Virginia Creeper Trail in Spring Time

Virginia Creeper Trail in Spring Time

On the beautiful, sunny Saturday of May 25, 2019, Deena Thomas and I took a spring time trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, a converted railroad bed in near Damascus, VA. The drive through Ashe County, NC, and Grayson County, VA, was probably the most beautiful road trip on which I have ever been in my life. Every few feet we saw and smelled blooming wild and cultivated flowers: purple Catawba rhododendron, white mountain laurel, orange flame azalea, red roses, blue wild irises, yellow dahlias and on and on.


I used the portion of the trip in the Jeep to stop at several access points along the trail and mark them on my GPS. The next time we go to the Creeper can follow my Garmin and spend less effort navigating from a multiple paper maps.

We parked at the Green Cove railroad station which is now operated as a museum, store and snack shop. The yard was full of mountain bikers of all sizes and ages. This trip was Deena’s first bike ride on ground other than level. Fortunately the trail does not have any sharp uphills and downhills, but everywhere it is undulating at one pitch or the other. The temperature was about perfect in the mid-70’s. Most of the trail is shaded in the summer, so we had little direct sunlight and no problem with sunburn. Except, that is, for my left elbow which stuck out the car window on our drive and got too red.

We pedaled from Green Cove nearly continuously uphill to the Whitetop train station, which is at the top of the mountain and the end of the trail. There we shared one of the picnic shelters with several other families and ate a fresh, healthy lunch prepared by Deena. We had multiple wonderful conversations with the other picnickers, who were as happy to talk as we were.

That afternoon we coasted back down the trail to our Jeep parked at Green Cove. The trail was not packed, but had plenty of other bikers. The vast majority of the pedalers were renting bikes and a shuttle ride from one of several bike outfitters in Damascus. They almost all rode the van to the top of the mountain and coasted back down to Damascus. They did more mileage than we did, but almost no uphill and almost no exercise. I previously found that Deena is a better pistol shot that I am. Today I learned that she is a stronger biker. Most of the uphill section she left me a hundred yards behind, and then waited for me to catch up. A wonderful time was had by all.

Deena’s addition.

From the perspective of an enthusiastic cyclist with limited experience, I’ll give you my thoughts and insights on this excursion. Robert designed the route so we would have the most difficult part first, with the last part relaxing and effortless. That’s exactly how it resulted. We biked up the trail first, taking about an hour. The trail was an easy incline with a little gravel, but my cruiser bicycle with thin tires handled it well. The gears were set at 2 - 4 and I stopped when I needed a rest. It was fun and a little challenging, without being too hard to complete.

The fascinating point? There were only three other riders going UP the trail; very perplexing. The remaining riders on the trail we encountered, probably about 70 to 85, were all going downhill. I didn’t get it. What was so great about going only down that sooooo many people choose that route!?!?

I thought, after we reached the top, we would understand why they were choosing to go DOWN instead of UP. Not so. I found downhill rather mundane and completely effortless. I did not peddle at all, only worked my brakes to keep from speeding downhill, and actually did not breathe heavy or exert myself a lick. No exercise, no sweating, no rapid heartbeats - nothing to feed my soul or spirit for adventure. My conclusion is go up! It is fun, a little challenging and great exercise. You get to enjoy the scenery, which is relaxing and smells wonderful and you avoid the crowd. If you want to coast, not break a sweat and limit your exertions, skip going up and take the shuttle to the top with everyone else.

SUMMARY: Robert plans the best adventures. You get a great trip, plenty of exercise and amazing scenery without hassles. Join us and you will not regret it! Tootles.

Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.