Distance: 17 miles
Time: Approximately 1 hour, 10 minutes @ 15 mph
Difficulty Notes: Moderate climbing on hills
This will be the first installment of numerous cycling route reports from Abingdon, Virginia and the surrounding areas. Maiden Creek Loop is one of the shorter loop road bike rides available from Abingdon. It is approximately 17 miles in length over rolling roads with a few small climbs. It generally has low vehicular traffic.
Most of the routes I shall describe in the following installments are loop rides, that is, rides where the route is a circular or square loop trip of some sort with minimal doubling back on the same roads. I prefer loop rides because the scenery during the ride is fresh during the entire ride. In addition, there is a certain sense of satisfaction in completing a journey (or approaching the completion of a journey) with a loop trip that is different than in doing an out-and-back trip, regardless of the distance.
The Maiden Creek loop starts in downtown Abingdon. For reference, most the rides I will report start in downtown Abingdon. Perhaps the best reference spot is the so-called Washington County Courthouse “Jockey Lot,” the parking area immediately behind the courthouse at the intersection of Court Street and Valley Street. This has traditionally been a meeting spot and point of reference in Abingdon going back well over 100 years.
The ride begins on Valley Street going east. The first left down Valley Street is Whites Mill Road. Take this left onto Whites Mill Road. This road is flat and then gently ascends until the intersection with Chip Ridge Road. Stay on Whites Mill Road. From here, Whites Mill descends rapidly, all the way to Whites Mill, an historic mill about three miles from Abingdon. The initial descent on Whites Mill from Chip Ridge is significant. I have accelerated to almost 50 mph on this descent, and speeds in excess of 42 mph are easily obtainable without pedaling. You will pass farmland and pasture on your left. As you descend Whites Mill there are also excellent views through the hills of Clinch Mountain in the distance directly in front of you.
At the mill the road veers to the right and intersects with Rich Valley Road. Take a right on Rich Valley Road. This is a rolling road that generally travels east along the valley floor between two ridges. Note that to your left (looking north) you can catch additional glimpses of Clinch Mountain in the distance. After approximately 5 miles, you will intersect with Maiden Creek Road.
Take a right onto Maiden Creek Road, which ascends following Maiden Creek to the right as you go uphill. The road here is not in the best condition but is fine for a road bike. Note there are numerous little riffles and small waterfalls to your right as you ascend. The creek’s flow varies and is sensitive to rainfall as it mostly runoff from the hills at the top of the road, yet at times the little falls are quite pretty. At the top of the initial climb, about two-third the way up the road, there is a little descent and then a false flat that gradually ascends to end at the intersection with Old Saltworks Road.
Make a right at Old Saltworks Road. Old Saltworks continues to ascend for about a half mile, and then mostly descends until the intersection with Walden Road. Make a right on Walden Road, this road ascends for about two miles and then descends until it rolls back into the town limits of Abingdon. Continue on this road, which eventually turns into Valley Street. Continue on Valley Street until you are back at the courthouse.
Maiden Creek loop can be completed in approximately 1 hour, ten minutes at a pace of about 15 miles per hour. At 15 mph the workout should be a moderate one, but is not “noodling” by any standard. The rolling nature of this course, like many in Southwest Virginia, will result is slightly slower times than what you would expect in flatter sections of the country. This route as set forth above has the advantage of all right turns, so there are no turns crossing traffic. Traffic on this route is usually low, with the most traffic within a mile or two of town and on the section of Old Saltworks Road. There are times you may encounter less than a half-dozen vehicles on this loop (excluding traffic in the town limits of Abingdon). There are occasionally farm tractors on this loop, particularly on Rich Valley Road.
An alternative end of this route is instead of taking a right onto Walden Road, continue on Old Saltworks Road until it ends at Hillman Highway. Make a right at the junction. There is a steep little climb up on Hillman Highway immediately after you make the right. Be careful here as vehicles coming in the opposite direction cannot see you ascending, and drivers behind you may be impatient and illegally attempt to pass you without being able to see oncoming traffic. Once you climb this little rise, Hillman Highway will take you back into Abingdon in about the same time as Walden Road version of this route. Hillman Highway ends at the junction with Main Street. You can ride Main Street back into town towards the courthouse.
This route may also begin and end at the Coomes Center, Abingdon’s recreation center. To begin the route from the Coomes Center, make a right leaving the Coomes Center past E.B. Stanley Middle School. At the junction with Walden Road make a left. Ride Back through to Valley Street and make a right onto White’s Mill. From here the directions are the same as described above.