This is the second installment in a series on cycling routes near Abingdon. The “Saltville Loop” is one of the more often ridden, middle-length cycling loops in Abingdon and Washington County. It is popular because the roads are relatively low in traffic (especially the backside of this loop) and have only a few moderate climbs. Below is a further description and directions for the ride. Click on any of these thumbnail photos to expand them.
Distance: Approximately 46 miles
Time: Approximately 3 hours @ about 15 mph
Difficulty Notes: Some moderate climbing on hills; big rollers, especially on the middle section of the first half of this route
The Saltville Loop is one of the major training routes used by the local cyclists in Abindgon. The route generally follows the valleys between Abingdon and Saltville, which is in Smyth County. Because the route generally follows the valleys, there is only one sustained climb, which is on Route 80 from the intersection with the North Fork of the Holston River back up to Old Saltworks Road.
There are some beautiful farms on Old Saltworks Road. After about 8 miles into this ride, the hill that parallels Old Saltworks Road on your right (immediately to the south of the road) that gets higher and higher is the beginning of Big Walker Mountain. Further to the east, towards Marion, Big Walker Mountain rises to almost 3500′ above sea level.
Poor Valley Road on the way back from Saltville provides excellent views of Clinch Mountain. Coming from Saltville, after about 5 miles on Poor Valley Road you will pass Big Tumbling Creek and the Clinch Mountain Wildlife Management Area, one of the largest wildlife management areas in the Commonwealth of Virginia with over 30,000 acres.
This route starts in downtown Abingdon at the Jockey Lot of the county courthouse or as an alternative may start at the Coomes Center.
- From downtown, travel on Valley Street east until it turns into Walden Road. From the Coomes Center, make a right out of the Coomes Center and travel down to Walden Road. Make a right on Walden Road.
- Travel on Walden Road until you intersect with Old Saltworks Road (also known as County Road 740). Turn left onto Old Saltworks Road.
- Travel on Old Saltworks Road until you reach the T-bone junction with Route 80. Turn left here onto Route 80.
- Travel for about 1 mile. You will approach an area of open fields. The road makes a fairly sharp left turn at this point. About 100 yards past this point there is a junction with Old Saltworks Road, aka County Road 745. There is a sign for Saltville. Turn right here to stay on Old Saltworks Road, aka 745.
- This road travels through the community of Clinchburg, and then continues into Saltville. There is another junction with Route 91. Turn left onto Route 91 which goes into Saltville. This is about a 20 mile ride at this point. Saltville is a good place to take a rest break and refuel if necessary at one of the gas stations with some water or sports drinks.
- Route 91 is Main Street. One of the first roads as you enter into Saltville is Bank Street. Make a left onto Bank Street.
- Bank Street turns into Allison Gap Road. Continue on Allison Gap Road, aka County Road 634, as it leaves town. Allison Gap Road eventually makes a junction with Poor Valley Road. Veer to the left and stay on Poor Valley Road, aka County Road 613. Poor Valley Road is a long, generally flat road that parallels the base of Clinch Mountain for about 10 miles.
- Poor Valley Road eventually junctions with Hayters Gap Road, aka Route 80. Stay to the left on Route 80 which continues parallel to Clinch Mountain (a right here would take you up the south side of Clinch Mountain, one of the largest climbs in Washington County and the subject of a future article).
- Route 80 will take you through the community of Hayters Gap—just a church, schoolhouse, and a few homes), and then goes downhill and follows Wolf Creek until you intersect with the North Fork Holston River.
- Stay on Route 80. At this point the road turns up for the only lengthy climb, about 2 miles at a consistent 4-6% gradient, until it tops out in the community of Lindell. This is the main climb on this ride.
- Stay on Route 80 as it continues through the large area of open fields you passed on the way out. You will pass the junction for County Road 745 on the way out; however, stay on Route 80. From this point, you now simply retrace your route back to Abingdon.
- You will eventually come back to the junction with Old Saltworks Road, aka County Road 740. Make a right back onto Old Saltworks Road.
- Make a right when you reach Walden Road. Take Walden Road back into Abingdon and the start of your ride.
There are several alternative ways to come back from Hayters Gap. The main cycling roads between Abingdon and Saltville, Old Saltworks Road and Poor Valley Road, are described here. These roads combined with the other connector roads described herein make for a good approximate 46 mile training ride.
Another alternative route is to do the whole route in reverse, i.e., in a clockwise fashion taking the route from Abingdon to Saltville via Poor Valley Road first and then coming back to Abingdon via Old Saltworks Road. Coming back from Saltville, a good alternative to hilly Old Saltworks Road is to leave Saltville and take Old Saltworks Road until the junction with Old Mill Road, aka County Road 750. Turn left onto Old Mill Road. Old Mill Road will take you all the way to the Town of Glade Spring, where it junctions with Hillman Highway, aka County Road 609. Turn right on Hillman Highway, and it will take you back to Main Street in Abingdon. This is a fast route. Note that Hillman Highway can have higher traffic than the other route described above.