Urban trout fishing? The idea is surprising, but that’s exactly what Abingdon offers, thanks to a multi-year restoration of Wolf Creek, a spring-fed creek that runs through the historic Abingdon Muster Grounds.
Aerial view of the Abingdon Muster Grounds, photo by Jesse Burke
The restoration focused on the stretch of Wolf Creek which runs through the Abingdon Muster Grounds, a site which is owned by the Town of Abingdon and is certified by the National Park Service as the northern terminus of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. This restoration project helped stabilize the stream bank, improve the hydrology, create habitat and re-introduce native species of plants and trees. Now that the restoration is done, this section of Wolf Creek is a prime location to support the “Trout in the Classroom” program.
Biologists are experimenting with stocking native brook trout as well as brown trout and rainbow trout. Photo by Lisac Mark, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
During the Revolutionary War, 400 Virginians set out to join patriot militia from modern-day Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. After a two week campaign, the Overmountain Men fought the Battle of Kings Mountain with overwhelming success, helping turn the tide of the war. As they gathered, or “mustered,” they would have camped on the banks of Wolf Creek. The new restoration, in addition to providing habitat for trout, helps recreate the look of the creek as the Overmountain Men would have known it.
Every year, reenactors celebrate the Revolutionary War Battle of Kings Mountain, 1780 with living demonstrations at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.
A ribbon cutting will be held September 23, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., celebrating the completion of the Wolf Creek Stream Bank Restoration. Many partners came together to restore the Wolf Creek stream bank, including: Town of Abingdon Virginia, Mountain Empire Chapter-Trout Unlimited, Virginia Department Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Department of Forestry, Upper Tennessee Roundtable, National Park Service-Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, Carter Land and Water and the Virginia Chapter-Overmountain Victory Trail Association.
For more information, call Leigh Ann Hunter at (276) 525-1050 or email email@example.com
Southwest Virginia’s natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities make it a prime destination for anyone seeking a break from the stresses of daily life. Fall is one of the best time to visit, with the autumn colors on full display. Here are 10 of the most scenic places to take advantage of the incredible outdoor opportunities and enjoy the show.
1. Visit Grayson Highlands State Park
Well known for its wild ponies, alpine meadows, and high peaks, Grayson Highlands is Virginia’s crown jewel. Although a very popular destination for backpackers seeking breathtaking views, Grayson is also one of Virginia’s best bouldering destinations. In addition, Grayson Highlands provides access to Virginia’s highest peaks through the Mount Rogers Recreational Area. Whether you want to horseback ride, hike, camp, backpack, or climb, Grayson highlands is one of the most incredible destinations in Virginia.
2. Bike the Virginia Creeper Trail
This former railroad bed goes through the Appalachian Trail town of Damascus creating one of the best bike trails in the country. Numerous outfitters with rental and shuttle services make riding the Creeper trail a breeze. Along the trail you will enjoy peaceful creek crossings on rustic bridges with nearly unlimited spots to pull over and capture stunning photographs. For the best experience this fall, shuttle up to Whitetop Station and ride to the town of Damascus—you’ll find the entire trip is downhill. While visiting the Creeper Trail be sure and stop by the Wolf Hills Brewing Company in Abingdon and enjoy local music and craft beer.
3. Ride ATVs on the Mountain View Trail System
The Mountain View Trail System in St. Paul, Virginia, is well known to off-road enthusiasts hosting roughly 100 miles of pristine trails. St. Paul is an ATV-friendly town, allowing off-road vehicles legal road access to local shopping, lodging, and dining. After a long day riding the trails, there is no better place to refuel and relax than the Sugar Hill Brewing Company where local eats and craft brews are sure to fulfill you after a long day of heart pounding action.
4. Experience Breaks Interstate Park
Breaks Interstate Park is situated on the border of Kentucky and Virginia along the western-most continuous ridge of the Appalachians. Recognized as the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, the park and surrounding areas are an incredible place to visit for all types of adventure including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, birding, rafting, and more recently rock climbing. Its incredible beauty offers a perfect island of wilderness to escape to. Be sure when you visit Breaks this fall to arrange a tour to see Virginia’s newly restored Elk herd located just 25 minutes outside the park on a local nature preserve.
5. Hike the Channels
Recognized as the eastern form of the famous Utah slot canyons, the Channels are one of Virginia’s most biologically diverse and fascinating areas. The 6.6-mile, moderate out-and-back trail offer a one of a kind way to experience one of Virginia’s most unique features. Located 15 miles north of Abingdon, Virginia, the Channels State Forest doesn’t offer camping, but you can spend a day exploring the trails and head back to Abingdon to spend the night.
6. Conquer the Back of the Dragon
This winding route—known for its zigzagging turns and unparalleled vistas—attracts sports-car drivers and motorcyclists from all over the country. The route stretches 32 miles from Marion to Tazewell, Virginia, with more than 300 curves and three mountain crossings along the way. Once you reach Tazewell, be sure to stop for lunch at Seven, a local eatery serving American-style food with a great community atmosphere before hitting the road.
7. Raft the Russell Fork
During the fall season, whitewater enthusiasts flock to the Russell Fork to experience some of the most intense whitewater on the east coast. In the month of October, water is released from a nearby dam making the experience even more exciting. October also happens to be the most beautiful time to raft the Russell fork, showcasing Virginia’s brilliant fall colors and cooling temperatures. During the October releases, the Russell Fork should only be run by experienced paddlers or with the accompaniment of a professional guide.
8. Backpack the Pine Mountain Scenic Trail
For those audacious backpackers looking for a more remote adventure this fall, the Pine Mountain Scenic Trail is a must do. Backpackers can conquer more than 40 miles of wilderness with incredible views the entire way. In order to complete this trek, you will need to set up a shuttle between Breaks Interstate Park and US 119. Eventually, this section of trail will traverse the entire 150-mile stretch of Pine Mountain and someday be a part of the Great Eastern Trail, an initiative to create a more remote sister to the Appalachian Trail.
9. Float the Clinch River
Although known as Virginia’s forgotten river, the Clinch River will give you memories that last a lifetime. The Clinch, the most bio-diverse river in North America, offers a multitude of opportunity for exploration, snorkeling, fishing, and relaxation. Floating the Clinch gives visitors a taste of the beauty of Southwest Virginia and all of its incredible natural resources. Kayak, canoe, and tube rentals—plus shuttle service—are available at Clinch River Adventures, located in the town of St. Paul.
10. Explore Norton, Virginia
Known recently as one of Virginia’s top adventure towns, Norton provides easy access to unlimited outdoor activities in surrounding areas such as hiking, climbing, mountain biking, camping, and various water sports. In addition to Norton putting itself at the top of the list for many rock climbers, the flag rock area trails (FRAT) are becoming a top-class mountain bike destination.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
Southwest Virginia is one of the most overlooked adventure epicenters in the Southeast. The region is blanketed with massive tracts of national forest, capped with cloud-parting summits, and airy expanses of high country found no place else in the state. The vast network of trails draped over Southwest Virginia’s wild spaces provides a portal to countless outdoor adventures—and links an array of picturesque mountain towns, each with a unique vibe. Best of all, these are still plenty of undiscovered gems to explore. Here are some of the small towns in the region that serve as an excellent base of operations as you explore the outdoors.
Dubbed the "world capital of old time mountain music," Galax, Virginia, is already on the radar of bluegrass connoisseurs. It’s the home of the Old Fiddlers Convention, the largest event of its kind in the world, dating back to 1935. Beyond world-class bluegrass, Galax is also loaded with small town charm and epic trails. The 57-mile New River Trail, cradled by the linear New River Trail State Park, begins in the heart of town, and traces the course of the New River, ironically one of the oldest waterways on the planet, for 39-miles. Plus, the town is just seven miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway. After a run, hike, or ride, Galax’s walkable downtown offers everything from BBQ joints to bike shops to boutiques, plus plenty of toe-tapping tunes. Swing by the Stringbean Coffee Shop and Shamrock Tea Room for one of their weekly Tuesday night jam sessions.
One of the most historic locations in Southwest Virginia, Abingdon is also one of the region’s premier trail towns. The westernmost trailhead for the 34.3-mile Virginia Creeper Trail is located in the heart of town. The nationally recognized rails-to-trails route once accommodated the locomotives huffing through the mountains of Southwest Virginia, but it’s now leading cyclists through the Mount Rogers High Country, and along Whitetop Laurel Creek. Aside from the trail, there are plenty of other reasons to stick around Abingdon, like the historic Barter Theatre, which is the nation’s longest running professional theater, dating back to 1933. While you’re there, treat yourself to luxurious comfort at the historic Martha Washington Inn & Spa and grab a local beer at the Wolf Hills Brewing Company.
Perhaps one of the region’s most overlooked adventure hubs, St. Paul offers an eclectic trail buffet. Stretched along the shores of the Clinch River, the town offers paddling access to one of the most biodiverse rivers on the planet. Above town, the Mountain View Trail System features 100 miles of rugged riding for Off Highway Vehicles (OHVs) and dirt bikes–showcasing spectacular valley vistas. For a slower ride, there’s the 8-mile Sugar Hill Trail Loop, paralleling the Clinch River with the option to link up with the Guest River Gorge Trail for a 16-mile excursion. Off the trail, riders can recover at the Sugar Hill Brewing Company.
Damascus is hardly a secret to weary thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The renowned footpath goes right through town, and Damascus is known for offering even the smelliest hikers a warm welcome. But it’s not just the Appalachian Trail—the town is a junction for a whopping seven trails total, including the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, and The Crooked Road Music Trail. Plus, plenty of post-adventure perks pepper the town like the Damascus Brewery and Mojo’s Trailside Café.
Floyd, Virginia, may be famous for Floydfest, the five-day outdoor musical festival, luring reggae and jam bands, but the town has plenty of adventures on tap too. For cyclists, there’s the Tour de Floyd route, a mapped metric century with nearly 6,700-feet of climbing—nearly half of which is along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hikers can head to the trail-laced Rocky Knob Recreation Area with options like the 10.8-mile Rock Castle Gorge Trail or the 3-mile Black Ridge Trail. Plus, there’s the exceptionally biodiverse Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve. The 3,971-foot summit is blanketed with airy glades and dotted with wildflowers and offers hikers 360-degree vistas.
Marion has made a name for itself as a cultural hub, with highlights like the historic Lincoln Theatre and the town’s monthly Arts Walk, connecting visitors with local artists and musicians. However, beyond the blossoming arts scene, Marion has also has plenty to entertain lovers of fresh air. The town is just minutes from Hungry Mother State Park. Anchored by a 108-acre lake, the recreation area offer paddlers plenty of mountain-shaded water, plus 17-miles of hiking and biking trails. At the end of the day, visitors can toast their outdoor adventures at Headspace Brewing Company, Marion’s first craft brewery, or at The Speakeasy, a Prohibition-themed gastropub housed in the town’s charm-loaded General Francis Marion Hotel.
Overlooked by the towering Flag Rock Recreation Area, Norton is the ideal basecamp for all sorts of outdoor adventures. Just three miles from town, the Flag Rock Trail System offers 8-miles of singletrack spread over the lower reaches of High Knob. The recreation area is also a designated sanctuary for green salamanders—and for a Sasquatch-esque creature locally dubbed the "Wood Booger." Above Flag Rock, the High Knob Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest is garlanded with routes like the 33-mile High Knob Trail and the leisurely mile-long Lake Shore Loop. Cap off the day in the cozy, subterranean pub at the Inn at Wise.
Wytheville has a little something for everyone. The birthplace of first lady Edith Bolling Wilson, the town is sprinkled with museums—like the Haller-Gibboney Rock House Museum—and a smattering of antique shops, art studios, and one-of-a-kind eateries. Plus, there are plenty of ways to head outside. The town-owned Crystal Springs Recreation Area offers an easy escape for hikers and singletrack seekers, and slightly further afield, the Seven Sisters Trail is a birders paradise, offering hikers a 4.8-mile tour of Little Walker Mountain, with the opportunity to spot species like ruffled grouse, Acadian flycatchers, and pileated woodpeckers. Backcountry aficionados can make tracks for the Kimberling Creek Wilderness Area of the Jefferson National Forest—a medley of oak and hickory, punctuated with flowering dogwood and rhododendron, spread along the southern edge of Hogback Mountain. After a day on the trail, stick around for the Davis Valley Winery.
Tazewell is the perfect jumping off point for one of the region’s most stunning natural features, Burke’s Garden, a mountain-encircled crater aptly nicknamed God’s Thumbprint. The entire crater is designated as a National Historic District, ideal for road riders, and the New River Valley Bicycle Association has even mapped a Burke’s Garden Century route. The group also hosts an annual Burke’s Garden Century event every Fall (on Virginia Tech’s move-in weekend). Meanwhile hikers can get a bird’s-eye view from the Appalachian Trail—and afterwards, there is the Burke’s Garden General Store (6156 Burke’s Garden Road), offering baked goods, sandwiches, and Amish-made gifts.
Nestled at the foot of Draper Mountain, Pulaski is the perfect portal to outdoor adventure. Mountain bikers don’t have to stray far from the historic railroad town to hit the Draper Mountain trail network, featuring 8- miles of precision-crafted singletrack, with enough gritty ascents and rock features to cater to advanced riders. Paddlers can set out for Gatewood Park and Reservoir. The sylvan recreation area anchored by the serene reservoir features 162 acres of water to explore. Aside from outdoor wonders, the town has highlights like The Marketplace, one of the region’s top farmers markets, featuring live music and a varied selection of wine and microbrews (Tuesdays 4 p.m.- to 8 p.m., May through August). For the quintessential summer evening, head to Calfee Park, home of the Pulaski Yankees, and one of the oldest minor league ballfields in the country.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
After the grit and grime, the best way to cap off an epic outdoor adventure is with a little well-deserved pampering. Southwest Virginia offers the best of both worlds—it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise brimming with adventure, from mountain-swaddled lakes to wilderness-cloaked trails to cloud-splitting summits with plenty of epicurean delights, engaging cultural heritage, and cozy places to spend the night. Here’s just a sample of how to spend an adventurous weekend in Southwest Virginia while still enjoying the good life.
Begin your adventure infused weekend in Abingdon. Once one of the last outposts on the Great Wilderness Road for settlers headed to the frontier, the 250-year-old town has a long history of welcoming travelers. For breakfast, peruse the sizeable Abingdon Farmers Market (Saturdays from April to November; 8 a.m.-1 p.m.), where you can grab both indulgent pastries and pick-up picnic fixings for lunch. Head to Zazzy’z Coffee House and Roastery for a quick caffeine infusion, or fuel-up with a healthy brew at the White Birch Juice Company.
Next, choose from the smorgasbord of Southwest Virginia adventures on tap and easily accessible from Abingdon. For a quick hike, ride, or run—without even leaving town—head for the trailhead for the 34-mile Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail, in the heart of downtown Abingdon. The nationally recognized rail-trail was once a thoroughfare for the supply-laden locomotives huffing through mountain-rippled Southwest Virginia en route to North Carolina. Rent a bike or arrange a shuttle at the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, just steps from the trailhead.
Then, pick your adventure from Southwest Virginia’s backcountry buffet. Head for Grayson Highlands State Park, where hikers can hop on the Appalachian Trail and head for the high country of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, touted by thru-hikers as one of the highlights of the entire 2,190-mile footpath. You’ll find roving ponies graze alpine meadows in the shadow of Virginia’s highest summit. Rather climb instead? Grayson Highlands is the state’s premier bouldering destination, with scalable formations scattered throughout the park offering more than 1,000 problems to tackle. Mountain bikers craving singletrack can hit the 2.3-mile Wilburn Branch Trail or the park’s portions of the 52-mile Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.
Rather spend a day on the water? Scope out Southwest Virginia’s mountain-cradled lakes. In nearby Marion, Hungry Mother State Park offers 108-acres of forest-fringed flatwater to explore—and when you need a little time on dry land, hit the 17-miles of trails ringing the lake. Or head for the secluded, 300-acre Laurel Bed Lake, which sits at a celestial elevation of 3,600-feet in the upper reaches of the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, the most biodiverse spot in the state of Virginia.
When you are ready for some rest and relaxation, head back to Abingdon for some well-deserved pampering. Drop your bags at the elegantly luxurious Martha Washington Inn and Spa, and head for the glasshouse enclosed saltwater pool or soak in the expansive, two-tiered hot tub. Cozy up on one of the overstuffed barstools at the hotel’s Sister’s American Grill and don’t forget to swing by the front desk for the inn’s token final nightcap—a "goodnight" glass of port.
Rather hit the town instead? Mosey over to the Wolf Hills Brewing Company for a pint. The taproom offers an array of flavor-loaded brews, and the place is named for the lively local legend about Daniel Boone’s encounter with a roving wolf pack near Courthouse Hill, now the heart of town. Take a stroll down Main Street to the Tavern Restaurant. Built in 1779, the Tavern is housed in one of the oldest (and purportedly, most haunted) buildings in town. It has served as everything from the first post office on the western side of the Blue Ridge Mountains to a Civil War hospital. Charcoal-etched bed numbers still adorn the attic walls. Today, the establishment serves up elegant cuisine, including German-inspired fare, and boasts a lengthy libation list.
Hit the road and head for the nearby town of Norton, just an hour from Abingdon. Swing by the nostalgic, jukebox-bedecked Corner Diner at the Inn at Wise for a tasty calorie-infusion before beginning your day of outdoor adventure.
After breakfast, head for the forest-cloaked mountains soaring above town to hit the newly carved, 8 miles of singletrack lacing the Flag Rock Recreation Area, which overlooks Norton. Mountain bikers will find trails catering to both seasoned riders and newbies. The gorgeous sweep of land is both a pristine playground for outdoor lovers and sanctuary for rare species—including globally rare green salamanders and, allegedly, a Bigfoot-like critter called the "Woodbooger." Head slightly further afield to the High Knob Recreation Area of the Jefferson National Forest, which was built by Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. If the skies cooperate, hardy hikers can revel in a view encompassing five states and the region’s loftiest peaks from the observation tower crowning the recreation area.
For a more mellow but equally scenic hike, run, or ride, head for the stunning 5.8-mile Guest River Gorge Trail. The trail, constructed from a converted railway bed, hugs the Guest River as it charts a course through Stone Mountain, showcasing the 300-million year old rock formations and ribbons of forest frequented by flycatchers, tanagers and warblers. Or, use the Guest River Gorge Trail as a portal to the Heart of Appalachia Bike Route. The 128-mile road-mapped route meanders all the way to Burke’s Garden—a 10-mile crater aptly nicknamed God’s Thumbprint.
Cap off the day in comfort back at the century-old Inn at Wise in Norton. Reminisce about your day on the trail over craft brews at the inn’s cozy basement pub, and tuck into a spread of Southern-inspired comfort food, like fried green tomatoes or chicken and waffles. After dinner, you can decide for yourself if the colorful tales of the inn’s lingering ghostly guests are genuine.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
Abingdon will experience an almost total eclipse of the sun on Monday August 21, 2017 at 2:37pm.
It’s the event of a lifetime, and Abingdon is a great place to witness this amazing phenomenon. According to NASA’s interactive map, Abingdon will experience a 95% eclipse of the sun. The eclipse will start around 1:00pm, and reach maximum coverage at 2:37pm, lasting a little over 2 minutes. It will take another hour or so for the partial eclipse to end, finishing around 4:00pm.
Sounds like a great excuse to take the afternoon off! Head to one of these ideal viewing spots in Abingdon, then make it a day-long celebration with lunch beforehand or dinner after! We’ve compiled a list of restaurants open on Mondays.
NOTE: To safely enjoy the eclipse, be sure to take precautions, like purchasing light-filtering glasses. According to NASA, “The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses.” You can purchase solar filter glasses at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway in Abingdon, and join them for the Eclipse Party on the 21st!
Located on one of the highest hills in Abingdon, the museum’s front lawn will provide a great view of the sky. On-site parking. The Museum is open until 5:00pm, so drop in and browse the exhibits while you are there – it’s free!
Heartwood is hosting a Solar Eclipse Party on the 21st, featuring a viewing on the front lawn, and optional eclipse themed lunch. Ample parking available at Heartwood, and at the adjoining Virginia Highlands Community College. Heartwood is open until 5:00pm with regional art, music and a full-service restaurant (restaurant closes at 3:00pm).
Tucked into the hills of Southwest Virginia, and connected by the famous Virginia Creeper Trail, the neighboring towns of Abingdon and Damascus have all the essentials of a weekender’s paradise. From charming restaurants and storefronts to endless outdoor adventures, these charming small towns have the perfect combination of activities for a well-rounded weekend getaway. Visitors will find rich history, unique outdoor recreation, fine dining, and much more. Though Abingdon and Damascus are small, their wealth of culture and lively atmospheres will make you think you’ve discovered a whole new world hidden in the beautiful landscapes of Southwest Virginia.
A stroll down Abingdon’s delightful Main Street is a great way to start your excursion, with its brick sidewalks doubling as a viewing platform for two centuries of architecture. Here, you can peruse local art galleries, visit Katbird’s Wine and Gourmet, Abingdon Olive Oil Company, and stop in for a root beer float at the 1950s-style soda fountain. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, you can find the farmer’s market nearby, offering fresh local produce and baked goods.
The Martha Washington Inn and Spa stands elegantly on Main Street, inviting guests to experience its well-preserved 19th century architecture, or enjoy a meal at Sisters, its American grill.
Abingdon offers a wealth of dining options, perhaps most notably The Tavern, which was built in 1799 and is the oldest of Abingdon’s historic buildings. A few blocks off Main Street, visitors can enjoy craft beer at Wolf Hills Brewery in a more laid-back atmosphere, often with live music from local artists.
The hub of Abingdon’s music and art can be found a few minutes out of downtown at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway. Here visitors can admire unique crafts from dozens of carefully selected regional artists before enjoying a meal or a drink at the cafe. Heartwood’s chef is passionate about reinterpreting traditional dishes of Southwest Virginia, and upholds Heartwood’s commitment to the community by using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
Heartwood is also home to The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, an organization dedicated to sharing and celebrating traditional music. The Crooked Road spans 19 Virginia counties and includes 60 venues that showcase the music of Southwest Virginia, from bluegrass to gospel. At Heartwood, The Crooked Road presents live music every Thursday night— plus some good ol’ southern barbecue!
Abingdon remains in touch with its roots through more than music, with many preserved sites where people can interact with the area’s rich history. Visitors can spend hours at the Abingdon Muster Grounds, which has a museum on colonial and revolutionary history, reenactments, a visitors center, and hiking trails. If that doesn’t scratch your history itch, visit the Old Mollie Steam Engine, or take an Abingdon Spirit Tour and learn the town’s lore.
At the heart of Abingdon is the Barter Theatre, a locally operated theatre situated on Main Street across from the Martha. The Barter Theatre opened its doors at the height of the Depression in 1933 under the ownership of the actor Robert Porterfield, who had the idea to let people barter their way into the theatre. Townspeople would offer up whatever they could: cow’s milk, eggs, unsellable produce, homemade jam and so on. The business was wildly successful and today the Barter sees more than 160,000 guests per year.
Damascus, a few miles eastward, is equally full of character, wrapping small-town charm and thriving tourism into one funky little package. The lively atmosphere cleverly disguises that the population of Damascus, the gateway to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, is less than a thousand. What it lacks in people, though, it makes up for in trails, trees, and beautiful Virginia scenery.
The Appalachian Trail runs directly through Damascus— literally, right down Main Street, making Damascus the resting place of thousands of thru-hikers every year. In May, the town hosts the Trail Days festival, with parades, talent shows, concerts and more for hikers and other visitors. Other nearby trails include the Trans-America National Biking Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and, of course, the renowned Virginia Creeper Trail.
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34-mile, rail-to-trails path that begins in Abingdon and terminates near Whitetop Station. Biking the famous trail is a popular activity for visitors to the area, with options to bike parts or all of it. Abingdon and Damascus bike shops offer rentals and shuttle services for the Creeper Trail. Take the shuttle to Whitetop Station and enjoy the incredibly scenic ride back to Damascus, which is almost entire downhill. It’s also a great area for fishing, horseback riding, birdwatching, and hiking or running.
Damascus offers various lodging options, including B&Bs, hostels, campgrounds and inns. The Old Mill Inn is located in the heart of Damascus and is a historic grist mill perched on the banks of Laurel Creek. Visitors can stay overnight in the 12 rooms, or drop by and enjoy a meal from the inn’s spacious restaurant on one of the three back decks overlooking the creek and the mill waterfall.
Other restaurants in Damascus include Mojo’s Trailside Cafe and Coffeehouse, a great breakfast spot, and Bobo McFarlands, a not-so-Irish pub that’s a favorite hangout for thru-hikers. For a variety of delicious beer, there’s Damascus Brewery, a one-man operation located on the outskirts of town that offers up 47 fantastic micro-brews.
Damascus is also a wonderful locale for horseback riding, as it’s near the Virginia Highlands, the Virginia Creeper Trail and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Several local outfitters offer guided horseback riding trips in the area.
Whether you visit for a few hours or a few days, on two wheels or four, you’ll find yourself immersed in Virginia tradition and surrounded by some of the Southeast’s most spectacular scenery. Abingdon and Damascus are bursting with recreation and entertainment for people of all ages, and the fusion of modern luxuries and historical marvels will make you feel uniquely welcome in these charming communities.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
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. The 34-mile multi-use trail begins in Abingdon, a popular access point at Mile 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, offering plenty of amenities and activities along the way. Visitors can make their time on the trail as leisurely or as strenuous as they please, spending anywhere from a few relaxing hours to several exploratory days in the area.
What Makes It Great
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a dream come true for anyone who wants to become immersed in the beautiful scenery of the Southwest Virginia and get a firsthand look at its unique history and landscapes. The trail winds its way through airy forests alongside the bubbling Beaver Dam Creek, with opportunities to stop and explore quaint towns and historic buildings. Cruising down the Virginia Creeper Trail on a bicycle is a unique way to experience the mountains of Virginia, and cycling is the perfect medium between hiking and driving, allowing you to cover a lot of ground while still being intertwined with your surroundings.
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 most popular way to complete the trail is to take a shuttle from Damascus or Abingdon to Whitetop Station, the highest point on the the Virginia Creeper. From there, visitors can bike 17 miles down to Damascus to be picked up. The gentle downward slope on this section of the well-marked trail makes it a breeze for even the most inexperienced cyclists. Along the way, visitors can stop to enjoy panoramic views of the rolling mountains, cool off in the creek. and even break for snacks and restrooms. (There are no facilities actually on the trail, but there are 11 access points to towns, forest service centers, water and toilets.) The 47 trestle bridges on the path provide a bird’s-eye view of the forest floor and eliminate the ups and downs as the route navigates the hilly terrain.
Beyond Damascus, the trail continues another 17 miles to Abingdon, a charming little town with lots to see and do.
While most people complete the trail in this relaxed way, those looking for a challenge can opt to climb the 1,600 feet up to Whitetop Station, either on foot or on two wheels.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone looking to see spectacular scenery and cover a lot of ground with minimal effort, especially families seeking an outdoor activity that everyone can enjoy. With options to make this trail extremely easy or very difficult, anyone can find their perfect activity and have a great time on the Virginia Creeper Trail. For families and people with less mobility, the 17-mile ride from Whitetop to Damascus is a gentle downward slope that everyone can complete. Even inexperienced cyclists can ride the trail’s full 34 miles in one day. Those looking for a more serious day on the Creeper Trail can reverse the route and climb all the way to Whitetop Station. While it’s primarily a biking trail, it’s also a popular destination for hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and horseback riding.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The trail has access points in Whitetop, Alvarado, Damascus, Creek Junction, and Abingdon. Many people choose to take a shuttle from Damascus or Abingdon up to Whitetop Station, the highest point on the trail. From there, you can ride the 17 miles to Damascus to be picked up, or all the way into Abingdon. In any of these towns, the trail is signed and easy to locate.
New businesses are breathing new life to downtown Abingdon, Va. Just off West Main Street, tucked between some antique shops is a fading piece of the past. The yellow and white paint of the general store sign is just barely visible on the brick outside of Wolf Hills Antiques.
“We didn’t want to get rid of it,” said Bobby Lane, owner of the Market Place Building and Wolf Hills Antiques, “but it’s an eyesore. Since this is an antique shop, we decided to restore it. We don’t want it to look too fresh, though. We want to make it look old.”
Wolf Hills Antiques is one of four new businesses to open on West Main Street in the past year, and curb appeal is at the forefront of business owners’ minds to bring in new customers.
To insure that the Lanes’ vision for the sign comes to life, they recruited a real walldog to complete the restoration.
“Walldogs” are what the original painters of the sign would have been called according to Carl Jessee who got his start in the sign business 65 years ago.
Carl’s first job was painting the weights of coal trucks on the cab doors. “The state passed a law that the weight of the truck when it was empty and when it was full had to be painted on the side. There were plenty of coal trucks in Honaker, and I needed a job.”
Mr. Jessee has two signs in the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his son, JJ Jessee, will be overseeing the restoration of the sign. The Jessee family runs the Bristol Sign Company, which Carl opened in 1969.
“Dad’s done billboards and wall signs. He used to do raceway work too. He’d be out there at four in the morning fixing the signs that were damaged during the Saturday race for the Sunday race,” JJ Jessee said.
Now retired from the sign business, Mr. Jessee owns an art and frame shop in Bristol, Va. He only reprises his role as a walldog-sign-painter for special occasions such as a restoration.
Carl Jessee has seen the sign business go from painters to printers. “There is no comparison between when I started in signs and now. Everything is computerized. Everyone is going to vinyl,” he said.
Jessees and Lanes in front of the sign from the 1950s
The Jessees’ and the Lanes’ goal to improve the facade the Market Place Building lines up with the goals of many business owners and community members in Abingdon. The non profit organization Abingdon Main Street is focused on making downtown Abingdon a place that people want to shop, dine, and stay. Abingdon Main Street’s volunteers are working to acquire grants for facade improvement.
“One of Abingdon Main Street’s goals is to help business and property owners preserve the unique and welcoming atmosphere of our downtown area and to also improve and update it when necessary. Part of our work is to direct resources to them to achieve this goal,” said President of Abingdon Main Street Scott Sikes.
A craft beer on a warm summer day tastes great. But after a day spent slaying singletrack with buddies, swapping out leads with a climbing partner, or hiking with the family, that beer tastes even better. Long ago, some brilliant outdoor enthusiasts paired beer with outdoor adventure and ever since it’s been a marriage made in heaven. In fact, the same thing could be said about food. Towns like Abingdon, Damascus, and Bristol have capitalized on this après-adventure market, growing their microbrewery and restaurant profile dramatically. Here is your guide to the best trail-to-tavern pairings in the region.
Virginia Creeper Trail, Wolf Hills Brewery
Established in 2009 and named after Daniel Boone’s original name for the surrounding area that became Abingdon, Wolf Hills Brewery has turned into the place to visit for craft beers and live music after a long day pedaling the Virginia Creeper Trail, the renowned 34-mile bike trail with its western terminus in Abingdon. Wolf Hills’ Creeper Trail Pale Ale is a perfect post-ride brew that will have you reliving the highlights of the day and sharing stories and laughs with fellow adventurers in the region.
Appalachian Trail, Damascus Brewery
Damascus is known as Trail Town USA thanks to its proximity to the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, and the Trans American National Bicycle Trail. It’s also the gateway town for the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, which features the highest peak in the state. Hikers and cyclists in the know head to Damascus Brewery to sample the small-batch craft beers after a long day in the woods. Damascus Brewery’s, D-town Brown Ale, The Rye Crosser Rye Pale Ale, and Backbone Bock have helped to soothe many sore legs and ignited future adventures in the region.
Hidden Valley Climbing, Bristol Brewery
Bristol Brewery, located a little more than 15 miles south of Abingdon on I-85 in downtown Bristol, makes the perfect stop after trashing yourself climbing on the newly opened sandstone crag, Hidden Valley. Hidden Valley, located about halfway between Abingdon and Bristol, hosts more than 200 routes on bullet sandstone. The climbing runs the gamut from overhanging thuggery to thin delicate crimp work. Regardless of what and how much you climb, Bristol Brewery beers like the Vanilla Imperial Porter, Piedmont Pilsner, Bearded Goat Bock, and the heady Double Loco Imperial IPA are sure to soothe those worked tendons and back muscles. You’ll soon be hatching future plans to send that one route that shut you down.
Hiking the Channels Trail, Harvest Table
While hiking and navigating through the rock corridors and labyrinth-like maze of boulders on the 6.6-mile, out-and- back Channels Trail, one will build up a hearty appetite. Luckily for you, the neo-Appalachian inspired, farm-to-table Harvest Table in nearby in Meadowview, Virginia, can help you refuel after your backcountry adventure. Harvest Table sources its food by working with local farmers, breweries and wineries. It tries to keep its carbon footprint as low as possible and chooses seasonal foods to highlight in the ever-changing menu. Expect a healthy, organic, high-quality menu that will be an extension of Appalachia itself.
Sugar Hollow Park Mountain Biking, Studio Brew
Sugar Hollow Park, located within minutes of Studio Brew, is a great place to explore singletrack on two wheels. With the help of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the trail system is getting even better and becoming more mountain bike-specific. Trails like Raccoon Run, Fox Trot, Cave Loop Trail, and Salamander Trail make up a good loop that has just about as much climbing as descending. When you’ve had enough fun for the day, head over to Studio Brew, a brew pub that offers craft beers and artisanal pub fare to go with it. Beers like Dark Rider, The Dragon’s Lair, Mischievous Solstice, and Dancing Monk are all strong brews, yet perfectly balanced and with the suggested food pairing that will have you grinning from ear to ear, reliving the perfect day you’ve just had.
outhwest Virginia is loaded with some of the scenic outdoor landscapes in the entire southeastern United States, and towns like Abingdon, Damascus, and Bristol are leading the charge as perfect gateways to both trailside access and Appalachian charm. Nearby trails such as the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and Iron Mountain Trail are world-class. Fly fishing in the region is praised widely as some of the best in the nation. Parks like Grayson Highlands, New River State Park, and Bear Pen Recreation Area offer access to thousands of acres of Appalachian Wilderness. Top notch bouldering is found all throughout Grayson Highlands State Park and its high point Mount Rogers, and high-quality cragging is found at Hidden Valley. Although one weekend isn’t nearly enough to thoroughly soak up all that Southwest Virginia has to offer, the following guide is a good starter to get you acquainted with the region.
Where to Get Caffeinated
Life without coffee is just plain uncivilized. We all need our morning cup (or two) and luckily Southwest Virginia delivers with many options for craft coffee roasted and prepared by professional baristas. In Abingdon you can get your fix at Zazzy’Z Coffee House and Roastery, which roasts its beans from all over the world onsite. It also serves homemade muffins, sandwiches, and quiches to get you fueled up for the day.
Mojo’s Trailside Café and Coffee is located right next to the hugely popular Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus. You’ll find a large assortment of coffees and coffee drinks, each with distinctly different character. The restaurant is also top notch with culinary expertise coming from John Seymore, who has more than 20 years of professional experience as a chef. A full breakfast menu is available ranging from simple staples such as eggs, toasts, bacon, bagel sandwiches, and pancakes, to more decadent dishes such as the French Quarter, a Cajun-inspired omelet made with Andouille, shrimp, and veggies. Mojo’s is also a great place to grab lunch with an eclectic mix of sandwiches and crowd-pleasing favorites such as Seymore’s Pulled Pork, West Coast Reuben, Huevos Rancheros, Crabcake Sammy, and Low Country Shrimp and Grits.
Where to Find nearby Adventure
With such a large variety of outdoor recreation available in the region it will be impossible to do everything on a weekend but luckily for you it’ll still be here for your next visit. Cyclists will want to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile rail trail that is extremely mellow and a favorite for family rides. There are plenty of outfitters and shuttle services available in Abingdon and Damascus to take you to the trailhead, where you can enjoy a mostly downhill ride back to Damascus. If you want a challenge, make the round-trip on two wheels, with the second half much easier than the first. The mountain biking crowd will want to go ride the classic backcountry ridge trail, Iron Mountain.
Hikers have tons of options but the classic areas are Grayson Highlands State Park, where elevated balds with rocky outcroppings and wild ponies make up the landscape, as well as Mount Rogers, the highest point in Virginia. Other good hiking destinations include the Channels Trail just north of Abingdon and Bristol where the highlight is navigating the labyrinth of house-sized boulders that form corridors and caves on the trail.
Climbers will find the best summer temperatures in the southeast bouldering at Grayson Highlands State Park. More than 500 established boulder problems are found within the park with options still available for first ascents. Sport climbers and trad climbers should head to Hidden Valley, just north of Abingdon, and rope up for single-pitch sandstone routes ranging from 5-easy to 5.13.
The Fly Fishing in the region is arguably some of the best in the entire nation. Whitetop Laurel Creek and the North, South, and Middle Fork of the Holston are the crown jewels of the area, but there are many hidden gems in the backcountry of Grayson Highlands State Park for the more adventurous. Check out any of the local outfitters in the region for more information.
Where to Unwind
After a long day playing in the mountains, treat yourself to a good meal and celebrate with a few beers. Luckily, this area has more than just natural beauty—it also hosts a great selection of restaurants and breweries to complement your outdoor excursions. Wolf Hills Brewery, The Damascus Brewery, Studio Brewery, and Bristol Brewery are all excellent local brewpubs where one can sample a wide variety of small-batch craft beer. Often times on weekends there is live music as an added bonus.
Harvest Table, located in Meadowview, Virginia, is a locally sourced, farm-to-table style restaurant that specializes in healthy Appalachian-inspired cuisine. It’s a must-visit, as you can expect a seasonal menu with an emphasis on clean and simple, yet, refined dishes. Another good option is Jack’s 128 Pecan, a small, casual restaurant located in downtown Abingdon that offers a high quality, eclectic menu that will appeal to everyone in your group.
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Sure camping is always an option but sometimes you want a little more luxury in your life. The Copper Lantern Boutique Inn, Black’s Fort Inn, and White Birches Inn—all located in Abingdon—are excellent classic, bed-and-breakfast establishments. Expect old Appalachian charm and locally inspired decadence.
If you want more of a communal experience then Damascus has three hiker-friendly hostels worth a visit. Hikers Inn, Woodchuck Hostel, andCrazy Larry’s Hostel are all great inexpensive options where the other guests will be sure to have some great stories. Expect to meet lots of thru-hikers.