Grayson Gravel Traverse Bike Route

The Grayson Gravel Traverse is a 72-mile mixed-surface gravel bike route that connects the Virginia Creeper Trail and New River Trail

Introducing the Grayson Gravel Traverse

The Grayson Gravel Traverse is a 72-mile mixed-surface gravel bike route that connects the Virginia Creeper Trail and New River Trail over well-maintained and remote roads featuring a variety of challenging climbs. The route follows optimal west-east gravel corridors just south of the Grayson Highlands area, in the foothills of Virginia’s highest peaks, criss-crossing the creeks that carry water from the high mountains down to the New River. This overlooked gem of Virginia presents some of the best gravel cycling in the state, mostly unridden and undiscovered.  

Longer options exist to tour or bikepack the 72-mile Traverse as either a 143-mile circuit returning back to Whitetop Station via a northern route in the Jefferson National Forest, or a point-to-point 150-mile “Long Haul” from the western terminus of the VA Creeper Trail in Abingdon, VA to the eastern end of the New River Trail in Pulaski, VA. Endless options to explore Grayson Gravel beyond these routes exist, with Independence as a great basecamp location for day trips. In addition to the Grayson Gravel Circuit, another option is to use the TransVirginia Bike Route for a northern return loop from the New River Trail at the Byllesby Dam back to Whitetop Station farther north. See “Trip Itineraries” below.

View a Collection of Grayson Gravel Routes: https://ridewithgps.com/collections/41362 

Camping at Comer’s Rock

Trip Planning

Digital Maps on Ride With GPS

Ride with GPS (RWGPS) is a popular digital mapping and routing website and mobile phone application that lets cyclists find routes that are relevant to their interests, see its details (distance, elevation profile, road surfaces) and points of interest, as well as navigate the route either using the RWGPS app or by syncing it to their own cycling GPS (Garmin, Wahoo, etc.). RWGPS offers free subscription levels to access information and use its website and application. 

When to go

The best months to ride in Grayson County are April through October, with spring and fall days having the possibility of colder temperatures overnight and even the possibility of snow at higher elevations. Spring colors usually peak in late April, and fall foliage in October. Summer months bring warm weather, though much of the route is shaded and benefits from the cooler temperatures that come with higher elevations compared to other parts of Virginia.

Gravel bike set up for a big day ride

What type of bike to use (tires, gearing, etc.)

The Grayson Gravel Traverse is a hilly mixed-surface road route connecting the best dirt and gravel roads across Grayson County, VA. The optimal bicycle for this route is either a gravel bike or road bike with wider tire clearance (a mountain bike is also suitable–suspension not necessary). The unpaved roads are generally in good condition and non-technical in nature. All roads are legal for e-bikes and open for vehicular traffic between the two rail trails on the Traverse route.

The ideal bike would have these characteristics:

  • Gravel tires: width of 35mm-45mm
  • Low gearing: less than a 1:1 ratio of smallest chainring to largest cassette ring. Some climbs reach 15% grades for short stretches.
  • Reliable, strong brakes (disc preferred). With steep downhill grades, be sure to test your brakes’ function well before attempting Grayson County’s hills.
Lodging, camping and resupply at the Grayson Highland General Store & Inn (Mile 21)

Where to sleep, eat, resupply

Most of Grayson County is rural, so most services are clustered along Route 58. Various AirBnBs and HipCamp locations farther from Route 58 provide additional options and unique experiences. All food services on route are on Route 58, including a variety of country stores and convenience stores with restaurants at the Grayson Highlands General Store and in Independence.

The route offers a variety of overnight accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs. 

Lunch stop at the Railroad Market & Cafe (Mile 3 – Whitetop, VA)

Overnight accommodations

Camping

Camping at the Grayson Highlands General Store (Mile 21)

Food, Water and Resupply

Food and drinks are available at various locations along Rt. 58:

Bike shops and services 

There are no bike shops in Grayson County, with the closest bicycle shops and mechanics in Damascus, VA and Sparta, NC. Pulaski, VA also has a small bicycle repair shop mostly serving the New River Trail, with limited hours.

Descending switchbacks, photo by Jonathan Ramirez

Safety considerations

Cycling carries inherent risks and riders should assume these risks and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and pleasant trip. 

The Grayson Gravel Traverse follows a variety of roads (both paved and unpaved) that are open to motor vehicles. Motor vehicles pose the greatest risk to cyclists; Cyclist visibility is vital and  greatly improved by bright clothing and front/rear lights (especially in dark or foggy conditions). While the majority of the roads on the route are quiet backcountry roads, a few short sections follow Route 58 to connect to services or connect smaller roads. Be especially vigilant on these larger roads, particularly at the beginning and end of the work day and during peak tourism seasons. On remote gravel roads, be mindful that vehicles may not be expecting to see a bicycle!

Make sure your bicycle is well-maintained with adequate braking power and durable tires; try out your setup thoroughly before attempting this route.

Be mindful of loose dogs you may pass on the route. Dogs tend to have an instinct to chase but often will slow down if you stop and stand your ground (with bike between you and the dog). Usually dogs lose interest after the opportunity to chase has ended, and may come to greet you, then you can continue slowly on your way.

Look out for deer that may suddenly dart across roads, especially on fast descents and around dawn and dusk. 

Much of Grayson County is remote and lacks cell phone coverage, so plan accordingly by taking enough food, water, and supplies. Coordinate meeting points assuming you will not be able to communicate by phone. Western Grayson County has less cell phone coverage than the eastern part, with good coverage around Independence eastward to Fries.

Beautiful gravel roads on the Grayson Gravel Traverse!

Trip Itineraries

Grayson Gravel Traverse

Connecting Whitetop to Fries across Grayson County

72.3 miles / 6,877 ft

Route map and GPX at https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38628715

Traverse – Hotel Itinerary A (3 days)
Averages 24 miles/day and 2292 feet/day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Grayson Highlands Inn: 21 miles, 2190’
  • Day 2: Grayson Highlands Inn to Independence: 33 miles, 3302’
  • Day 3: Independence to Fries: 18.5 miles, 1464’

Traverse – Hotel Itinerary B (2 days)
Averages 36 miles/day and 3438 feet/day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Sleepy Fox Inn: 37 miles, 3838’
  • Day 2: Sleepy Fox Inn to Fries: 37 miles, 3041’

Traverse – Hotel Itinerary C (1.5 days)
Averages 36 miles/day and 3438 feet/day with ⅔ of the route on the first day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Independence: 53.8 miles, 5413’
  • Day 2: Independence to Fries: 18.5 miles, 1464’

Traverse – Camping Itinerary (3 days)
Averages 24 miles/day and 2292 feet/day

Traverse – Camping Itinerary (2 days)
Averages 36 miles/day and 3438 feet/day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Oracle Campground: 44 miles, 4558’
  • Day 2: Oracle to Fries: 28 miles, 2319’
Ice cream stop in Fries

Grayson Gravel Long Haul

Abingdon to Pulaski: VA Creeper Trail + Grayson Gravel Traverse + New River Trail

150.8 miles / 10,658 ft

Route map and GPX at https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38659609

Long Haul – Hotel Itinerary (5 days)
Averages 30 miles/day and 2132 feet/day

  • Day 1: Abingdon to Damascus: 16 miles, 789’
  • Day 2: Damascus to Grayson Highlands Inn: 39 miles, 3967’
  • Day 3: Grayson Highlands Inn to Independence: 33 miles, 3302’
  • Day 4: Independence to Fries: 18.5 miles, 1464’
  • Day 5: Fries to Pulaski: 38 miles, 1100’

Long Haul – Hotel Itinerary (3 days)
Averages 50 miles/day and 3550 feet/day

  • Day 1: Abingdon to Grayson Highlands Inn: 55 miles, 4758’
  • Day 2: Grayson Highlands Inn to Independence: 33 miles, 3302’
  • Day 3: Independence to Pulaski: 64 miles, 3487’

Long Haul – Camping Itinerary (6 days)
Averages 25 miles/day and 1775 feet/day

  • Day 1: Abingdon to Whitetop: 33 miles, 2560’
  • Day 2: Whitetop to Grayson Highlands Inn: 21 miles, 2190’
  • Day 3: Grayson Highlands Inn to Oracle Campground: 23 miles, 2429’
  • Day 4: Oracle to Fries: 28.5 miles, 2331’
  • Day 5: Fries to Millrace (Foster Falls): 21 miles, 554’
  • Day 6: Millrace Campground to Pulaski: 24 miles, 811’

Long Haul – Camping Itinerary (3 days)
Averages 50 miles/day and 3550 feet/day

  • Day 1: Abington to Grayson Highlands Inn: 55 miles, 4758’
  • Day 2: Grayson Highlands Inn to Double Shoals primitive campsite: 55.6 miles, 5689’
  • Day 3: Double Shoals to Pulaski: 40.6 miles, 1222’
Sunrise at Comers Rock

Grayson Gravel Circuit

Loop route from Whitetop to Fries, with northern return via Comers Rock

143.4 miles / 14,699 ft

Route map and GPX at https://ridewithgps.com/routes/38660070

*This route has more challenging climbs and remote sections and is intended for experienced & fit riders.
*Some campsites are off route adding a distance and climbing to the trip.

Circuit – Hotel Itinerary (3 days)
Averages 48 miles/day and 4900 feet/day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Independence: 53.8 miles, 5413’
  • Day 2: Independence to Blue Springs Gap: 46.2 miles, 5080’
  • Day 3: Blue Springs Gap to Whitetop: 42.3 miles, 4193’

Circuit – Camping Itinerary (6 days)
Averages 24 miles/day and 2450 feet/day, but three days with significantly more climbing

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Grayson Highlands Inn: 23 miles, 2247’
  • Day 2: Grayson Highlands Inn to Oracle Campground: 23 miles, 2429’
  • Day 3: Oracle to Double Shoals (4.5 miles off route): 32 miles, 4300’
  • Day 4: Double Shoals to Comers Rock (2 miles off route): 34 miles, 4250’
  • Day 5: Comers Rock to Grindstone: 30 miles, 3638’
  • Day 6: Grindstone to Whitetop: 16 miles, 1000’

Circuit – Camping Itinerary (3 days)
Averages 49 miles/day and 5840 feet/day

  • Day 1: Whitetop to Oracle Campground: 45.2 miles, 4628’
  • Day 2: Oracle to Comers Rock (off route 2 miles): 57 miles, 8250’
  • Day 3: Comers Rock to Whitetop: 46 miles, 4638’
Full service resupply at 21 Grocery

Categories: BikingOutdoor Recreation

Tags: bikingvirginia creeper trail

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Whitetop, VA 24292 

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