APPALACHIAN TRAIL DAYS 2023, YOU SAY?! JOSH SHEETS HAS THE DEETS! (AND SPECIALS!!)
Words from Josh “Soulslosher” Sheets @Josh_Sheets, Photos from HMG
Starting on Friday, May 19th, and running through the weekend, Damascus, Virginia, will once again host one of the most legendary thru hiker gatherings of each and every year – APPALACHIAN TRAIL DAYS! Our pal and past AT thru hiker Josh Sheets will be there to share news and stories about all the people and events that make the weekend so great, AND he’ll be announcing special Hyperlite Mountain Gear DEALS OF THE DAY that start on the 18th that non-attendees can get in on, too! Read on for all the info below! Follow along and party with us!
Photo from The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Come one, come thousands each and every year to the tiny and quaint town of Damascus, VA. Since 1987, Damascus has hosted Trail Days. The festival has grown enormously since its inception, hosting nearly 20,000 attendees nowadays. Depending on who you talk to, you will get differing answers on who created and founded Trail Days. What is mostly agreed upon is that the pure spirit of Trail Days has lived on through the residents, small businesses, and the AT hikers (and Creeper Trail bikers!) that celebrate it each year.
Local politicians such as former mayor Elizabeth McKee helped the event bring revenue into the town while fostering the trail culture and southern hospitality that hikers have known since Georgia. We have many people to thank for Trail Days–one could argue that Benton MacKaye’s original intention of trail towns such as Damascus is a glistening example of what is possible when a cooperative community works together to appreciate nature. It has allowed literally thousands of hikers and visitors to sample an escape from the hustle and bustle of a built-up urbanized society.
Trail Days has grown to include a hiker parade, numerous presentations and workshops, concerts, delicious food, and some of the best gear vendors in the biz! Also, if you have ever experienced one of the storied water fights between hikers and the townsfolk, well, if you know, you know. Trail Days is truly an event like none other on the AT. For this year, there will be over 100 vendors bringing handmade (sometimes homemade!) goodies. As for the hiker parade, it is so cool to see the classes of thru hikers of past and present.
Even cooler?! Running into hikers you know but didn’t know would be there. The hiking community is tight-knit and full of surprises! If you are a past hiker, nostalgia runs deep here at Trail Days. If you’re a new hiker or currently working on your thru, it can be a bit of sensory overload. When I think back to my first Trail Days, I remember experiencing the subculture of long-distance hiking. It is always present at Trail Days, and over ten years later, it has sucked me in for good.
Since Trail Days has grown tremendously, the Town of Damascus has had to retool some things since the early days. You can still camp on residents’ lawns (with permission, of course!), but it is usually limited to ten people per property. The main place to stay for us Hiker Trash is usually Tent City, out by the softball fields. It can truly feel like a city, complete with its own “villages” or “tribes” such as Billville and Riff-Raff. And, of course, bonfires and late-night jam sessions galore! Should you crave more refined accommodations, there are many B&Bs, Airbnbs, and Inns throughout the town and surrounding area.
To note, there seem to always be changes in the rules and event set-up from year to year, so please be sure to check out https://www.visitdamascus.org/traildays.html for all the important deets!
Lastly, no hiking festival would be complete without some pretty sweet deals, giveaways, and in-person samplings of some of the latest ultralight gear from some of the heaviest weights in the outdoor industry! If you’re like me, you like picking up and touching new gear, letting that fresh Dyneema slide through your fingers, and wondering just what trail you’re gonna hit next with that sweet, new pack or tent. We here at Hyperlite have some pretty awesome items and promos that will drop throughout Trail Days.
Fret not if you cannot attend Trail Days in person! STARTING AT 8 A.M. EST ON THE 18TH, with new specials every day for FOUR DAYS, we’re sharing items and promos with all of you online! Check your emails for the daily promotions and, of course, here with me on The Trailhead!
Love to see those beautiful 'mids pitched off in the distance. And all of the shiny umbrellas are fun, too. I sold my HMG Echo and bought one of those Ultamids at Trail Days 2019. Would you believe my husband and I shared the Echo for 500 miles? Great little tent for one; horrible idea for two. Only one person could get dressed at a time, so the other would have to stand outside (often, in the snow or the rain — often in their underwear) and then we'd switch places. We were so young, so naive.
I'll be at Trail Days this year, hanging around the HMG tent at least part of the time. Holler if you're going, too!1