The Virginia Creeper is a “rails to trails” project. With the harvesting of lumber halted years ago, the old railroad tracks were removed to provide 33.4 miles of soft trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. (Combine the Creeper with The New River Trail for 160 miles of trails.) The Creeper begins on Whitetop Mountain, the 2nd highest peak in Virginia (5,520′ elevation) and extends to Abingdon, VA.
Your Creeper experience surrounds you with picturesque views, shady lanes and abundant wildlife – an opportunity too good to miss for the fly fisherman of the group who will find well-stocked trout streams winding along The Creeper. So, be sure to throw in your fishing pole.
After crossing numerous railroad trussels and many meandering streams you will find yourself in the small, quaint town of Damascus. Here is the home place for the famed Appalachian Trail Days Festival where mountain bikers and hikers gather in droves. Even for the faint of heart, mountain biking is fun on The Creeper. There is a bike shuttle available that will take you to the top of Whitetop Mountain so that you may follow the delightful 17% declining grade of the trail into the heart of Damascus.
The trail began as a Native American footpath, later, it was used by European pioneers including Daniel Boone. By 1907, W.B. Mingea had constructed the Virginia-Carolina Railroad from Abingdon to Damascus. In 1905 the line was extended by Hassinger Lumber Co. To Konnarock and Elkland NC. It hauled lumber, iron ore, supplies and passengers. It got is nickname “Virginia Creeper” from the early steam locomotives as they struggled slowly up steep mountain grades. With about 100 trestles and bridges, sharp curves and steep grade, The Virginia Creeper was the quintessential mountain railroad. Crews faced wash-outs, rock slides and other hazards, but it was economics that sounded the line’s death whistle. Having failed to turn a profit since the Great Depression, The Virginia Creeper ran its last train on March 31st, 1977.