The Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) rolls a massive 550 miles along the western edge of the state. About 25% of the entire AT lies within Virginia from the southern entry near Damascus to the northern exit near Snickers Gap, just south of Harpers Ferry. Along the way, much of the trail is in the Jefferson National Forest, George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park. The southern sections are beautiful in early summer with blooming rhododendron and azalea. The mid-section passes through mature forests and wilderness. The northern-section parallels Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. Overall, the elevations range from 265 feet up to 5,500 feet.
The southwestern section of the AT in Virginia starts near the best town on the trail, Damascus, and runs through the southern Appalachians in the Mount Rogers Recreation Area and up to Pearisburg (166 miles). You can expect to find numerous breathtaking Azaleas and Rhododendrons. However, you will have to earn them with an ascent of the states highest peak, Mount Rogers.
The central section of the AT in Virginia runs about 266 miles from Pearisburg in the south up to the southern edge of Shenandoah National Park. It starts with a crossing of the Great Valley of the Appalachians in the Jefferson National Forest and up to the Allegheny Plateau. For some thru-hikers, this is one of their favorite sections. Next, the route parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway with many difficult climbs up 2,000 and 3,000 foot balds. Luckily, it gets gentler as you move north. The best peaks include Dragons Tooth, McAfee Knob, Three Ridges, and Humpback Rock.
The Shenandoah section of the AT in Virginia is a 104 mile stretch through Shenandoah National Park. The trail is very well maintained and heavily travelled. Most of the climbs are a gentle 500 to 1,000 feet. Watch out for the busy weekend traffic though.
The northern section of the AT in Virginia is a 54 mile stretch from the northern edge of the Shenandoah National Park north to the West Virginia border. The route follows long low ridges that includes the infamous rolling roller-coaster south of Snickers Gap. It is relatively less traveled that other sections of the AT and has a very remote feeling to it.
The best time of year to experience this section of the Appalachian Trail is from April to early June. As the summer progresses, the heat and humidity can be oppressive. As Fall comes on, September through early November can be quite pleasant and the October foliage is exceptional.
The Appalachian Trail, commonly known by backpackers as the AT, is a popular 2,167 mile thru-hike along a wilderness footpath. The Appalachian Trail is a registered National Scenic Trail that winds along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia in the south to Maine in the north. More specifically, the AT runs through the scenic wooded and pastoral lands of fourteen eastern US states, stretching from Springer Mountain, Georgia, in the south to Mount Katahdin, Maine, in the north. The Appalachian Trail route is more than 99 percent protected by either federal ownership, state ownership or designated rights-of-way from local land owners.