See, Share, Savor, Shop and Stay
Welcome to a new series at Simply Appalachian. Each month, we’ll choose a destination ideal for family fun. We hope that the guidance you find within each piece will help you plan an entire trip. Each month, we’ll feature a spot to see, share, savor, shop and stay with your family. Happy Trails!
Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail is a former railway bed that runs for 34 miles from Abingdon, Virginia, down through the lovely town of Damascus, known as the Heart of the Virginia Creeper. It passes along the Whitetop Laurel River and up to its highest point: Whitetop Station near the North Carolina state line at Whitetop, Virginia.
The trail is open year-round for biking, hiking and horseback riding. Drive to the top of the trail and rent your bikes for a leisurely cruise down the trail. You’ll pass through the Mount Rogers National Recreation area and the highlands of Virginia, an area rich in Appalachian history and beauty.
In addition to the beautiful views along the trail, you’ll see the small picturesque towns that were built more than 200 years ago. Stop and visit the local attractions, such as:
- The Star Museum in Abingdon exhibits a treasure trove of original celebrity memorabilia, such as gowns from Jean Harlow, Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich. Museum owner Robert Weisfeld also features items from famous men including JFK, Elvis and Clint Eastwood.
- The Museum of the Middle Appalachians can teach you about the unique geology of the Appalachian region and the role it played in American history. See full-sized replicas of Ice Age mammals and highlights of the town of Saltville’s “company town” era, when salt production was king.
- Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The theatre hosts community theatre plays, traveling tour groups from around the world and the nationally syndicated show, Song of the Mountains, a showcase of the Appalachian mountain musical heritage.
- Time with your family is precious. Enjoy it as you ride bikes down the trail. Bike rentals are everywhere throughout Damascus, Whitetop and Abingdon. And the ride is easy enough for every family member, from young children to seniors.
- Thrills are almost within reach overhead on the Creeper Trail Zipline tour. It takes you through more than 3,000 feet on four separate cables. The last cable stretches for 1,000 feet and can take you as fast as 35 MPH. The course runs in and out of the forest, with fantastic views of the mountains.
- Spectacular views will delight all ages from Whitetop Mountain, at 5,520 feet above sea level. It’s the second highest mountaintop in Virginia, second only to nearby Mount Rogers. From the peak of Whitetop, you get a panoramic view of three states: Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
- A pizza at the newly renovated Quincy’s Pizza and Backyard Grill on Laurel Avenue in Damascus will satisfy any appetite. The Grill is a landmark on the Creeper Trail, a place where hikers and bikers meet for great food and a cold one after a long day on the trail.
- Try a veggie-stuffed Fattie Burgers at the latest new restaurant in Damascus called Fattie’s Diner. In addition to burgers, the casual diner is gaining recognition for its fresh-cut fries, wings and onion rings.
- If you’re in the mood for a larger meal with the family, go to Pork Bellies Southern Café, which specializes in grilled pork chops, spaghetti, chicken livers and fried catfish. You’ll find it on Douglas Drive in Damascus.
- Holston Mountain Artisans, formerly known as The Cave House Craft Shop, is on Park Street in Abingdon. There you’ll find arts and crafts with a mountain heritage theme produced by members of the local arts cooperative.
- Damascus General Store on Shady Avenue is housed in an old sock/hosiery mill and has been completely renovated and filled with goodies reminiscent of days gone by.
- The Virginia Creeper Trail Bike Shop rents bikes and even offers guided tours. Additionally, you can purchase a bike and any accessory you need at the local shop. Bring home souvenirs like a Creeper Trail T-shirt, bike helmet or gloves.
- The White Birches Inn is a bed and breakfast in historic Abingdon. The Inn offers large comfortable guest rooms and suites for you and your family, with working fireplaces in each room. You’ll have amenities like a hi-speed wireless connection and silver service gourmet breakfast in the formal dining room. Meet other guests in the common rooms to share your adventures of the day. A large outdoor area outfitted with wicker furniture and paddle fans overlooks a koi pond and waterfall.
- Virginia Creeper Lodge is a rustic facility with a variety of room options, a large deck overlooking the Trail and a huge community room for large gatherings. A massage therapist on staff offers 60- and 90-minutes massages after a long day of hiking. And the staff can provide you with fishing guides so that you and your family can take advantage of the miles of trout streams and some of the best small mouth bass fishing in the Appalachians.
- Auntie’s Cottage is a little three-bedroom house that’s a short walk from downtown Damascus and the Creeper Trail. You can get more privacy in the cottage, and it’s also pet-friendly — they even have a fenced-in yard. The proprietors offer shuttle service to and from the top of the trail.
Enjoy the Virginia Creeper Trail
This list just tips the edges of the Virginia Creeper Trail and all it has to offer. It’s about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Asheville and about three hours from Charleston, WV. The drive to the trail is beautiful no matter which direction you take.
Whether you take a weekend or an entire week to see, share, savor, shop and stay at the historic Virginia Creeper Trail, you can find activities and sights to keep you busy, stay relaxed or satisfy your curiosity.
Bike, hike or backpack the Virginia Creeper Trail. You’ll collect enough memories to last a lifetime.
Photo credits: jasonbarnette.photoshelter.com, thelincoln.org, vacreepertrail.us, jcsoutdoors.com