Virginia Creeper Trail – Damascus
Elevation: 1920 ft.
The Virginia Creeper Trail stretches from Abingdon to the North Carolina border 0.3 miles east of Whitetop Station. The trail follows the course of a former railway line used to extract timber from the surrounding mountains. Open to walking, biking and horseback riding the 34.3 mile-course crosses numerous trestles and bridges as well as passes through towns and private residences. The trail from Damascus to Abingdon runs primarily through private lands for which the two towns own the right of way. The trail between Damascus and the North Carolina border runs through the Mt. Rogers national recreation area, which is public land.
Damascus Town Park, where the trail passes through Damascus, is home to several bird species that are uncommon or absent in more heavily wooded areas. These residents include house finch and chimney swift. The lower stretches of the trail follow Whitetop Laurel Creek, where great blue herons gather. The trail traverses through a diversity of habitats that make it a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. This, in addition to the rugged and picturesque scenery, has helped to solidify the Virginia Creeper Trail’s reputation as one of the most beautiful trails on the continent.
Although used for centuries by Native Americans, the trail took on its more recent look just after 1900 when the Virginia-Carolina railroad was built to link Abingdon with Damascus. By 1914 the rail line was extended to Konnarock and Elkland, North Carolina. The railway hauled passengers and supplies into and lumber and iron ore out of the mountains for over 70 years. The Creeper had failed to make a profit since the Great Depression and ran its last train on March 31, 1977. Since the demise of the railroad, efforts by volunteers as well as state and federal governments have been concentrated on developing the trail into its present state as a National Recreational Trail. In 2014, the Virginia Creeper Trail was inducted in to the Rail-to-Trail Hall of Fame.
Location: Adjacent to Damascus Town Park, located at 301 South Beaver Dam Ave., Damascus, VA 24236.
Coordinates: 36.63514, -81.79206
From I-81, take Exit #19 onto US 58 East. Follow US 58 East for 10.5 miles to Beaver Dam Ave in Damascus. Continue straight ahead to parking on the left near the red caboose.