Along I-81: Glade Spring, Abingdon, & Damascus
If you’re traveling into Southwest Virginia, chances are you’ll be coming into the region via Interstate 81. I-81 runs from Dandridge, Tennessee in the South, all the way to Wellesley Island in New York. The total length of I-81 is 854.89 miles and the majority of the Interstate travels through the Appalachian Mountains. Along I-81, you’ll encounter many stops in Southwest Virginia, today we’ll be mentioning Glade Spring, Abingdon, and Damascus.
Glade Spring, Virginia
Glade Spring is located off of I-81 exit 29 in Washington County, Virginia. Glade Spring is a small town community with a population of just under 1,500. The community was incorporated in 1875 and its name derives from a Native American word Passawatami which translates to “This is the place.”
- Early records indicate that a field close to town held a type of Native American Olympics. These events included dancing, socializing, and athletics.
- Glade Spring was home to the infamous Porterfield family who arrived in 1760. The Porterfield family is well known for Robert Porterfield who was the founder of The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.
- Glade Spring was also home to the original Virginia Intermont College (later relocated to Bristol, Virginia). The school began as Southwest Virginia Institute in 1884.
Offerings and Things to Do
While Glade Spring may not be a booming tourist attraction, like its nearby sister townships of Damascus and Abingdon, Glade Spring is full of rich history, community, other places of interest. Within the town of Glade Spring, locals and visitors can enjoy things such as:
- Farmers Market
- Town Square Center for the Arts
- Local hardware store – Surber and Sons
- The Salt Trail (Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding)
- Access to both Saltville and Damascus, Virginia
Glade Spring is also a nice stop for fuel, food, and financial needs. Just off the exit, you will find multiple service stations, banks, and places to grab a quick bite to eat. After you have filled your tank and your belly, you can then head down Route 91 towards Damascus and enjoy a day on the Virginia Creeper Trail!
Damascus is another small town community that is located just 20 minutes away from Glade Spring if you’re heading down Route 91 or about 15 minutes if you’re heading down route 58 from Abingdon. Damascus houses a population of around 1,000. Damascus is home to a vast hiking and biking scene, which includes both the Virginia Creeper Trail as well as Appalachian Trail access points.
Offerings & Things to Do
Damascus is a very tourist-driven town, due to its wonderous biking scene. The Virginia Creeper Trail has a strong presence, as this is one of the main areas to head to White Top Station. Bikers can enjoy a van ride to the top of the mountain and then enjoy a scenic 16 mile ride back into Damascus. Those who seek a longer ride can go all the way to Abingdon, Virginia at the trailhead and Virginia Creeper Trail Welcome Center. Other features of Damascus include:
- The Virginia Creeper Trail (Bike rentals and mountain top shuttles)
- Local Eateries (7 Trails, Mojos, Wicked Chicken)
- Damascus Brewery
- The Appalachian Trail
- Backbone Rock
- Bed and Breakfast options
- Tourist Shops (Hiking / Biking Gear, Stickers, T-Shirts)
- Camping (Tents, RVs, Cabin Rentals)
- Beartree Campground & Lake
- Grindstone Campground
Damascus is also home to the annual Springtime celebration “Trail Days”. Trail Days is a special event focused on hiking and the Appalachian Trail. During this event, there is food, music, and fun for all.
The last and largest town on our list is Abingdon, Virginia. This town is located off exits 19, 17, 14 on I-81. Each exit providing a different experience. Exit 19 is a commercial retail area with fast food options, large-scale shopping, and some local eateries. Exit 17 will take you towards the historic district, and Exit 14 is home to the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace, as well as Virginia Highlands Community College.
Abingdon is home to the rich history and notable landmarks such as:
Abingdon has a population of just over 8,000 and is the county seat of Washington County. Abingdon was founded in 1778, and still retains much of that historic feel to this day. Abingdon is a great location for dining, shopping, places to stay, and places to enjoy the great outdoors.
Offerings and Things to Do
- Ride / Walk on the Virginia Creeper Trail
- See a play at the Barter Theatre (Presented at the Moonlite Drive-in during the Summer 2020 season)
- Have a meal at one or many of the local dining options
- Shop at locally-owned stores and antique shops
- Visit the local farmers market
- Travel to Hidden Valley Lake or South Holston Lake
- Visit the William King Museum of Art
- Take a Historic Downtown Self-guided tour
No matter where you choose to go or what you choose to do, each of these three sister towns is happy to have you. Each town is within close driving distance of one another and each offers a unique experience. If you would like to learn more about each location, be sure to listen to some of our podcast episodes or watch some of our virtual visits on YouTube.
Abingdon, Virginia Podcasts
Virtual Visits from these Locations