Monday, July 9, 2012

The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail
July 7, 2012

     The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34 mile bike trail which spans Washington and Grayson counties in southwest Virginia.  The trail  is a former Norfolk and Western train right of way.  There are 47 trestle bridges which contribute to the very scenic route.  

     The trail starts at Whitetop Station trail head and ends in the quaint town of Abingdon, Virginia.  There are many restored railroad buildings along the trail which are now used as museums, shops and restrooms.  The trail parallels two creeks: Laurel and Green Cove Creeks.  The trail also crosses the Appalachian Trail at several points.  

Shortly after the take off from Whitetop Station

     You can rent bikes at multiple places along the trail, in Abingdon and also in the self-proclaimed "friendliest town on the trail" which is Damascus, Virginia.  Many of these folks will drive you and your bike up to Whitetop Station.  We stayed at The Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon and they have a shuttle package that includes bike rental, a ride up to Whitetop and a pick-up in Damascus (about 20 miles from Whitetop).  We brought our own bikes but used the hotel shuttle service.

Christmas tree farm and old barn

     We left the hotel at about 9:00 AM and arrived at Whitetop Station about an hour later.  The first part of the ride was very congested (it was a Saturday) with kids and inexperienced cyclists who were having difficulty controlling their bikes.  Once we were past this initial congestion it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.  We were surprised that the rhododendrons were still in bloom which added to the spectacular scenery on our descent.  The ride to Damascus is mostly downhill from Whitetop although there are some flat areas which require a little effort.  There were short trestles and very long trestles to cross and the creeks were flowing rapidly despite the recent dry weather.  We didn't see much in the way of wildlife.  There were some very pretty butterflies and we did see one deer.  Even though it was a very hot day with temperatures reaching into the high 90s, it was fairly cool on the canopied portions of the trail.

Green Cove Station, now a museum

     The old railroad buildings were fun to ride by and there were also many other sights to see: old barns, Christmas tree farms and the creeks as mentioned earlier.  We reached Damascus in about one hour and fifty minutes and had a picnic while waiting for the van from the hotel to pick us up.  It was getting very warm by noon so we were glad we had decided to do just that half of the trail.

     I would recommend this trail to anyone.  Serious cyclists would probably enjoy going the opposite direction more (Damascus to Whitetop) since the uphill climb would be more of a challenge.  For the amateur, the downhill route is the way to go.  We were told that the trail is much less crowded during the week.  We are already making our plans to return in October when the foliage should be at its Fall finest.

My wife and I at the end of our 19.6 mile ride - no worse for the wear!

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