The 34.3-mile Virginia Creeper Trail was named after the steam engine that crept up the rails into the Iron Mountains. Also, a plant called the "Virginia Creeper" grew along its tracks. By the 1970s, many railroads were abandoned. And in 1986, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy began converting old railroad beds into trail systems for hikers and bikers.
Access to the Virginia Creeper Trail
Abingdon at Mile 0 is the one of the most popular places to enter the Virginia Creeper Trail. Parking is available, and a steam locomotive is on display at the Trailhead. Other popular access points are at Alvarado Mile 8.5, Damascus Mile 15.5, Creek Junction Mile 25 and Whitetop Station Mile 32.3.
Although no facilities are available on the trail itself, 11 access points lead hikers and bikers to towns, forest service centers, water and toilets, year-round.
- The most common activity for first time visitors is biking the section from Whitetop Station to Damascus. Bike rental companies in Damascus and Abingdon will shuttle you to the top of the mountain for an easy ride down to Damascus.
- Camping is permitted in Mount Rogers National Recreation Area 100 feet away from the trail.
- Horseback riding is allowed all along the trail.
- Fishing at South Holston Lake Mile 8 and Mile 13. East of Damascus, the trail also parallels Whitetop Laurel Creek.
- Cross-country skiing is great in the winter along a snow-packed trail.
Trail Conditions and Wildlife
The trail from Abingdon to Damascus is quite level and is bordered by fields and pastures, leading visitors to a beaver pond, frogs, cottontail rabbits, gray squirrels and red and gray foxes! As many as 40 species of birds can also be seen. From the other end, at Whitetop, bikers love coasting downhill for 18 miles to Damascus. Experienced hikers warn about sudden changes in weather, especially at higher elevations at Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Whitetop Mountain.