Riding a Cannondale bike on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail: Ultimate Guide to Planning Virginia’s Best Biking Experience

Last updated May 11, 2022 | Outdoor, Virginia

I grew up in Virginia. Until very recently I had never heard of the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail.  This famous trail begins in a little quaint foodie town called Abingdon and is one of the premier rail-trails in the United States. So much so, that it was inducted in the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame due to its scenic value, amenities, excellent maintenance, and historical importance. Intrigued? Read on to find out what you need to know to bike this incredibly picturesque trail.

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Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Map + Stats 

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Map

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Map

The Virginia Creeper Bike Trail runs from Abingdon, Virginia through the town of Damascus and ends at the Whitetop Station. Once an actual train track, the trail was transformed into a recreational trail in 1989 and is 34 miles from end to end. 

Where did the name Virginia Creeper come from? It was due to the slow-moving steam engine “creeping” along the route next to the native plant, Virginia Creeper, a climbing vine that grows along the trail. 

The most popular way to enjoy the bike trail is to ride from Whitetop to Damascus and then have lunch in Damascus. 

Why? 

Because it’s all DOWNHILL. Super easy. 

Even grandma and the kids can do it if they can ride a bike. 

I thought a little peddling might be involved, which was not the case. Make sure you have a bike with good brakes because you will be trying to slow down the whole time. Kinda like tubing down a lazy river. No effort is involved. 

Don’t worry. You won’t need to walk home after your bike ride. If you rented your bike from Abingdon, they will pick you up at the red caboose in Damascus at a designated time to shuttle you back to the bike rental shop. 

Red Caboose in Damascus Virginia

If you rented your bike in Abingdon and are getting picked up in Damascus. Meet at the Red Caboose at the agreed upon time.

What if you continue your ride from Damascus to Abingdon? 

It is slightly uphill from Damascus to Abingdon. Yes, it requires some effort but is completely doable if you are moderately fit. To put this into perspective, this was the first bike ride I did in over a year, and I did fine. 

If you are crazy fit and the Lance Armstrong type, then by all the means do the trail in the opposite direction (Abingdon to Whitetop). More power to you if you can do it and double points if you can do it roundtrip. 

WHITETOP TO DAMASCUS 

  • Total biking distance: 17 miles
  • Total time: 2 hr. 15 min. 

* We stopped a few times for photos. If you stop more frequently, estimate 2.5 – 3 hrs.

DAMASCUS TO ABINGDON 

  • Total biking distance: 17 miles
  • Total time: 2 hr. 30 min. 

WHITETOP TO ABINGDON

  • Total biking distance: 34 miles 
  • Total time: 4 hr. 45 min. + 30 min. for lunch = 5 hr. 15 min. 

Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Rentals

BIKE RENTAL LOCATIONS 

You have 2 options where to rent bikes from: Damascus or Abingdon. 

We stayed near Abingdon and rented from the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, the only bike shop in Abingdon. Book early! We reserved a few weeks in advance since we were biking the trail on a holiday weekend. 

FYI, the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop does not have an online booking system. They are old school and took our information over the phone. We crossed our fingers, but it all worked out. The service was very friendly. Highly recommend them! 

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Shop in Abingdon Virginia

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Shop in Abingdon, Virginia

If you rent in Damascus, you have plenty of options. 7 to be exact. 

Here is a list of all the bike rental shops.

BIKE OPTIONS: COMFORT VS. MOUNTAIN BIKE

The Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop had a great selection of comfort bikes, mountain bikes, and kid bikes. We rented comfort bikes, which were in excellent condition. I was given a Cannondale, and my husband received a Marin. Both are very reputable name brands. 

The Cannondale bike I rented for the Virginia Creeper Trail

The Cannondale bike I rented for the Virginia Creeper Trail 

PRO TIP: Get to the bike shop early! They recommend getting there 30 minutes before your reservation time. You are fitted for your bike when you arrive, first come first serve. 

BIKE RENTAL COSTS 

  • Comfort bike + shuttle fee: $43 + tax
  • Mountain bike + shuttle fee: $38 + tax
  • Shuttle fee only: $25 pp (you can bring your own bike and use their shuttle service) 

I would strongly recommend renting a comfort bike. You will be grateful for the padded seat 20 miles in. 

HOW THE BIKE SHUTTLE WORKS 

We parked our car at the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop. After paying for the rentals and getting fitted for our bikes, we hung around outside until everyone was ready. 

There were quite a few people who booked our same reservation time. Not to worry. The bike shop has multiple vans and specially designed trailers to accommodate you and your bike. 

We left around 9:30 am, drove an hour, and were on the trail by 10:30 am. 

Bike shuttle at Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop in Abingdon Virginia

Bike shuttle at Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop in Abingdon, Virginia

Our Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Experience

SECTION 1: WHITETOP TO DAMASCUS

If you know anything about me, I hate crowds.

Especially when doing outdoor activities like snorkeling or biking. So I was a little worried when they dumped off our large group at the start of the trail at Whitetop. I was thinking oh great, we are all going to bunch up and it’s going to take forever to get down this trail. 

I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong! Everyone left at slightly different times and spread out nicely. Especially in the beginning, the key is NOT stopping at every scenic point and cafe, which most people do. If you do, you will be on top of each other. 

We skipped the first few scenic points, and then took our time on the rest of the bike trail. It was great and incredibly relaxing! 

The Whitetop Station is the starting point, which is located in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Mount Rogers has the highest summit in Virginia, with an elevation of 5,729’. 

Whitetop station on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Starting Point: Whitetop station on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

You are up there! Whitetop Station is at an elevation of 3500.’ By the time you ride down to Damascus, you will be at 1900.’ Don’t worry though, remember it’s all downhill from Whitetop to Damascus. If grandma can do it, you can do it! 

This stretch of the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail is gorgeous! The path is mostly crushed cinders, gravel, and dirt. You will be riding along cold mountain streams and babbling creeks and through dense forests.

Remember, the trail is not only used for bikers. Hikers, horseback riders, and fishermen also use the trail. In fact, Whitetop Laurel Creek, which runs right next to the trail is one of Virginia’s largest wild trout streams.  

One thing to note is the bike trail around Whitetop is very rough and bumpy, so don’t go flying down or you will spin out. Always be safe and use common sense. 

PRO TIP: There is a noticeable temperature difference between where you start (Whitetop) and where you end (Damascus or Abingdon depending on your route). We went early summer, and my hands were freezing as I tried to keep my fingers on the brake the whole time for the downhill ride. 

About 10 minutes in, we passed a sign that selling gloves and hot chocolate. I was tempted, but since there were a million bikes parked at that first rest stop we pressed on. Not worth the crowds. 

Be smart and bring gloves! You’re welcome. 

There are a lot of really cool bridges you will bike across during that first stretch on the trail. My favorites were at mile marker 18 and 17, which is right at Damascus. 

Bridge at mile marker 18 on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Bridge at mile marker 18 on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Canyon Trail

Virginia Creeper Trail Bridge Mile Marker 18

Virginia Creeper Trail Bridge Mile Marker 18

Bridge at Mile Marker 17 on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Bridge at Mile Marker 17 on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail (bridge lights up at night according to the Instagram photos)

By the way, there is NO cell reception from Whitetop to Damascus. Make sure your bike is in good working condition BEFORE your bike shuttle leaves. 

SECTION 2: DAMASCUS TO ABINGDON 

The second stretch of the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail runs from Damascus to Abingdon. Instead of dense forests and gurgling streams, the scenery becomes more open. Think rolling farmland and cow pastures. 

Biking across farmland on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to Abingdon

Biking across farmland on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to Abingdon

One of my favorite bridges was in this section (mile marker 8.1), where it crosses over South Holston Lake. By the way, you will pass over 47 trestles and bridges to be exact from Whitetop to Abingdon. 

Biking on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to Abingdon

Biking across one of the most scenic bridges on the Virginia Creeper Trail from Damascus to Abingdon

Another fun stop is Alvarado Station, which is located right next to the river. Enjoy a snack and the view of the river while swinging on the porch swings. 

Old Alvarado Station at the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Old Alvarado Station at the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Alvarado Station on the Virginia Creeper Trail

Alvarado Station on the Virginia Creeper Trail

We actually stayed at a beautiful Airbnb right at Alvarado Station. It was awesome to be able to bike right to your accommodation, have a quick bathroom break, and chow down on a quick snack (like a leftover eclair from Anthony’s Desserts that you picked up the night before … don’t judge). More on our Airbnb later! 

Eating an eclair from Anthony's Desserts

Eating an eclair from Anthony’s Desserts while on the Virginia Creeper Trail  

Another popular pit stop on this section of the trail is to grab a glass of wine at Abingdon Vineyards. It’s a little bit off the path (0.8 miles/5 minute ride). Check to see if there are any main events beforehand. We were going to go there later in our trip but due to a popular band, they were packed! Forget parking, so we cut our losses and decided maybe next time.  

We felt quite accomplished rolling into the town of Abingdon 34 miles later. Truly a fantastic day!

Biking along the Virginia Creeper Trail

Biking along the Virginia Creeper Trail

Bathrooms Stops on the Bike Trail 

WHITETOP STATION 

After having a coffee and driving to Whitetop for 1 hour, we were thankful for the restroom at the depot before we started the long bike ride. 

DAMASCUS

Grab a hot drink and snack at one of the local cafes and take advantage of their bathroom. 

ALVARADO STATION 

We didn’t use this restroom since we made a pit stop at our Airbnb right next door. 

ABINGDON

There are plenty of little restaurants and cafes to stop in. Alternately, the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop has a restroom. 

Where to Eat Along the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail 

DAMASCUS

Know as “Trail Town, USA,” this is a great little town to stop and get a bite. The town holds an annual festival in May called “Trail Days’ to celebrate the achievements of the Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers. 

The trail actually passes right through Damascus and does intersect the Virginia Creeper Trail at a few spots. We definitely saw several AT hikers as we biked along. Cool fact – Virginia has more miles of the Appalachian Trail than any other state. 

We saw several murals depicting the famous Appalachian Trail as we walked around the town. 

Appalachian Trail Mural in Damascus, Virginia

Appalachian Trail Mural in Damascus, Virginia

Mojo’s Trailside Cafe

Out of the three options, this cafe was the most highly rated on yelp (4.5/5). They offer breakfast and lunch sandwiches and wraps. I love that they serve breakfast all day! 

Mojos Trailside Cafe in Damascus Virginia

Mojos Trailside Cafe in Damascus, Virginia

I happily replenished my calories with an egg cheddar sandwich on an English muffin and washed it down with a hot Chai latte. My husband got the breakfast burrito. All solid choices. Flavorful. Hot. Great pit stop. 

Egg cheddar sandwich on an English muffin at Mojo's Trailside Cafe in Damascus Virginia

Egg cheddar sandwich on an English muffin at Mojo’s Trailside Cafe

Wicked Chicken 

Wings, burgers, sandwiches. We did not eat here. Check the reviews to see what you think. 

7 Trails Grill 

Pizza, burgers, salads. Big open air deck. We did not eat here, but there are solid reviews. 

Damascus Diner

Another solid well-liked choice by yelp reviewers. Our bike shuttle driver actually recommended this diner. Good country cooking Southern classics are offered like gravy biscuits, chicken friend chicken, meatloaf, collards, and Mac ’n cheese. Alot of sandwiches and salads to choose from as well. 

ABINGDON

Endless options. Abingdon was rated by USA Today as having the Best Small Town Food Scene. We can personally vouch for the following: 

 128 Pecan 

Located right next to the Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop, this cute friendly casual restaurant serves up some great flavorful food. We started off with a Southern classic, fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. 

Fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese at 128 Pecan in Abingdon Virginia

Fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese at 128 Pecan in Abingdon, Virginia

The older I get, the more I love the taste of pimento cheese and want to put it on everything. Even when we dined at the acclaimed 3-star Michelin restaurant, The Inn at Little Washington, their Amuse-Bouche was a rolled potato chip filled with pimento cheese and chives. Yum. 

For the main dish, I had the chili rubbed salmon, which was bursting with flavor. A side of cheddar grits was the perfect accompaniment. 

Chili rubbed salmon with cheddar grits at 128 Pecan in Abingdon Virginia

Chili rubbed salmon with cheddar grits at 128 Pecan in Abingdon, Virginia

The Girl & The Raven

My favorite restaurant in Abingdon by far! I would have eaten here every day. They do close on Sundays, so if you are visiting for the weekend plan accordingly. 

Their breakfast sandwich, The Big Pimp, which is simply a biscuit + egg + pimento cheese is incredible! I could have eaten one every single day. I told you I love pimento cheese! Order one and be in foodie heaven. 

The Big Pimp Egg Breakfast Sandwich with Pimento Cheese at The Girl and The Raven in Abingdon Virginia

The Big Pimp breakfast sandwich at The Girl & The Raven in Abingdon

 

This amazing restaurant is also serious about coffee and makes a great cappuccino. I also really enjoyed the matcha latte. 

Matcha latte at The Girl and The Raven in Abingdon Virginia

Matcha latte at The Girl & The Raven

They also now offer tapas-style plates in the evening and craft cocktails. Next time. 

The Girl and the Raven Cafe in Abingdon Virginia

The Girl & The Raven Cafe in Abingdon, Virginia

The cool artwork for The Girl & The Raven logo is due to the super talented artist Craig Kosak. Craig was actually the first web designer at Microsoft. 

Greeko’s Grill & Cafe 

I am a sucker for a lamb gyro. The one I ordered had perfectly seasoned, thinly-sliced lamb served on fresh warm pita bread.

Lamb gyro at Greek’s Grill & Cafe in Abingdon Virginia

Lamb gyro at Greeko’s Grill & Cafe 

I had to pair it with something healthy, so I also had the spinach cranberry salad. It was drizzled in Blood orange-infused olive oil and cranberry pear balsamic vinegar from the local Abingdon Olive Oil Company, which is located right in the town. Delicious.

Spinach cranberry salad with Blood orange-infused olive oil and cranberry pear balsamic vinegar at Greeko’s Grill & Cafe

Spinach cranberry salad with Blood orange-infused olive oil and cranberry pear balsamic vinegar

Where to Stay Near the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail 

OLD ALVARADO STATION AIRBNB

Of course, I am going to be biased because we stayed here, but we loved this Airbnb. I would highly consider this option if you are biking the Virginia Creeper Trail. 

Why?

Location 

It’s located RIGHT OFF the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail. You will literally bike right past it on your way to Abingdon. Perfect if you need to use the restroom while on the trail and want to avoid public restrooms. Also, it was nice to grab a snack and a quick drink before heading back on the trail. 

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb off the Virginia Creeper Trail

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb off the Virginia Creeper Trail

Historic Charm 

The Old Alvarado Station used to be a train depot. Then it served as a country store/deli. Now it has been completely renovated into an Airbnb. We loved the fresh, farmhouse-chic, modern aesthetic with all the “bike accessories” sprinkled throughout. The bathroom had plenty of fluffy soft towels (no skimping here), and the shower was nice and hot. 

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb Bedroom

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb Bedroom

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb Bathroom

Old Alvarado Station Airbnb Bathroom

Bicycle accessories at Old Alvarado Station Airbnb

Bicycle accessories at Old Alvarado Station Airbnb

Next to Abingdon Vineyard

It’s a 2-minute drive, 4-minute bike ride, or 11-minute walk from the Airbnb to the winery. No designated walking/bike path, so be careful around the cars.

We didn’t have the chance to check it out. From the looks of the packed parking lot when we drove by one evening, this is the place to be! They bring in local bands and food trucks on certain nights of the week. It seems like a cool place to hang out. Check their schedule here.

MARTHA WASHINGTON INN & SPA

This historic hotel is located right in downtown Abingdon. It was once a private residence and then a women’s college before it opened as a hotel. Expect an elegant and stately feel. There are lots of amenities including an indoor pool, gym, tennis courts, and bicycles. 

A TAILOR’S LODGING

This was the third accommodation option we considered. The original owners were tailors, so this theme is carried throughout the decor of the property. It’s a small property (only 3 bedrooms!), so they book up in advance. This hotel has a great location in the heart of the Historic District in Abingdon. 

Top Tips & What to Bring

Z

Prepare for a noticeable temperature difference at Whitetop. Depending on the time of year, strongly advise bringing gloves. 

Z

Bring a CamelBak instead of a water bottle since this will be a long ride if you do all 34 miles.

Z

Strongly advise wearing padded bike shorts. Yes, it feels like you are wearing a diaper, but this will ease the pain a little for those 34 miles. 

Z

Choose a comfort bike over a mountain bike. If available, pay the small cost to get the extra padded bike seat.  

Z

If you need breathing room, try to not stop at the first few stops. It seems like everyone pulls off together at the beginning, which causes people to bunch up. 

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Scout out your lunch choices in Damascus ahead of time. This will save you time. 

Z

Consider a GoPro if you want to record the experience. I purchased a bike attachment for my GoPro, which made it easy to operate during my bike ride. 

Z

Before your bike ride, grab a power snack at the natural health food store, Blue Hills Market. It is located across the street from the bike rental shop in Abingdon. We purchased little squares made from spirulina, sunflower seeds, honey, carob powder, sesame seeds, rice, flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey, salt, apricots, pumpkin seeds, and cashews. Great energy boost. 

Using the GoPro and Bike Mount Accessories while on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail

Using my GoPro on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail 

Eating carob with spirulina squares on the Virginia Creeper Trail

Eating carob with spirulina squares on the Virginia Creeper Trail

Final Thoughts on the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail 

My husband and I have done some pretty incredible bike rides including the Otago Central Rail Trail and the Tasman’s Great Taste Trail in New Zealand. I would put the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail right up there with that list! It’s an incredibly scenic, relaxing, easy-going ride with lots of lovely little stops to check out along the way. 

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Mile Marker 10

Virginia Creeper Bike Trail Mile Marker 10

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