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Virginia's finest rail-trail, the Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail occupies the bed of what was once a rugged mountain railroad between Abingdon and the Virginia-North Carolina border about a mile east of Whitetop Community. At the trail's lowest point, where it crosses South Holston Lake on a huge curving trestle, it is 2,000 feet above sea level, but, by the time it reaches Whitetop Community, it has ascended 1,600 feet, some of it at nearly 7 percent grade!
The trail began as a Native American footpath. Later it was used by European pioneers including Daniel Boone. By 1907, W.B. Mingea had constructed the Virginia Carolina Railroad from Abingdon to Damascus. In 1905 the line was extended by Hassinger Lumber Co. to Konnarock and Elkland, NC. It hauled lumber, iron ore, supplies and passengers. It got its nickname "Virginia Creeper" from the early steam locomotives as they struggled slowly up steep grades.
With about 100 trestles and bridges, sharp curves and steep grades, the Virginia Creeper was the quintessential mountain railroad. Crews faced wash-outs, rock slides and other hazards, but it was economics that sounded the line's death whistle. Having failed to turn a profit since the Great Depression, the Creeper ran its last train on March 31, 1977.
From Abingdon to Damascus, the trail right-of-way belongs to the two towns, but most of the actual land is private. While you do have the right to use the trail across their property, please respect landowners. Stay on the trail, close gates, keep dogs under control, don't frighten livestock and be friendly!
The trail between Damascus and the North Carolina border, except for a short stretch through Taylor's Valley, is administered by the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area staff.
Width: 96 inches.
Primary Surface: Gravel
Secondary Surface: None
Average Grade: 2%
Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available
Year Designated: 1985
Supporting Webpages and DocumentsDocument: USFS Trail Overview
Map: USFS Trail Map
Website: USFS Trail Details
For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.
Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area
George Washington and Jefferson National Forests
3714 Hwy. 16
Marion, VA 24354 -9700
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