December 1, 2014
There are 47 trestles in the 34 mile trail. So you are always crossing bridges (or so it seems). The trail runs from Abingdon, VA to Whitetop, VA with Damascus being approximately the halfway point. The longer taller trestles are between Abingdon and Damascus and there are 16 of them. However the scenery is much better from Damascus to Whitetop with another 31 smaller trestles (except for one big one near Whitetop). There is no single track in the entire length of trail. Nonetheless, the ride was well worth our 7 hour drive.
The trail tread is cinder and rides much like crushed limestone. It can be ridden with almost any bike. We had full suspension mountain bikes, but that's just what we own. A hard tail would have probably been more efficient. We saw hybrids on the trail. The trail is not difficult. We rode uphill to Whitetop in 6 inches of snow. Coming back down took more concentration due to the ruts and footprints in the snow washing out the front tire. I'm sure it's easy in the summer when it's dry. The downhill was well worth cranking up it.
Beginner riders should take a shuttle from Damascus to Whitetop then coast back down. For anyone who rides more than once per week with moderate effort should ride the whole trail. We stayed in Damascus, rode to Abingdon and back, stayed the night, and rode to Whitetop and back the next day. Since this was our first ride on this trail, that worked out great because we stopped to take photos so often. It would have made for a very long day if we tried to ride it all (out and back both ways, 68mi) in one day. Now that we have seen it all, we will ride the whole thing in one day the next time. We will probably still stay in Damascus. We found a nice place called Old Mill Inn with clean rooms and a good restaurant. It's real close to the trail and makes for a good "home base" to pick up supplies and eat lunch. It's only a 30 mile round trip to Abingdon and back. Eat lunch at the Old Mill Inn, head on to Whitetop, then return back "home" to Damascus. The return is all downhill. Note: we did not see any sources of water. They were many closed restaurants and bike shops. The only place for water we found in November was Damascus Old Mill Inn and 128 Pecan on Abingdon. I assume there are more during the summer.
C&O Canal Towpath