The Virginia Creeper Trail turns 30
The Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail marks its 30th Anniversary in 2017. One of the earliest rails-to-trails success stories, the Creeper Trail is now a major economic engine for Southwest Virginia, drawing over 100 thousand visitors annually.
Running 33.4 miles from Abingdon, VA through Jefferson National Forest, the Virginia Creeper Trail is a former railroad that’s now one of the most popular recreation trails in the southeast.
The Economic Impact of the Virginia Creeper Trail
Experience the Trail
Thinking about a visit to the Virginia Creeper Trail? It’s 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, 66-mile round trip. Although biking is popular with visitors, don’t forget that hiking and horseback riding are also permitted.
The most common activity for first time visitors is biking the section from Whitetop down to Damascus. Bike rental companies in Damascus and Abingdon will shuttle you to the top of the mountain for an easy 17-mile coast/pedal down to Damascus.
The Virginia Creeper Trail runs on a rail right-of-way dating to the 1880s. In the early part of the last century, the rail line carried lumber to feed the busy sawmills of Virginia and North Carolina. Its name was inspired by the steam engines that slowly crept up the mountainside, although some argue that the name actually comes from the native Virginia Creeper vine that can be found growing along the trail.
The Creeper Trail is celebrated in a series of photographs by the famous photographer O. Winston Link, including “Maude Bows to the Virginia Creeper,” which juxtaposes an old way of life with the oncoming changes brought by the steam engine.
By the 1970s, many railroads were abandoned so the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy began converting old railroad beds into trail systems for hikers and bikers. After the last train ran the route in 1977, the idea for The Creeper Trail was born, and it was designated a National Recreation Trail in 1987.
The Virginia Creeper Trail Club maintains the official website for the trail.