The Virginia Creeper trail is an abandoned railroad line that runs between the North Carolina boarder near White Top, VA and Abingdon, VA 33 miles away in the South West corner of Virginia. The trail began as a Native American footpath and was later used by European explorers including Daniel Boone. In the early 1900’s the railroad line was built. The nickname “Virginia Creeper” came from the steam locomotives that slowly struggled up this mountain railroad.
What’s nice about the Creeper Trail is that it has a little something for bikers of different capabilities. Just outside of White Top, heading West you hit a 14 mile decent that is an absolute blast. I rode the trail in late October and the temperature in the morning was in the forties so there weren’t too many people on the trail. This allowed me to open it up on the downhill exceeding 25mph. I would imagine that in the summer, with the bike rentals and shuttles out of the town a Damascus, there could be a lot of traffic on the decent.
I rode my Schwinn Homegrown hard tail mountain bike that I modified for riding on gravel. It has 1.25” wide tires with very little tread and other than a few rocks that I hit here and there the tires didn’t hold me back and in fact allowed me to ride faster. With 80 psi you do feel all the rocks.
The trail has 47 bridges and they are all numbered. All the bridges have wooden decks and well built transitions back to the gravel. You do need to watch out for bikers and hikers on the bridges as they seem to be a very popular place to stop and take pictures. This section of the trail is almost entirely in the woods with great scenery and places to stop with restrooms and some food.
After the 14 mile decent you’ll ride 3 miles of level terrain before you arrive in the town of Damascus where there are bike shops, a coffee shop and a Subway restaurant. You’ll cross the Appalachian Trail (well marked) as you approach Damascus so adding in some hiking is an available option. Damascus would be a good place to stay and offers options for rides for a wide range of physical capability in your group. Here are some options:
- Ride from Damascus to White Top with 14 miles of climbing but no grades above 5% and as your reward ride the descent back to Damascus for a 34 mile loop.
- Ride from Damascus to White Top and continue on to Abingdon and return to Damascus for a longer 66 mile ride.
- For those looking for fun without a workout, take a shuttle to White Top and ride back to Damascus. The local shops will rent you a bike. This is a ride that just about anyone could do.
The ride to Abingdon isn’t as interesting as the White Top to Damascus section but it’s still fun with some unique features. This section crosses more private property and many of them are farms and ranches so going through the cattle gates will slow you up a bit. I was riding into a 15 mph headwind coming out of the west but the climb is very gradual. You see that you are gaining elevation above the river as you ride to Abingdon. Entering fields with cows was certainly interesting to me as a city boy.
Great trail conditions, beautiful scenery and available support makes this trail a great trail for individuals and families alike. The 5 minute video at the top of this post will have you wanting to plan your trip to ride the Creeper Trail!
For detailed info about the trail and surrounding areas visit: http://www.vacreepertrail.com/