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Virginia Creeper Trail blazing the path for economic growth in Damascus

PHOTO: Samantha Zarek

WASHINGTON COUNTY, VA - As vibrant Fall colors begin to paint our mountains, more people are hiking and biking our trails to enjoy the Fall foliage. Each day during peak season, hundreds of people from all over the country ride the Virginia Creeper Trail, and on the weekends, the trail can see thousands of riders.

"This time of year, everyone wants to see the leaves, and it's also all downhill from White Top to here which is 17 miles," says general manager of Sundog Outfitters Chris Butcher.

Butcher says reservations for bike rentals and shuttle service for October began filling up months ago.

"We've had people make reservations in March for October, but really probably early September, it needs to be something you're thinking about if you want to pick the time you want to go," he says.

Increased traffic for the bike rental shops also rolls over into other local businesses. One bed and breakfast owner says the Creeper Trail is one of the main attractions for her guests.

"That's probably the biggest draw here and this time of year is the best because not only do you get to ride the trail but it's not oppressively hot, and you've got the leaf peeping and the leaf changing," says co-owner and operator of the Mountain Laurel Inn Kathleen McMahon.

McMahon says people begin to book rooms for the Fall months as early as May.

"The beauty of the ride and the countryside and the people that were on the trail with us were just so friendly, and it was just a great experience," says visitor from Savannah, Georgia Rebecca Cope.

Butcher says the Creeper Trail is blazing the path for economic growth in Damascus.

"This whole town is completely dependent upon how many people come to ride that trail...the town has a lot of other businesses that have sprung up. You have restaurants, you've got inns, bed and breakfast-- they're all dependent on this traffic," he says.

The trail also benefits the town Abingdon, running 34 miles from Abingdon to White Top.

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