Simply put, riding a bike is a smile-inducing escape from the stress of everyday life. And no matter how you like to ride, Southwest Virginia is filled with a wide variety of options to put a smile on your face. The centrally located Abingdon, Virginia, is the logical hub in this region to launch your two-wheel adventure. It’s close to several major bike trails, and offers bike rentals and outfitters, hotels and bed & breakfast spots, downtown shops and restaurants, and post-ride entertainment options to make for a fine cycling getaway. Here are eight of the best biking routes in the region to get you acquainted with the near endless cycling possibilities found here, whether you’re looking for mountain biking trails, a road ride or a mixed-use bike path.
1. Iron Mountain Trail
Distance from Abingdon: 14 miles
Mileage: Approximately 24 miles one way
The Iron Mountain Trail is an amazing backcountry ridge trail that, when shuttled one way from Hurricane Mountain to the trail town of Damascus, makes for more than 20 miles of technical downhill-trending singletrack. Big oak forests, rocky and root-laden technical sections, au-natural berms, scenic vistas, and even a few rollers make this one of the best mountain bike trails in the entire state. You’ll also find a lot of options for loops using various other trails and forest service roads found in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.
2. Seven Sisters Trail
Distance from Abingdon: 65 miles
Mileage: 5.5 miles
The Seven Sisters Trail is a well-guarded secret among local mountain bike aficionados. Although there are lots of options in the area for creating big loops using forest service roads, jeep tracks, and some pavement to tie into Seven Sisters; the real prize of the area is the 5.5-mile trail named for the seven mini peaks that one will ride up and down along the ridge. Expect steep, punchy climbs that sometimes test your ability to get traction, coupled with just as steep and feverishly fast descents split up by backcountry flow sections that separate the peaks.
3. Crystal Springs Recreation Area
Distance from Abingdon: 59 miles
Mileage: 13 miles of trails
The Crystal Springs Recreation Area, located in Wytheville, Virginia, is a relatively new town-owned park that caters to mountain bikers. Along with its stellar trail portfolio, the park features a bike wash station and plenty of spots for a post-ride picnic. The trails run the full gamut from very technical riding found on the Boundary Trail and the High Rocks Spur Trail to easier riding found on the Crystal Springs Loop Trail and various other spur trails. There’s a little bit of everything out here—rocks, rhodo-tunnels, creek crossings, technical rooty sections, and loamy dirt sections.
4. Heart of Appalachia Bike Trail
Distance from Abingdon: 39 miles
Mileage: 128 miles
The Heart of Appalachia Bike Trail is a bike tour through some of the most amazing scenery found in Southwest Virginia. Along the way cyclists need to be prepared for a bit of everything including back roads, rail-trails, gravel roads, and singletrack. Riders will cross over scenic rivers, through Jefferson National Forest, by countless tracts of mountain valley farmland and even over a swinging bridge. There are ample spots to resupply and even make a mid-ride pub stop. Camping or lodging is available along the route if one wants to break this up into two days. It is truly a tour-de-force of the best of the region and widely praised as a must-do adventure tour by many cyclists in the state.
5. Virginia Creeper Trail
Distance from Abingdon: 0 miles
Mileage: 34 miles
The Virginia Creeper Trail is considered one of the best rail-trail bike routes in the entire nation, and for good reason. The trail is extremely beginner friendly and with the abundance of resupply points, outfitter shuttle services, and post-ride dinner options, it has become a favorite vacation of many families and recreational cyclists. Along the way, riders will have their senses dazzled by the beautiful pastoral farmlands, the rolling Appalachian hills in the distance, and the hum of the beautiful White Top Laurel Creek. Many cyclists will take a shuttle to the end of the trail at Whitetop Station and take the mostly downhill route back to the pick up point.
6. New River Trail
Distance from Abingdon: Approximately 80 miles
Mileage: 57 miles
The New River Trail is located within the linear New River State Park. It is a classic rails-to-trails bike path that parallels the New River for most of the trail. Like the Virginia Creeper Trail, this ride is a good option for family outings and recreational riders. Along the way bikers will cross many bridges and a couple of tunnels. Access points are easy to find, and there are options for primitive camping along the trail for those that are interested in an overnight adventure.
7. Burkes Garden Century
Distance from Abingdon: 62 miles
The Burkes Garden Century is an actual event that is put on by the New River Valley Bicycle Association each August, but many cyclists ride this route on their own. The route is notoriously novice-friendly for folks seeking out their first century. Expect gentle grades for most of the ride with the exception of moderately steep climbs and descents in Burkes Garden. Along the way, riders will get long-range views of rolling farmlands and be pleasantly surprised by the interesting topography found in the crater like valley of Burkes Garden.
8. Big Walker National Scenic Byway Ride
Distance from Abingdon: 55 miles
Mileage: Approximately 50 miles
The Big Walker National Scenic Byway ride uses Jefferson National Forest, the Stony Fork Recreation area, and both Little Walker and Big Walker Mountains. Expect a fair amount of rollers climbing up from Stony Fork to Little Walker and then a tough climb up onto Big Walker. At the top of Big Walker Mountain there is a general store with great food and an old observation tower that is worth climbing up to soak up the 360 degree views of the region. The descent off Big Walker Mountain is fast and twisty making for a riotous good time.
Written by Joe DeGaetano for RootsRated in partnership with Abingdon.
Featured image provided by Joe DeGaetano