Today’s guest post is by Jessica Covington from Magnets from Everywhere. She’s sharing her experience on cycling the Virginia Creeper Trail. I’m excited about this one. Did you know I actually lived in Virginia for a year? Whilst fifteen year old me did occasionally get a bit bored in the rural parts of the state, Virginia is absolutely stunning and a great destination for outdoor travelers and adventurers. Hiking, cycling, fishing, sailing… Virginia has it all.
Adventure travel: Cycling the Virginia Creeper Trail
Do you ever want to go exploring on your bike through forest and fields, past rivers and farms, and stop for lunch in the cutest little towns? What if I told you that you could bike 17 miles even if you are completely out of shape? The Virginia Creeper Trail is the place to be!
If you haven’t been, it’s hard to imagine just how beautiful and peaceful the Virginia Creeper Trail can be! The entire trail stretches 34 miles from Whitetop Station to Abingdon, Virginia. Most people only complete half the trail by parking in Damascus, taking a shuttle to Whitetop, and then biking back to Damascus. This 17-mile stretch is almost entirely a gentle downhill ride!
You can’t go wrong Spring through Autumn (and I’ve even had some wonderful bikes here in the winter) but mid-May is when you can expect the Rhododendron to be in bloom and October is when the fall colors will be at their best.
On weekends during the biking season, shuttle after shuttle will bring couple, families, and boy scout troops to Whitetop to do this easy, family-friendly, no-fitness-required ride. If you want to really enjoy the serenity of the Creeper Trail before the crowds arrive, park your car at Whitetop and plan on taking the shuttle back at the end of the day (or biking back, depending on your fitness level!) The real sweet spot is going to be starting on the trail at 8 am. At that time, you’ll have rolling hills, Christmas tree farms, bubbling streams, incredible old barns and bridges, and the occasional deer or bear all to yourself!
“Rails to Trails”
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a Rails-to-Trails project, which means the whole thing used to be a railroad. About 3 miles from Whitetop you’ll find the Green Cove Station Museum. If it’s open, take a quick peek to learn about the history of the area.
Not long after Green Cove, you’ll find yourself riding through dark forests. Make sure you breathe deeply to really enjoy the scent of Southwest Virginia at its best!
The next town you’ll come to is Taylor’s Valley. This quaint little trail town is comprised of a dozen houses and a few old churches. If you’re lucky one of the churches will be out selling hot dogs along the trail. If not, check to see if the Creeper Trail Café is open. They are supposed to have excellent chocolate cake and ice cream, but it can be hard to catch them when they are open, especially if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.
After Taylor’s Valley, you still have another 7 miles before you hit Damascus. You’ll be riding over some stunning old bridges and there will be dozens of opportunities to pull over and sit by the river awhile. Take advantage of this time! You won’t have cell signal, so just take a breath and commune with nature.
Exploring Damascus on the way
Once you arrive in Damascus there are plenty of options for things to do off-trail. You can grab lunch, go antiquing, send the kids to the playground, check out the historic railroad car, amble down the Appalachian Trail, or just sit by the river and enjoy the sunshine.
Damascus is “Trail Town USA”, one of the most famous spots on the Appalachian Trail and home to the annual “Trail Days” celebration. If you’re interested in hiking or biking, you’re sure to find great company in Damascus.
After Damascus, the trail to Abingdon is no longer for the unfit. The next 17 miles are flat or even uphill for long stretches. If you need the motivation to take the trip: there is a winery at Old Alvarado Station, half-way between Damascus and Abingdon.
If you make the whole trip (or even if you don’t, but haven’t seen a bike since you were a child) you can expect your backside to be sore the next day. Honestly, it’s a small price to pay for the complete removal from reality that is the beautiful Virginia Creeper Trail.
Virginia Creeper Trail Review Scores
Thrill Level (Whitetop to Damascus): 2
Chill Level (Whitetop to Damascus): 5
Skill Level (Whitetop to Damascus): 1
Thrill Level (Whitetop to Abingdon): 2
Chill Level (Whitetop to Abingdon): 3
Skill Level (Whitetop to Abingdon): 2
About the author & adventurer
Jessica discovered the Virginia Creeper Trail when she was in college at Virginia Tech. Her family now has a home in the area and she loves to get back to the Creeper Trail any chance she gets. Right now she lives in California with her 2 kids and they enjoy exploring and traveling all over the world. You can read her blog, Magnets from Everywhere or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.
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