Unexpected Gems Between Erwin and Damascus

There are a lot of lists out there on what not to miss on the AT. Where the best views are or what trail challenges to do. Well, if we’re making lists, here are some of my picks for the trail after Erwin, Tenn., and before Damascus, Va. This piece of the trail has been my favorite so far and a lot of these gems are the reason why.

Overmountain Shelter

This is one shelter I had been told not to miss. The barn has a porch and two floors, with plenty of space for sleeping. The happy surprise was the excellent tenting. As much as I was looking forward to sleeping in the barn, I was more thrilled to tent and wake up to this view.

Roan Highlands

The Roan Highlands are a gorgeous series of balds and mountains around the North Carolina and Tennessee border. I remember feeling daunted looking at the climb up Hump Bald. You can see where the trail cuts up the bald in a muddy, rocky mess. And you’ve been warned about the false summits but fall for it anyway. But it’s a view you cannot beat, especially on a clear day.

The Station at 19E

This new hostel is in Roan Mountain, Tenn. It has a bar and includes everything in its price. It had just opened when I stayed there and had sections still being built (think industrial train station vibe) but I guarantee it will be a must-stop for future AT hikers. It already has that much character.

Laurel Falls

If I’m honest, I didn’t spend a large amount of time at Laurel Falls. It wasn’t quite hot enough outside for me to jump in but I know hikers who found it quite refreshing. My favorite part was camping along the river. Falling asleep to the sound of the water rushing by was soothing. Definitely in my top five campsites.

Boots Off Hostel

This hostel in Hampton, Tenn., has a relaxed atmosphere. It’s spacious with a kitchen and a lot of table space. And seems to be a hot spot for trail magic (we were very lucky to have two meals from two different trail angels in a 24-hour period). I enjoyed my stay here but have since heard mixed reviews. Don’t miss the rain bucket shower.

Woodchuck Hostel

This is the cleanest hostel on trail. I arrived in Damascus, Va., without a reservation (not smart) but got to camp in the teepee in the backyard my first night and got a bed my second night. Blueberry waffles for breakfast and a warm atmosphere are why I love Woodchuck. It is also fabulously located between the main stretch of town and the grocery store.


I hope this list gives you a reason to check out this section of the AT. It’s still one of my favorites for its views, hospitality, and charm.


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Comments 1

  • Catherine Guy : Jun 10th

    Hanna the places you describe in you last blog is where I grew up. When you leave Watauga lake and come up over the Iron Mtn that is home to me. Perhaps you remember passing Nick the Hermits grave stone. That is my old stomping ground. Glad you liked this part as I know how beautiful it is. Thank you for sharing.


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