The Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the best rail-trail bike experiences in the U.S., spans 34 miles from Abingdon to Whitetop Mountain and I had the chance to bike the lower section of it on my October press trip.
The best reason to bike the lower section is that it’s the most scenic part. You can see out to White Top Mountain and the rolling hills of the Appalachians.
After getting fitted for bikes and helmets at a nearby bike shop, we pedaled over to Mile Marker Zero at the Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center. Here, visitors can use the restroom, get maps, water, merch and see the “Old Mollie”, a fully restored steam engine.
The scenery on the lower segment of the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail is stunning from the jump, especially in the fall with the changing colors. Riding over the crackling leaves and smelling that distinctly fall scent in the air is blissful.
The vista changes from wide-open farmland pastures to tree-shaded forests to curving railroad trestles and whispering creek beds. It’s a true feast for the senses.
The trail is mostly level and you’ll be able to coast regularly, but there are a few sections where you need to push those pedals a bit more. To be fair, there was something wrong with my bike (it continuously slipped gears on its own) so I’m pretty sure I exerted far more energy than I would have on a fully tuned-up bicycle. (The silver lining was that I lost 3 pounds that week.)
There’s no rule that says you have to bike without stopping though, so we stopped often, to rest and drink water and to admire the scenery and take photos.
The trail passes through private property but as long as you stay on the trail, you’re not trespassing. As you ride through the farms, you’ll notice lots of grazing cattle and there are several cattle gates that you’ll need to stop, open, and close securely behind you.
At one point we came upon the “Unlawful”, a cabin right alongside the bike trail. Locals gave it the nickname because somehow the property line of the cabin is identical to the cabin walls so everything outside the walls (porch, steps, and landscaping) is separate property owned by someone else. How crazy is that?!
Much of the trail’s scenic beauty is in the wide-open spaces, but it’s quite lovely under the canopy of leaves in the forest as well.
Keep your eyes open for the Virginia Creeper vine snaking across some of the trestles. The Virginia Creeper Trail gets its name partly because of this plant but mostly due to the fact the trains crept up the mountain.
We crossed twelve trestles on our journey and Trestle #12 had an especially memorable view as it spanned the South Holston River.
There are a total of 47 trestles across the entire Virginia Creeper Trail.
If you stop at Alvarado Station, as we did, you’ll have biked 8.4 miles from Abingdon. It’s an idyllic place to stop and have a little picnic.
Or you can bike over to nearby Abingdon Vineyards for a wine tasting while you relax your legs and enjoy the creekside view.
There are lots of tables spread out across the property so it’s easy to stay socially distanced.
Abingdon Vineyards is also very pet-friendly. You’ll almost always see happy dogs playing but you may encounter horses too. We did!
It’s also fairy friendly; the kids will love this cute little fairy door.
The current owners are from California and have put a fresh, inventive Napa-style spin on Virginia wine and the results are delicious.
Visit the Abingdon Vineyards website for hours and info on all the fun events (live music, cooking classes, bloody Mary brunches, wine club parties, book club, a holiday wreath workshop and more). There’s always something merry being planned.
More Virginia Creeper Bike Trail fun:
Next time, bike the popular Whitetop Mountain to Damascus trail ride. It’s a nice, easy downhill ride the whole way—fabulous for families and beginners—but it can get quite crowded, especially on weekends.
For help in planning a trip to the area, visit the Abingdon CVB website at visitabingdonvirginia.com.