(WJHL) — Virginia’s 34.3-mile-long Creeper Trail winds through Abingdon and extends through Damascus all the way to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area at the Virginia and North Carolina border.

The trail attracts nature enthusiasts, cyclists, runners and walkers alike with its scenic features and dozens of trestles and bridges.

The Creeper Trail is owned by three entities: Abingdon, Damascus and the U.S. Forest Service. Other entities like the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy also assist in upkeeping the trails. News Channel 11 spoke with the conservancy’s executive director, Lisa Quigley, who said safety is the first priority on the trail.

While the pathway remains on a slight decline from Washington County, there are parts that pose more safety threats than others, Quigley said.

“With its more dramatic elevation change and incomparable beauty, the 18-mile section from Damascus to Whitetop is the most popular section of the trail,” Quigley said in a written statement to News Channel 11. “We generally see more trail accidents along this section due to the elevation change and the potential of faster downhill speeds. And many, if not most, of these accidents occur because of distraction.”

Quigley also pointed out that trestle ends, ruts and uneven trail surfaces are susceptible to damage from flooding. Cyclists should remain alert in these areas and decrease speeds to avoid crashing.

Another concern for trail users includes a factor that may not be the first to come to mind: horses. The trail also allows horseback riding, and trail goers are encouraged to be mindful of those using the Creeper Trail for different reasons.

“…Bikes frighten horses, and excessive speeds around a horse and a rider is a very dangerous situation,” Quigley said. “The trail runs two ways, so cyclists, in particular, should be on the lookout for others headed in the opposite direction and unfortunately, at times on the same side.”

The Creeper Trail sees the most traffic in October and early November, so Quigley listed important safety tips so everyone can enjoy the trail.

  • Always call out when passing. This can be done verbally or by ringing a bell
  • Do not ride multiple bikes abreast. The trail runs both ways
  • Pack smart. There can be a 10-20 degree difference between the lower section of the trail and the first 10 miles headed down from Whitetop
  • Be cautious when crossing trestles if they’re covered with wet or damp leaves
  • Avoid stopping in the middle of the trail
  • Equestrians are required to dismount when crossing trestles
  • All trail users are required to stop at all vehicular intersections

“The Creeper Trail is a multi-use recreational trail accessible to just about anyone, with 47 trestles, and the most incredible scenery to be found anywhere but, like all outdoor recreational venues, the user should respect the inherent risks and recreate accordingly,” Quigley said.