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The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail offers scenic wonders from dense forests, open fields and lush waterways to railroad relics and delightful small towns. Cyclists and equestrians love the length of the Creeper, and many local walkers and joggers take advantage of the pleasant opportunity for a little exercise.
There are so many trestles along the route that each is numbered with an identifying plaque at either end of the bridge. Originally, there were more than 100 along the railroad over the region's web of picturesque creeks and rivers; 47 trestles remain on the rail-trail today. Some are quite short, less than 100 feet long, but the longest are more than 600 feet.
The trail officially begins at the Virginia–North Carolina border, but the easiest place to start the Creeper is from the Whitetop Station trailhead. (However, to cover the entire trail, simply ride the extra mile from Whitetop to the North Carolina border before turning around to begin your journey.)
At nearly 3,600 feet, Whitetop Station, the trail's eastern terminus, is its high point. Westward from there to the trail's midpoint at Damascus, is an easy downhill ride. Riding in the reverse direction would be a challenging uphill climb for inexperienced riders, so many visitors park in Damascus, take one of the numerous shuttle services up to Whitetop Station, and then ride down to their cars.
The first 17-mile stretch to Damascus allows for numerous restroom breaks at its many trailheads, some of which are housed in restored railroad depots. Green Cove Station in particular is a standout; it's the oldest station on the trail and was once the center of the community. Green Cove Station was a post office, general store, and cargo location. Today, it serves as a museum with artifacts on display—like the original mail boxes—and it frequently features photography exhibits or live music from local groups.
This section also travels through terrific scenery, from Christmas tree farms and grazing llamas to river views and deep forestland. The Appalachian Trail weaves on and off the Creeper as well. After going through dense trees, you will emerge to glide over bridges high above Laurel and Green Cove creeks.
Around the midpoint of the Virginia Creeper Trail, you'll reach the Damascus trailhead. Before tackling the rest of the trail, consider taking a break in this sweet town. Damascus is the self-proclaimed friendliest town on the trail, and it won't take you long to see why: here you'll find restrooms, a caboose housing an information booth, a replica train engine and parking. Veer off the trail to find lunch stops and bike shops in town.
After your break, get ready for a little work; from Damascus to trail's end in Abingdon, a little more effort is required. The constant downhill is exchanged for a flat grade with some gentle rises and descents. It's not strenuous but it is a change from the first section. If you are bicycling, be aware that abundant equestrian use just after Damascus can leave its mark on the trail surface and give you a bumpy ride. But don't let a few bumps get you down. They start to peter out about 7 miles before Abingdon, and some of the Creeper's most beautiful river and farmland views are still ahead.
On a ridgeline high above the South Fork of the Holston River, you will emerge onto a bridge offering invigorating views of South Holston Lake below. As you continue your journey toward Abingdon you will run into cattle gates across the trail. These gates mark your entrance to the Creeper's expansive grazing meadows. This tranquil farmland accompanies you for much of the remainder of the journey.
About a half mile from Abingdon is a public park with restrooms, picnic areas and a water fountain. Just across the last bridge, you will reach the endpoint.
If you are traveling to the Virginia Creeper from out of town, consider that many bike shops in Damascus and Abingdon offer bike rentals and a shuttle to the Whitetop Station trailhead. Also, for those who would like to camp during their trail trip, there are several campgrounds nearby, including those operated by the Forest Service in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
To get to the Whitetop Station trailhead, follow US 58 east from Abingdon into Grayson County. Turn right on State Route 726 and head south toward the North Carolina border. You will see the parking area off of 726.
To get to the Abingdon trailhead, head south on Main Street/US 11 in Abingdon and turn left onto Pecan Street. There is a large locomotive engine on display by the trailhead, which you can see to the left of the parking lot.
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