Some Appalachian Trail Resources

What you need to know about the AT, in Virginia and beyond (but especially in Virginia). 

Jeff Greenough


Virginia boasts 550 miles of the AT, with hikes ranging from easy strolls to advanced climbs. Serious hikers say the Virginia AT has some of the wettest and most challenging terrain along the entire route, between the spring thaw and all those rocks. Hike it in sections—north, Shenandoah, central or southwest—or tackle the whole state at once!

Northern—54 miles

• Stretches from the Virginia/West Virginia state line south to Shenandoah National Park

• Features a long, low ridge including the notoriously strenuous Rollercoaster section south of Snickers Gap

• One of the best places for “Spring Break” hikes

Shenandoah—104 miles

• Abundant wildlife, great vistas

• Great for beginner hikers

• Side trails provide opportunity for one- or two-day circuit hikes

• Near Skyline Drive—good for resupply stops

• Busy in late October; park

facilities closed from late November through late March

Central—226 miles

• Somewhat more difficult hikes as you travel south

• Features the mature timber, high summits and spectacular wilderness found in the George Washington National Forest, north of Roanoke

• Unusual rock formations including Humpback Rocks, Three Ridges, the Priest, McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth

Southwest—166 nukes

• Gorgeous displays of rhododendron and azalea in June and July

• Features state’s highest mountain, Mt. Rogers, reachable via an eight-mile round-trip hike over rough terrain that can be strenuous for those who are not fit

• Damascus, known as the “friendliest town on the trail”

• Best area for those who crave solitude


Trail name: hiker’s trail moniker

SOBO: southbound thru-hiker

NOBO: northbound thru-hiker

Slack-packer: a hiker who hikes without a pack and instead sends it ahead for pick-up

Flip-flop: to hike a section of trail in one direction, and then return to the starting point and hike in the opposite direction

Thru-hiker: a person who more or less hikes the entire length of the trail in one continuous trip, in 12 months or fewer

2,000-miler, end-to-ender: alternate terms for thru-hikers

SECTION-HIKER: a hiker who completes the AT in sections over a period of years

Vitamin I: Ibuprofen

P.U.D.’s: pointless ups and downs (arduous climbs without views)

Bounce box: a package containing hard-to-find items (batteries, chargers, field guides) that hikers might buy at a town stop before shipping ahead (or “bouncing”) to the next stop

Mouse trapeze: a food hanger in a shelter consisting of a nylon cord and an upside-down tuna can suspended halfway down its length. Used to keep food out of the reach of rodents

Blaze: a 2-by-6-inch paint swatch on a tree that marks the trail; white blazes mark the official AT, while blue blazes mark routes to shelters or other features

Trail angel: a person who helps hikers by providing food, drinks or rides for no fee, or by doing trail maintenance

Trail magic: serendipitous things that happen along

the trail

Nero: near-zero-mileage day

Yo-yo: two or more back-to-back continuous thru-hikes; hiker walks entire AT in one direction, turns around at the terminus and thru-hikes in the other direction

Zero day: a day off from hiking with zero AT miles hiked

Feed: a spontaneous meal along the trail, usually provided by trail angels and featuring foods not typically available to hikers

Town day: a day spent in town, off the trail, usually used for doing laundry and re-supplying gear

Leave No Trace: backwoods ethic that promotes minimal-impact camping and hiking. Pack out what you pack in!


The following clubs help maintain the sections of the AT running through their areas, make hike recommendations and offer various other tips for visitors. As John Hedrick, supervisor of trails for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club says: “Without maintenance the trail would be gone in two years.”

Northern Virginia and Shenandoah

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

240 miles from Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pa., to Rockfish Gap, Va.

The club offers “primitive” cabins with no electricity or running water ($15 to rent to general public and $18 for PATC club members only); 44 three-sided shelters also available.

Central, Southern and Southwest Virginia

Old Dominion Appalachian Trail Club, Richmond

19.6 miles of trail from Rockfish Gap to Reeds Gap

Paul C. Wolfe Memorial Shelter

The Jack Albright Trail: connects to Appalachian Trail

Tidewater Appalachian Trail Club, Norfolk

Reeds Gap to Tye River at Va. 56, 10+ miles of trail

Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club

90 miles from Tye River at Va. 56 to Black Horse Gap

Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club

Black Horse Gap to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter, and, U.S. 460 at the New River to Va. 611

Outdoor Club of Virginia Tech

Pine Swamp Branch Shelter to U.S. 460 at the New River, Va. 615 to Va. 623, and Va. 611 to I-77

Piedmont Appalachian Trail Hikers

70 miles from I-77 to Va. 615 at Laurel Creek, and Va. 623 to Rye Valley at Va. 670

Mt. Rogers Appalachian Trail Club

56 miles from Rye Valley at Va. 670 to Damascus

Online starting point

June 11, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
July 9, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum
August 13, 2022

Star Gazing and Laser Nights

Virginia Living Museum