Monday, November 5, 2012

The Virginia Creeper Trail

I had a great opportunity to get a weekend adventure trip in recently.  Sometimes pictures say more than words ever could.  It seems like no matter how many times I have hiked the Endless Wall Trail, I never tire of looking out over the New River Gorge, WV.  In the fall, it is as if some divine being took a paintbrush, dipped it in an array of colors, and splattered it down on the earth for all to see the magnificent result.      

The New River Gorge ablaze in fall colors.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile-long converted railroad bed that runs from Whitetop, VA (near the borders of NC and TN) down to Abingdon.  While there are several shuttle companies in the area, my friend Jami and I elected to use Blue Blaze Bicycle and Shuttle Service.  They picked us up in Abingdon at the trailhead, loaded our bikes on a trailer, and drove us up to Whitetop.  The cost was very reasonable and you also have the option of being able to rent bikes from them if you don't have your own.  I'd say the drive took about an hour.      

The first half of the trail is truly stunning in its beauty.  You cross several trestle bridges over babbling brooks as the trail rolls along through the southern Appalachian countryside.  Oaks and maples and other deciduous trees arch over the trail and form beautiful tunnels.  The revered Appalachian Trail conjoins the Virginia Creeper Trail for several miles and adds an extra special sense to the trip.      

Trail conditions for the first half of the trail are muddy and rocky in some places but it is all downhill so you are not doing much pedaling.  I was riding a cross bike with 32 mm tires and felt it was serviceable, but certainly not optimal, at least for this part of the trail.  Depending on the day of the week, you will have company so pay attention for calls of "On your left!"    

Damascus, VA
The halfway point of the trail is in Damascus, VA.  This town is the stuff of legend in Appalachian Trail folklore so take a moment to loiter a little bit; if you see a thru-hiker, treat him or her to lunch! :-)  You will have several casual dining options for refueling before resuming your trip.  There is also a good outdoors shop in town, Mount Rogers Outfitters.    

The second half of the Virginia Creeper Trail is in better condition and is more well-traveled.  It is slightly flat to (barely) uphill the whole way to Abingdon.  Also, it is not as forested but pretty nonetheless, what with the wide-open views of the farms, pastures, and mountains of southern Virginia.  There will be one moderate, short climb to get your heart rate up, but that is all.   

If you were out for blood and have a cycling background, then you could blow through the experience in a couple hours.  But what would be the point in that?  Stay.  Enjoy.  Get off the bike and poke around in the stream beds and smell the crushed sassafras leaves.  Eat at Quincey's Pizza for lunch.  Enjoy the smell of the smoke from a distant wood stove.  In this instance, the point of a trip on the Virginia Creeper Trail is not to get to the end, but to enjoy the journey.  Safe travels to you!      


  1. Biking is such fun. A totally different animal than running. I've been enjoying it a lot lately. Glad you have found some great places to ride!

    1. Thank you, URG! I have been enjoying it more and more; it's been an acquired taste. I definitely want to get into some longer touring rides starting next spring.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It looks so great there.

    1. You're welcome! I hope you get a chance to check it out at some point.