Exploring the Virginia Creeper Trail – A Photo Journal

The Virginia Creeper Trail was originally a train route and is now a 34 mile pedestrian recreational path that leads from Abingon, VA through Damascus, VA and on to Whitetop Station near the North Carolina border. The hiking, biking and horseback riding simply can’t be beat. The weather here is amazing most of the year and ideal for outdoor activities. I spent most of my life in this area and have traveled this trail many times and it never gets old.

There are so many things to see, it is one of the most peaceful treks you’ll take while still being close to civilization. The best way to experience it at first, in my humble opinion, is to do just half of the trail from Whitetop Station to Damascus. If you drive to Damascus, you can rent bikes from one of the local companies and they’ll shuttle you up the mountains to Whitetop Station. From there it’s pretty much all a smooth downhill ride where you can go at any pace you choose. I took some of the following photos and others I found from other places to give you a good year-round look at the area.

Here’s a map of the area

map

Whoever made this map before I marked it up did not spell “Abingdon” correctly. So if you’re doing a google search looking for food or lodging, drop the “t” and insert a “d” and you’re good to go!

Whitetop Station – The Best Place to Begin

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This is the old railroad station at Whitetop Station. It’s a humble corner of the world and this building illustrates that perfectly. Shuttles from mountain bike rental companies will drop you off here and you’ll be on your way!

The Virginia Creeper Trail is truly a hidden gem of Southwestern Virginia. Nestled quietly along the borders of Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina, most people never even know it’s there. Damascus is also a main station on the Appalachian Trail which usually overshadows the Virginia Creeper Trail except to those who call the area home.

Scenes from the Virginia Creeper Trail

A common scene in the fall. This time of year offers amazing views and solitude on the trail as visitors are few and far between. Be sure your cell phone is charged just in case you need help along the trail. I’ve rarely been unable to make a call from the trail so you should have relatively good reception along your trek.

A common scene in the fall. This time of year offers amazing views and solitude on the trail as visitors are few and far between. Be sure your cell phone is charged just in case you need help along the trail. I’ve rarely been unable to make a call from the trail so you should have relatively good reception along your trek.

A well-known scene of the Whitetop Laurel River from the Virginia Creeper Trail.

A well-known scene of the Whitetop Laurel River from the Virginia Creeper Trail.

Winter along the trail. It is not advised to venture out too far, but a short walk on a clear winter day starting from Abingdon or Damascus can be really nice if you’re hydrated and well clothed.

Winter along the trail. It is not advised to venture out too far, but a short walk on a clear winter day starting from Abingdon or Damascus can be really nice if you’re hydrated and well clothed.

Yours truly enjoying the views near Damascus, Virginia.

Yours truly enjoying the views near Damascus, Virginia.

Farms can be found all along the trail. This entire area is a great spot to stop for a picnic or just to snap some great photos of the surrounding scenery.

Farms can be found all along the trail. This entire area is a great spot to stop for a picnic or just to snap some great photos of the surrounding scenery.

It’s rare to see a dangerous animal on the trail, but they are there. If you are unfamiliar with the area, stay on the trail and resist the urge to go trailblazing through the trees. I have never seen a venomous snake on the trail but there are snakes and black bears in the area. Some people take a bell with them that hangs from their backpack so they avoid accidentally startling a bear which may not take kindly to being surprised. If you have concerns about animals, be sure to laugh, yell and make noise on the trail and the wildlife will be long gone before you know it.

It’s rare to see a dangerous animal on the trail, but they are there. If you are unfamiliar with the area, stay on the trail and resist the urge to go trailblazing through the trees. I have never seen a venomous snake on the trail but there are snakes and black bears in the area. Some people take a bell with them that hangs from their backpack so they avoid accidentally startling a bear which may not take kindly to being surprised. Others regularly blow on a whistle. If you have concerns about animals, be sure to laugh, yell and make noise on the trail and the wildlife will be long gone before you know it.

A nice view from below the trail as it crosses the river.

A nice view from below the trail as it crosses the river.

This bridge is long and the scenery is awesome! I advise taking your time crossing it so you can enjoy the view. If you are less than spectacular on a mountain bike, walk your bike across. The wood can become very slick with moisture and you may slip and fall which isn’t a good thing when you’re miles from town. Be safe when riding across the bridge.

This bridge is long and the scenery is awesome! I advise taking your time crossing it so you can enjoy the view. If you are less than spectacular on a mountain bike, walk your bike across. The wood can become very slick with moisture and you may slip and fall which isn’t a good thing when you’re miles from town. Be safe when riding across the bridges.

People bring their horses to the Virginia Creeper Trail all the time, especially in spring and summer. You may have the urge to sneak by a horse – don’t. Make enough noise as you approach so that the horse and its rider both know you are coming. A startled horse isn’t something you want to be riding a mountain bike next to. Most horses are accustomed to the trail and bike riders. Just don’t sneak up on them and you’ll be fine.

People bring their horses to the Virginia Creeper Trail all the time, especially in spring and summer. You may have the urge to sneak by a horse – don’t. Make enough noise as you approach so that the horse and its rider both know you are coming. A startled horse isn’t something you want to be riding a mountain bike next to. Most horses are accustomed to the trail and bike riders. Just don’t sneak up on them and you’ll be fine.

A great view of a bridge crossing the river. Tornadoes tore through the area in 2011 and destroyed a number of structures that have all been rebuilt. Views from the bridges along the Virginia Creeper Trail really are amazing.

A great view of a bridge crossing the river. Tornadoes tore through the area in 2011 and destroyed a number of structures that have all been rebuilt. Views from the bridges along the Virginia Creeper Trail really are amazing.

I’m not saying the Virginia Creeper Trail is a reason to take a trip to southwestern Virginia, but if you are anywhere in the area and want a day to relax by taking in some of the most amazing natural scenery in the state, do yourself a favor and put it on your to-do list. You’ll be glad you did.  One of the best ways to experience southwestern Virginia is taking the scenic route down The Blue Ridge Parkway and then trading your car for a mountain bike and casually riding down the mountain on the Virginia Creeper Trail.

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