Downtown Marion bustles during a Chili Cook Off and music festival. Photo courtesy the Town of Marion


outdoor, traditional and unusual. Located in southwestern Virginia, the town of approximately 6,500 residents has worked hard to create an appealing artsy, outdoorsy tourism destination and efforts are paying off. Marion is, in fact, a recognized, certified Main Street Community, which means it meets high standards in hospitality, offers heritage events, and promotes nearby outdoor recreation. It is also a designated Appalachian Trail Community, which means it works in partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to enhance hiker experiences and build stewardship for the A.T. In 2013, Marion and Smyth County officially became part of the A.T. Community designation program. Notably, tourism-based travel to Marion has increased over the past five years. Within close proximity of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, and Hungry Mother State Park, Marion serves as basecamp for day hikers and a place for campers to refresh and refuel. Only seven miles from the Highway 16 crossing and Partnership Shelter on the A.T., the community of Marion offers a 50-cent shuttle called the “Mountain Lynx” between town and two A.T. trailheads, plus a range of overnight accommodations, dining, and resupply options. Several budget hotels on the north end of town are within walking distance to the Walmart. For a more upscale experience, Collins House Inn is a charming bed and breakfast with step-out-the-door access to downtown Marion.

For more information about this and other A.T. Communities visit:

What to see and do in and around Marion:

● Take a walking tour through downtown Marion’s historic district to drop into boutiques, art galleries, old-fashioned diners, and chic bistros.

● Stop at the General Francis Marion Hotel to check out the meticulous restoration of this grand old hotel, originally opened in 1927. While you’re there, make your way to the hotel’s Speakeasy for a dinner of gourmet southern foods.

● Be a part of a live performance of “Song of the Mountains,” an award-winning televised showcase of bluegrass and old-time music, broadcasted from Marion’s historic Lincoln Theatre.

● Pick up fresh produce and meats at Marion’s
Saturday morning farm-to-table market.

● Try your hand at everything from yoga to woodworking, pottery, quilting, or beekeeping at the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts.

● Attend a special event including: artisan craft fairs, vintage car cruise-ins, musical concerts and theatre performances, and holiday extravaganzas.

● Canoe, kayak, swim, and fish from the shores of the lake at Hungry Mother State Park. The
park also offers hiking and biking trails.

● Ride the “Back of the Dragon,” a paved 32 miles of 300 winding turns. A favorite of motorcyclists and sports cars enthusiasts.

● Make your way to the Dip Dog Stand on Lee
Highway, practically an institution in Marion for its battered deep-fried hotdogs and custard cones.

● Get the lowdown on mountain life in the late
1800s at the Settlers Museum, 12 miles north of Marion and right next to the A.T.

● Get behind the wheel to travel along the Mount Rogers Scenic byway to the high country of the 150,000-acre national recreation area for exceptional views of Virginia’s two highest peaks: Mount Rogers (elevation 5,729 feet) and Whitetop Mountain (elevation 5,570 feet).

● And, of course, hike the Trail!