on The Creeper, I was having so much fun that the next thing I knew I was already back in town and wanting to go again. So, by all means, slow down and enjoy the journey!
Cast Your Cares Away
Are you an angler or dreaming of being one? Small stream fly fishing in Damascus is a great way to start if you are or if you’re a seasoned pro and love a little time relaxing while casting. Whitetop Laurel Creek is considered one of the top natural freestone wild trout streams east of the Mississippi and is just minutes away from this month’s destination. Connect with Matt Reilly Fly Fishing for more info and a guided experience.
Are you ready to stay, eat, and play in Damascus, Virginia? It’s a destination that offers plenty of relaxation, as well as a chance to support many locally owned spots doing great things and the public lands of Virginia. Visit Damascus.org to start planning your trail town getaway today!