Each year, with the help of local communities, long trails are recognized as the incredible gems they are with celebrations dedicated to them. Hikers, stewards, vendors, and volunteers alike gather annually to show their appreciation for the trails they love. If your interests happen to include live music, fantastic food, inspiring stories told by legendary speakers, and long-distance hiking, you’ll want to make sure you’re in attendance at one of the trail festivals below.
Location: Damascus, VA
Dates: May 19-21, 2023
If you know, you know. This trail festival’s reputation precedes it as many AT thru-hikers will head to Springer Mountain with a hiking schedule that lands them at this iconic event. Trail maintainers, community members, gear vendors, and hiker trash alike descend on Damascus for organized chaos sure to educate and entertain.
Two of the biggest attractions for thru-hikers are Tent City, which showcases everything from ultralight shelters to full glamping setups, and the Hiker Parade. Regarding the latter, a line from the official website reads, “Water balloons are not allowed but super soakers are very much encouraged!” These beloved staples have earned a kind of cult following up and down the trail.
Location: Harpers Ferry, VA
Dates: April 22-23, 2023
Led by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the AT Flip-Flop Kick Off celebrates and supports the intrepid adventurers who choose a nontraditional method to tackle the AT’s 2,200-miles. Thru-hikers who flip-flop (as opposed to hiking north or south from one terminus to the other) hike the trail in two large sections divided near the halfway point; once they finish hiking one direction from the middle, they shuttle back and begin the other half of their journey. According to the ATC, this method of hiking “reduces overcrowding and sustains communities along the Trail”.
Hikers who attend this annual celebration can expect hiking workshops throughout the weekend and a send-off breakfast for thru-hikers. Harpers Ferry makes for the perfect location, as flip-floppers head both north and south out of the historic town, away from the ATC headquarters and towards the terminus of their choosing. In a few months, they’ll make their way back to Harpers Ferry to either begin the second leg of their journey, or finish their thru-hike right where they began.
Location: Amicalola Falls State Park, GA
Dates: March 3-5, 2023
Aspiring Appalachian Trail thru-hikers assemble annually at Amicalola Falls State Park to gather their gear and lift their spirits before embarking north on the adventure of a lifetime. But the AT Kick Off Weekend isn’t just for thru-hikers; with a lineup of presenters, including: Odie, creator of the Hiker Yearbook, legendary trail angel Miss Janet, and more, there’s a topic to tickle every adventurer.
Out-of-towners may reserve a room at The Lodge at Amicalola Falls State Park, or if you’re an aspiring thru-hiker Tent Village is the place to pitch your shelter and revel in the camaraderie of your fellow hikers.
Location: Cascade Locks, OR
Dates: August 18-19, 2023
Whether you’re a thru-hiker or glamper, there’s a place for you in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge this summer at PCT Days. Fully enjoy all of what PCT Days has to offer by participating in hilarious activities and games, winning gear at raffles that support the stewardship of the trail, and checking out the newest products from seriously stellar gear vendors. Did we mention the additional allure of tent camping on the iconic Thunder Island? Whether you journeyed by car or walked from the southern terminus with tramily in tow, you’re guaranteed a good time at this iconic trail festival.
Location: Silver City, NM
Dates: April 21-23, 2023
If you’re looking to celebrate Earth Day and the Continental Divide Trail in one fell swoop, Silver City, NM is the place to be. This festival starts off with a speaker series featuring local Indigenous leaders, presentations on biodiversity of the trail, and an appearance by the intrepid duo behind Her Odyssey; and then transitions into a fiesta with music, dancing, and hikers galore. The weekend includes a pancake breakfast to fend off hiker hunger and a topical focus of celebrating community collaborations in conservation before sending aspiring thru-hikers and CDT-lovers on their merry way.
Location: Elkin, NC
Dates: June 1-4, 2023
It’s the Year of the Trail in North Carolina, and the state is celebrating their premier long-distance route, the 1,200-mile Mountains-To-Sea Trail with a festival fit for every adventurer from the Appalachians to the Outer Banks. With activities ranging from guided hikes to an adventure film night, there’s plenty here for the whole family to enjoy. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trail festival without live music, art, and food to boot (pardon the pun).
Is there a trail festival we left off this list that deserves a shout out? Have you been to one of the festivals we mention here? Drop your favorite in the comments below!