The Virginia Creeper Trail: the most scenic bike ride on the east coast?

Following the route of an old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail is named for the steam engine that once chugged along it and for the Virginia Creeper vine that populates the area. With the abandonment of many railroads in the 1970s, a national movement gained momentum to convert train tracks into trails. A coalition of local citizens, government and the US Forest Service banded together to acquire the old railroad right-of-way, and thus the Creeper Trail was born in 1987.

One of 47 trestle bridges on The Virginia Creeper Trail.

The 34-mile multi-use trail begins in Abingdon, a popular access point at Mile Marker 0, and then carries on through rolling farmland to Damascus at Mile 15.5. From there, the Virginia Creeper winds up to its highest point at Whitetop Station, winding through Appalachian hardwoods and alongside cold mountain streams filled with native brook trout. 

Abingdon is Mile Marker Zero for The Virginia Creeper Trail.

Forty-seven trestle bridges provide scenic views of the region’s creeks, farmland, and mountain forests. While technically considered a mountain biking trail, the Virginia Creeper is well-maintained and consists mostly of crushed stone, so it can be easily navigated on a hybrid or road bike.

The trail winds 34.3 miles through mountain scenery.

The Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the most accessible trails you’ll find, with plenty of outfitters, lodging and dining nearby. It’s equally popular with beginners and advanced riders; multiple entry points mean that you can enjoy an easy 2-hour ride, or challenge yourself with an all-day, 68-mile round trip. Although biking is popular with visitors, don’t forget that hiking and horseback riding are also permitted.

Bike shops in Abingdon and Damascus make accessing the trail easy.

Start in downtown Abingdon, VA, for a leisurely ride through rolling farmland. Along this section of the trail, it’s not uncommon to see grazing horses and cows. Some might even come right up to the fence to say hello!  The “lower” section also features the most stunning trestle bridges, and easy access to Abingdon Vineyards, a farm winery located along the South Holston River. Don’t feel like biking back to Abingdon? Schedule a shuttle pick up at any of several points along the way.

Alternately, take a shuttle to Whitetop Station in Jefferson National Forest, to bike the “upper” section.   Then enjoy an easy 17-mile coast/pedal down the mountain to Damascus, VA.

Visit several restored train stations along the trail, including Alvarado Station.

This ride takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on your pace. Stops along the way include the old railroad station at Green Cove, operated by the US Forest Service; check out the high trestle at Creek Junction, where the trail runs beside some of the best trout fishing in Virginia.

Stop in at Abingdon Vineyards, accessible from the trail, or by car or kayak.

After the trail, round out your trip with a stop at Wolf Hills Brewing in Abingdon, or make it a long weekend with a show at Barter Theatre, and live music at Bonefire Smoke House and Musictorium. Abingdon is a foodie destination, recently named Best Small Town Food Scene in the country by USA Today Travel. 

Places to Go, Things to See: