Guest Post By Allyson:
If you are looking for an amazing bike ride for your family (and an easy ride for young riders), look no further than Damascus, Virginia. The Virginia Creeper travels along an old railway line that was converted “from rail to trail” and is now home to a popular bike trail.
There are several shuttle services in Damascus that can transport you to the top of White Top Station—about a 25 minute van ride. Our favorite we have used for the 8 years we have visited is The Bike Station. $15 per adult and $10 per child. There are plenty of bikes and carriers to rent in town at any of these shuttle services or you can bring your own!
We have always started in Damascus, usually staying at one of the many quaint Bed & Breakfasts in the small town. The Appalachian Trail runs through the town of Damascus, so hikers take advantage of a hot meal, bed, and shower. We usually share a Bed & Breakfast with a thru hiker!
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My husband and I began riding the Virginia Creeper before having children. And we couldn’t wait to ride with our kids! We even took our 7-week-old in a carseat (with plenty of head support!) strapped to a bicycle carrier. Ha! Start ’em young!
Our 3rd trip was with 3 other couples after staying at a Bed & Breakfast in Damascus. (Such a fun option—go with friends/family!) Also with our little one in a carrier. But we forgot a part to our carrier!!! Never fear—we called the shuttle service to send up a carrier for us to rent and we only had to wait on the next group to come up. Whew! They are all SO helpful and kind.
Our 4th trip was with our 2 children, carrier behind, after staying at Hungry Mother Campground. Another great option for a place to stay if a Bed & Breakfast isn’t for you.
Our most recent trip, our 5th trip, was my favorite experience yet because we now have big kids that can ride their own bikes! We camped at Grayson Highlands State Park which is about a 25 minute drive to White Top Station. So we had a shuttle set up for that afternoon to bring us back to the top once we reached the bottom—completely opposite than we have always done! The first shuttles start at 8:30 a.m., which means if you get to White Top before 9:00 a.m., you will beat everyone on the trail! That’s exactly what we did and it was amazing!
There is a Visitor’s Center with nice restrooms (don’t stop at the pit toilets right by the parking lot!!!) at the beginning of the trail. The Visitor’s Center has the history of the train that is now the 17 mile bike ride into Damascus. With 2 kiddos (8 and 6) biking and a 3-year-old in a carrier, we made it down in 3 hours and we took breaks and documented with plenty of pictures. The beginning of the trail is nice and smooth. The end does get a little bumpy but overall the slight downhill and hardly a need for pedaling makes it ideal for young bikers!
The trail goes in and out of the Mt. Rogers Recreational Area and Jefferson National Forest. So there are a few stretches where there are food options on the trail to stop for snacks or lunch. Those can get crowded on a busy day, so biking all the way into Damascus will give you more options for food, starting with In the Country on the right as you get into town. Lunch and ice cream—win win! (P.S.Their chicken salad is DELICIOUS!)
If you have time, it’s a nice ride through the town of Damascus if you stay on the bike path. You can bike all the way to Abingdon if you wish, but that will be all uphill!
Here are a few extra tips:
- Be prepared. Because it is such a long ride, the weather can change from when you start to when you finish! One trip we got caught in a downpour. The few stops along the way have ponchos (overpriced of course!) available. When they run out, you can always buy trashbags!!
- Pack a backpack with water, snacks, and ponchos/rain jackets. Food options are available at the end of the trail but nothing toward the beginning! And you are without cell service for most of the ride through the National Forest.
- Find the best bike option for your kids. Would your little ones do best in a pull behind carrier? Tandem? WeeRide (pictured below) type seat on the bike? It’s a good idea to test these options before you ride for 3 hours if possible! It would be a long way down with a crying kiddo! Calling the Shuttle Services to see what kid-friendly options are available if you don’t own these is a good idea, too.
I can’t wait for you to experience this beautiful part of the country! Put it on your “Must Do” list with your family. And if you have time, visit Grayson Highlands State Park to see the Wild Horses while you’re in the area!
What are your family’s favorite bike trails?
Allyson is a busy mom of 3 adorable kiddos (featured in a lot of these photographs!) She is pretty much Pinterest come to life, except even better. She can throw together an educational game, themed outfit, science experiment, and exciting game to entertain 20 kids using only the items found in a small box. In all seriousness, she’s pretty amazing and one of my role models!