Get to Know this A.T. Community
The Appalachian Trail is a 2193-mile (and growing!) test of physical and mental endurance. It is estimated that only one in four attempting the 5-7-month journey from Georgia to Maine is successful. However, the A.T. can be enjoyed in smaller segments, too. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie, a “honeymoon hiker” or a “slackpacker,” the A.T. is a national treasure, and you’ll experience the wonders of nature and learn more about yourself when you’re on it. Waynesboro’s close proximity makes it an ideal location for an A.T. Community, and for years hikers have heralded it as one of the friendliest cities along the trail.
Why not take a break from the trail and discover the charm of downtown Waynesboro and the businesses that support the Appalachian Trail and its people?
Covid put a damper on long distance hiking on the A.T. due to safety concerns. Hikers were encouraged not to do it, but now that many people have been vaccinated, long-distance hiking is considered a “safer activity” and the ATC 2,000-Miler Recognition Program is operating once again.
Just three miles from the Rockfish Gap A.T. trailhead (mile 862 going northbound), Waynesboro’s amenities can easily be accessed by tired, hungry hikers who need a break from the trail. It’s also an important resupply point for hikers heading north who are about to enter the 101-mile portion of the trail running through Shenandoah National Park. If you’re section hiking, it’s suggested that you avoid June when this part of the trail is busy with thru hikers.
If you’ve done a stretch of trail and ended at your car, drive down the mountain to Waynesboro and park in one of the lots near Constitution Park to access the downtown. Hikers in the middle of longer treks may easily hike into town or take advantage of the Trail Angels, whose names and numbers you can access at the Rockfish Gap Tourist Information Center, just a stone’s throw from the trailhead. These kind souls are willing to help hikers get from the trailhead into town and back up to hit the trail again. They’re also excellent resources on where to eat, stay, resupply, do laundry, and more. Before leaving the TIC, be sure to pick up a hiker permit for our AT campground if you’re staying in town for a few days.
If you are a section hiker looking for a safe place to leave your car, call the Waynesboro Visitors’ Center at 540-942-6644 to ask for the parking form and they will send you a simple form to fill out and a map of where to park your car in downtown Waynesboro, then you can call a Trail Angel to take you up to the trail.
Fuel Up First
You’re probably starving and very, very parched from your time in the woods. Refresh with a visit to Blue Ridge Bucha for handcrafted, organic and fair-trade kombucha. This fermented tea is brewed with water from the Blue Ridge and is served in eco-friendly refillable bottles. If you’d rather wet your parched lips with beer, Basic City Beer Co. is the place to stop. Not only can you get fresh, craft beer, you can fill up on tasty food like Billy Pie wood-fired pizza and Fancy-Full sandwiches. Basic City has hammocks to lounge in and plenty of room to spread out. As you make your way downtown, Mister Jamison’s is an excellent lunch spot for delightful deli sandwiches, and Sam’s Hot Dogs is a local favorite and a favorite of hikers coming through the area.
If you need something larger than life to fill you up, we have two more ideas for you. Try a 28-inch pizza from Benny Stivale’s right on Main Street in downtown. Known for their famous “Virginia Slice,” one piece takes up two plates! Cheese and pepperoni are always on the menu, with two other specials per month. And hikers suffering from the worst kind of “hiker hunger” can calorie load to their hearts’ content at the New Ming Garden Chinese buffet.
Where Can I Catch Some ZZZs?
Waynesboro has a number of lodging options for various types of stay. There are also several places to rest that specifically cater to A.T. hikers. If you’re feeling especially fancy, Quality Inn provides a free hot breakfast along with soft beds and hot showers. Stanimal’s 328 Hostel & Shuttle Service, which is run by experienced hikers, meets hikers’ needs with a bunk (with clean sheets), free laundry, Wi-Fi access and more. In a typical year, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church has opened its doors to thru hikers in May and June, offering a meal, a sheltered place to sleep, and a strong sense of community (unfortunately they are not operating this year). The Waynesboro Parks & Recreation department provides free camping and Waynesboro YMCA lets hikers use their showers. Pick up a permit to stay in the free campground at the Rockfish Gap TIC, Waynesboro Visitors’ Center, Waynesboro YMCA, or the Waynesboro Public Library.
What Can I Do in Town?
If you decide to rest up and do a zero-mile day while you’re in Waynesboro, there’s lots to do. Get your nagging health issues tended at Augusta Health Urgent Care. Shaggy hair? River City Barbershop can clean you up and make you presentable again, plus they offer a special rate for AT hikers, just $10. Get your shoes repaired at Graham’s Shoe Service. Stock up on your favorite trail treats at Kroger. Next, head over to Rockfish Gap Outfitters for 7,000 square feet of gear. Since 1987 this store has been stuffing backpacks with hiking and camping supplies, clothing, maps, trail food, and expert advice. Looking for some reading material for the trail? Stop at Stone Soup Books for a free paperback for hikers, or head to the Waynesboro Public Library for a hiker corner with recharging stations and other handy items. Shenandoah Hemp Supply and Healthy Habits can hook you up with vitamins, supplements, CBD, and more to help keep you healthy out on the trail. Pyramid is hiker-friendly and offers herbal remedies, teas, scent-masking sprays and soaps, as well as handcrafted walking sticks and foraging bags. Finally, if you’re in town on a Thursday night this summer, check out Groovin’ at the Greenway for a free, outdoor concert in Constitution Park.
Click here for access to Waynesboro’s A.T. Hiker’s Guide, which gives hikers a map and a handy roundup of information about the town. This includes where to do your laundry, the locations of ATMs, and places where hikers can score showers, free internet access, library books, and pick up bounce boxes and stamps. You can even sign on with Bradford Staffing for some temp work if you’re running short on funds!
Before Getting Back on the Trail
Fuel your trail legs with some fresh-brewed coffee and breakfast sandwiches at Farmhaus Coffee Co. or The French Press. Sit down for a hearty “hungry boy” breakfast at Weasie’s Kitchen. You’ll need it: the A.T. Conservancy has determined that you could hike from sea level to the peak of Mt. Everest 16 times before equaling the elevation gains and losses encountered hiking the full length of the Appalachian Trail. Happy hiking!