Local Love: The Appalachian Trail and Appalachian Trail Outfitters

Aug 04, 2021

Local Love: The Appalachian Trail and Appalachian Trail Outfitters

by Jessica Russo

by Aimee Roberts


…but first let’s learn about the store’s namesake and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy!

Two thousand one hundred ninety miles—that’s the total distance of the Appalachian Trail (AT), the iconic East Coast thru-hike, which runs from Maine to Georgia (or Georgia to Maine, depending on your perspective).

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is a group that maintains and protects the AT and its surrounding ecosystem. As the “guardians of the world’s longest hiking-only foot path,” the ATC helps the nearly three million yearly Appalachian Trail visitors be good stewards of the trail. There are a variety of ways hikers tackle the trail, but there are two primary approaches for hiking all 2,190 miles:

1. thru-hiking, which means you start and finish the hike in a single months-long adventure; or
2. section hiking, where you break the adventure into segments, and tackle the segments over time.

In order to help AT hikers navigate life off the trail, the ATC has designated communities. An AT community, whether it is in a city or town, has access to a laundromat, hotel, restaurants, and a gear store, among other criteria. Within the last year, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy designated Elkton, Virginia, an Appalachian Trail community.

Which brings us to a business we’d like to show some local love for—Appalachian Trail Outfitters (ATO) in Elkton. It’s only seven miles from the Appalachian Trail.

A driving force in the ATC Conservancy approval process is access to a supply store. Housed in the building with the gorgeous bear mural resides Appalachian Trail Outfitters, a full service outfitter with one mission: “Thrive Outside!” The Elkton store is ATO’s second location. With gear from Patagonia, The North Face, Kuhl, Merrell, Osprey, Dueter, and more, Appalachian Trail Outfitters has you covered, and Ginny—and the other incredible folks at the store—are ready to help. They even sell local honey!

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of chatting with Ginny, manager at ATO, about AT culture, the store, and Elkton’s recent designation. A trail angel and a gem of a human, Ginny radiates hospitality. I loved listening to her stories!

“Now there is a town between Luray and Waynesboro for AT hikers!” Ginny proudly said. She was on the committee to get Elkton recognized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. A lot of work goes into achieving the designation, she explained, and a small but mighty team who wanted to share the fun and functionality of Elkton with visiting AT hikers worked tirelessly to solidify Elkton’s spot on the map…all during a pandemic.

It’s easy to lose track of time at Appalachian Trail Outfitters. The gear is great, but be sure to check out the display case near the register. There you will find an old AT guide with a burn mark on the front. Just consider the story that guide would tell if it could; consider the places it’s been! And after you check out all the other treasures in the display case, be sure to support local and see what you can find at the store.

My Kavu bag that I purchased from ATO is a big hit. I love carrying it. It has bears on it, but because we’re Nest Realty, let’s chat birds instead!

Per Ginny’s recommendation, my son and I purchased the Audubon Bird Caller. Ginny kindly opened it and helped us get it set up for an upcoming trip to Big Meadows for birding, and she also gave us the downlow on some amazing birding spots in the area. At one spot, we were told to watch out for copperheads—duly noted, Ginny.

Whether you’re in need of maps, a bird caller, or a reminder that hospitality is alive and well in the Valley, there’s no place like Appalachian Trail Outfitters in Elkton (or Luray)!

Visit Appalachian Trail Outfitters online or at 311 W. Spotswood Trail, Elkton, VA 22827.