If you need an escape from the concrete jungle you call home then maybe you would like to visit the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Notice I mean the southwestern end of the great state of Virginia, home to several presidents. We are nestled to the left of Roanoke in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountain chains.
Starting from the summit of Whitetop Mountain there is a multi-use trail that was converted from a former rail line that stretched from Abingdon, Virginia to Elkland North Carolina. This rail line was known as the Virginia Carolina railroad and operated for seven decades, ending in 1977. The Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the best known and heavily used trails on the East Coast of America.
Thousands of bikers, hikers, walkers and horse lovers frequent the trail each year. With abundant natural beauty, flora and fauna you won’t see in big cities, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a preferred destination for many travelers. If you keep your eyes open you can also experience encounters with deer, raccoons, fox and other wildlife that call the wooded areas the trail winds through on its thirty four mile length from Whitetop Mountain, Virginia to Abingdon, Va.
In Abingdon you can have the experience of seeing one of the locomotives that pulled loads from Abingdon to Elkland, North Carolina as part of the Virginia Carolina Railroad. This locomotive is in a protected shelter to allow all visitors to see the locomotive as it was when the rail line ended operation in 1977. The trail got its name from the locomotive which was known as the Virginia Creeper due to the way it “creeped” up the mountain on its way to North Carolina.
About in the middle of the thirty four mile trail is the small town of Damascus, Virginia. This town has benefitted greatly from having the Virginia Creeper Trail developed within its borders. Another close cousin is the world famous Appalachian Trail which stretches From Maine to Georgia. Hikers from around the world know Damascus and its trail friendly economy and townsfolk.
Within Damascus is several businesses geared to hiking and biking needs. You will find places to buy or rent equipment for your visit. You can rent bicycles and ride shuttles to wherever you want to start your adventure. There is also plenty of food establishments along the trail and at the trail head in Abingdon to keep you happy.
Beginning with warm weather the shuttles begin running several times each day, usually filling up on each circuit by the start of summer. During the Trail Days weekend, Damascus will swell to as many as 10,000 people as the celebration of their proximity to the trails draws people from all over to enjoy the Spring beauty of the region.
Here is a video I took while on the trail with my kids about six years ago.