Forest & Rail Trails
By Damienne Dibble
Gateway | Potomac Highlands
| Greenbrier/New River | Metro
Mid-Ohio Valley | Mountain
Lakes | Northern Panhandle | Mountaineer
By Damienne Dibble
Cacapon Resort State Park, off US 522 near Berkeley Springs, has
35 miles of paved roads and steep, rocky trails in its long, narrow,
6,000-acre area, and a scenic climb to its 1,400-foot summit. Lodge,
cabins, restaurant, shops, golf, riding stables, swimming, boating,
Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail is a new 20-mile rail grade conversion
starting from Elkins in the south and extending north to Parsons in
the Monongahela National Forest, where it connects with the Blackwater
Blackwater Canyon Trail begins at the former mining town of Thomas
off WV 32 from US 33, near the Davis and Canaan Valley mountain
biking centers. Marked as FS 115 on the US Forest Service maps,
this 12-mile rail trail descends along the west bank of three rivers
before it ends on the outskirts of Parsons. The first 8 miles of
gravel path drop more than 1,100 feet, and make an easy downstream
coast for mountain bikers. It cuts along the side of the canyon
wall, sometimes with a sharp drop-off on the river side. The 4-mile
Limerock Trail is a spectacular but difficult trail converted from
a narrow-gauge logging railroad that descends from the rim of Blackwater
Blackwater Falls State Park, off WV 32 from US 33 near Davis,
contains 1,688 acres with 12 miles of park roads and access to single
track in the national forest. Lodge, cabins, full-service campsites,
restaurant, game courts, riding stables, lake swimming, tours, and
rentals for bikes, boats, skis.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park, off WV 32 from US 33 near Davis,
offers 6,015 acres and 10 miles of easy hardtop roads, just 20 minutes
by car from Blackwater Falls State Park. Camping, indoor and outdoor
pools, sauna, ice skating. Road bike rentals.
Greenbrier River Trail connects the biking centers of the Potomac
Highlands region with those in the Greenbrier/New River area along
a 76-mile rail trail with a hard-packed gravel surface. The trail
is accessible from several towns along its course, including Cass,
Slatyfork, Marlinton, Seebert, and Lewisburg, which offer lodging,
rentals, and supplies. Rustic campsites on the trail, with more
camping in adjacent Greenbrier and Seneca state forests, Watoga,
and Cass Scenic Railroad state parks.
The trail parallels the Greenbrier River and meanders slightly
downhill southward from Cass over 35 bridges and through 2 tunnels
into forests and past steep cliffs, pastoral landscapes, and old
whistle stops. One of the longest and most scenic of the nation's
rail trails, it is a favorite destination for visiting cyclists,
hikers, cross-country skiers, and fishermen of all levels of skill
or conditioning. With extra water supplies, an ambitious biker can
ride and camp from end to end in 3 days. There is no source of drinking
water on the trail itself. Special tour packages and shuttle services
are available at both ends of this trail. For more details and trail
map, call 800-336-7009.
Jennings Randolph Lake, off WV 42 at Elk Garden from US 50 has
952 acres with 5 miles of easy to intermediate hike and bike trails.
Campsites and shelters, fishing, boating, basketball, horseshoes.
Kumbrabow State Forest, off US 219 near Huttonsville and Elkins,
contains 16 miles of dirt forest roads. Rustic cabins and campsites.
Lake Sherwood Recreation Area, off WV 92 at Neola from I-64 near
the Virginia state line, is a 165-acre lake circled by a level trail.
Another follows along Meadow Creek. Other trails have some steep
or rough spots, and can be connected with roads for a couple of
10-mile loops. The Greenbrier River Trail can also be accessed from
here. Nearby Watoga State Park and Seneca State Forest have more
biking trails. Rustic camping, swimming, fishing, boating. Call
Lost River State Park, off WV 259 at Mathias near Wardensville
and the Virginia state line. 3,712 acres and 3 miles of bike trails
with great view from Granny Crow overlook at 3,200 feet. Cabins,
campsites, snack bar, pool.
Monongahela National Forest contains more than 900,000 acres and
approximately 650 miles of single track and forest roads. Biking
is allowed on all forest roads and most trails, except where posted
or in the 5 wilderness areas: Dolly Sods, Otter Creek, Laurel Fork
North and South, and Cranberry. Scattered campsites and shelters.
A Monongahela National Forest Mountain Bike Map is available.
Seneca State Forest, off WV 28 at Dunmore near Marlinton, contains
11,684 acres with more than 15 miles of forest roads and a stretch
of the Greenbrier River Trail. Rustic cabins, campsites, lake, fishing.
Bike and boat rentals nearby.
Timberline Four Seasons Resort, off WV 32 near Davis on Timberline
Road, offers 17 miles of bike trails, and access to many more in
area. Site of the popular Newsweek 24 hours of Canaan racing event
which draws more than 3,000 spectators and participants annually
Houses, condos, cabins, campsites, restaurant, rentals. Call 800-766-9464.
Watoga State Park, on US 219 near Seebert, has 10,100 acres with
16 miles of bike trails and access to the Greenbrier River Trail.
Cabins, camping, restaurant, swimming, and arboretum.
West Fork Trail, off US 250 between Durbin and Bemis, is a converted
rail grade in the Monongahela National Forest developed by the US
Forest Service (TR 312). The long shank of this trail provides a
remote and easy ride along the West Fork of the Greenbrier River.
North from Durbin are isolated woods, marshes, and bogs over small
undecked trestles. Great swimming and fishing is possible along
The new Durbin Connection is a 16-mile rail grade conversion between
Durbin and Cass, where it will link with the Greenbrier River Trail
for a continuous stretch of 126 miles of magnificent remote terrain.
Babcock State Park, off WV 41 from US 60 at Clifftop near the New
River Gorge National River. 4,127 acres with 15 miles of road and
2.5 miles of single track with difficult sections. The WVMBA Spring
and Fall Challenge Mountain Bike Races bring many bikers to this park.
Cabins, camping, restaurant, pool, riding stables, and rentals for
mountain bikes, rowboats, and canoes.
Bluestone State Park and Wildlife Management Area. Off I-64/77
near Hinton. 20 miles of mountain bike trails on the woodlands bordering
the 2,040-acre Bluestone Lake. Cabins, campsites, boat launching
facilities, fishing, water-skiing.
Camp Creek State Park and Forest, off I-77 at Exit 20 south of
Beckley, is a recently designated 500-acre state park with 5,300
acres in the adjacent forest area and 60 miles of roads and trails.
Frank Hutchins details 3 good rides in Mountain Biking in West Virginia
(see page 69). Camping, game courts, fishing.
Greenbrier River Trail connects the biking centers of the Potomac
Highlands region with those in the Greenbrier/New River area along
a 76-mile rail trail.
Greenbrier State Forest entrance is just off I-64 on old Route
60 near Lewisburg, White Sulphur Springs, and the lower end of the
Greenbrier River Trail. More than 2,000 cyclists ride in this 5,130-acre
forest with 25 miles of blacktop, old logging roads and single track,
some rocky and steep. Cabins, campsites, pool. Call 304-536-1944.
Moncove Lake State Park is accessible from I-64 to Route 311 South,
then off WV 3 at Sweet Springs to Gap Mills on Route 8. Here is
a 144-acre lake surrounded by more than 500 acres of hilly woodland
with elevations up to 3,000 feet. Its 11 miles of easy-to-difficult
hardtop and logging roads are also convenient to Greenbrier State
Forest and the southern stretch of the Greenbrier River Trail. Good
out-and-back riding into the woods and along a creek in rural and
peaceful area off the beaten path. Three easy scenic rides are detailed
in Mountain Biking in West Virginia (see page 69). Camping, swimming,
boating, fishing, hunting. Call 304-772-3450.
New River Gorge National River, accessible from I-64 near Hinton.
You can also get off Amtrak at Thurmond. Trails and facilities are
still being developed along this 52-mile section of river. There
are old logging and mining trails around the gorge walls, and about
20 miles of trails great for bicyclists, including 11 miles of converted
rail grade that once moved coal and slag from 1,500 feet above down
to the river. Panoramic views of canyon walls rising from boulder-lapping
white water. Various outfitters have trails connecting to park for
shuttle or out-and-back riding. Three trips here are detailed in
Mountain Biking in West Virginia, and guided bike and pedal/ paddle
tours are available (see page 69). Rustic campsites, guided nature
hikes, climbing, bird watching, rafting, private boating, fishing.
Trail maps available. Call 304-465-0508.
Pipestem Resort State Park, on WV 20 off I-77 Athens Road exit
south of Beckley, contains 4,000-acres with the 1,000 foot deep
Bluestone Canyon and a section of the gentle Bluestone River. Less
than 2 hours from Charleston, there are 12 miles of easy-to-rugged
trails here with access to more in nearby Bluestone State Park.
Two good rides are detailed in Mountain Biking in West Virginia
(see page 69). One easy 9-mile trail goes around Long Branch Lake.
A more demanding 15-mile out-and-back ride goes to the river at
the bottom of Bluestone Canyon and up its other side. Author Frank
Hutchins warns about a no-margin downhill section with a rock wall
on one side and a steep drop-off on the other. Two lodges, cottages,
campsites, restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, riding stables,
golf courses, game courts, fishing.
Twin Falls Resort State Park, off I-77 at exit 42, southwest of
Beckley near Mullens, take WV 16 to WV 54 to WV 97, is a 3,776-acre
park with elevations up to 2,250 feet. There are 20 miles of short,
moderately difficult trails. Three rides in the area are detailed
in Mountain Biking in West Virginia. Lodge, cottages, campsites,
restaurant, golf course, pool, Pioneer Farm Museum.
Beech Fork State Park, off I-64 at exit 11 near Huntington features
2,100 acres at the upper end of the 760-acre Beech Fork Lake, with
4 miles of hardtop road and 7 miles of intermediate-to-difficult single
track. Site of Beech Fork Mountain Bike Race. Camping, store, boat
launch, game courts, rentals for paddle and row boats. Mountain bike
rentals are available nearby.
Chief Logan State Park, off US 119 at old Logan Road near Logan,
has 3,302 acres with 25 miles of easy, intermediate, and difficult
trails. Except for 5 miles of hardtop, most are narrow dirt trails
used also by horses. A trail map is available from Park Headquarters
near the entrance. A new 8-mile wilderness trail follows ridges
on flat- to rugged-terrain with a .75 mile stretch of technical
riding. Full-service campsites, restaurant, riding stables, playground
and game courts, pool, fishing, wildlife exhibit and an amphitheater
for seasonal outdoor historical dramas about the region.
Kanawha State Forest, off US 119 at Oakwood Road (20 minutes from
Charleston), is a 9,300-acre area with 30 miles of trails through
wooded coves and hillsides on service roads or single track. Site
of Black Bear 40K Mountain Bike Race (see page 29). Some trails
are not open to bikers, but these are marked at the trailhead and
on the trail guide obtainable from the front office. Five bike routes
through the forest are detailed in Mountain Biking in West Virginia,
with valuable clues about the terrain. Campsites, pool, and stables.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, accessible from I-77
at Parkersburg, includes Point Park and the Blennerhassett Museum
at the edge of downtown Parkersburg, where the Little Kanawha River
meets the Ohio. The 500-acre island features a reconstructed mansion
originally built by Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett in 1805.Here
was treason and scandal on an island paradise 200 years ago.
Now it is a 20-minute sternwheeler ferry ride away with guided
mansion tours, bike rentals, wagon rides, fishing, and browsing
in an arts and crafts village. On shore near the ferry dock is the
Little Kanawha Craft House, the Blennerhassett Museum, and the nearby
Oil and Gas Museum. All of these make an interesting part of a day's
bike tour of historic Parkersburg, with downtown and Juliana Square
district completing the picture of this river city's most elegant
Charles Fork Lake, off I-77 Ripley exit between Parkersburg and
Charleston, then east on US 33 near Spencer, contains nearly 2,000
acres of surrounding land that creates a beautiful venue for mountain
biking. Site of the popular All Sports Tour de Lake Mountain Bike
Festival and Race. Of the 6 trails described on the trail map, most
have steep climbs with technical sections that are lots of fun for
experienced fat tire cyclists. The 5-mile Lakeview Trail is an intermediate
trail with limited climbing. It winds in and out of beautiful deep
coves and runs through meadows and hardwood groves. The network
of roads around Spencer also offers great hill country touring.
Rustic camping, hiking, canoeing, and fishing. Trail map available.
Mountwood Park, on US 50 at Volcano Road exit near Parkersburg,
is one of West Virginia's largest parks with shelters and a 99-site
campground with hookups for water and electricity. There are 2,600
acres of rolling woodlands, a 50-acre lake, and 26 miles of trails
with 8 miles of single track. Pedal boats, canoes, and flatboat
rentals available. A trail map available from park headquarters
annotates 16 trails by difficulty. Their names describe unique terrain
and history: Volcano Run Trail, Lava Rock Trail, Waterfall Trail,
Eaton Tunnel Trail. Site of NORBA Mountwood Challenge Mountain Bike
North Bend State Park, off US 50 at Cairo near Parkersburg, is
a 1,405-acre recreational area with 72 miles of rail trail that
is part of the American Discovery Trail. Lodge, cottages, restaurant,
campsites, tennis, swimming, miniature golf, fishing, trail map.
Tours and rentals nearby. Call 800-CALL-WVA or 304-643-2931.
North Bend Rail Trail is a 72-mile trail for hiking, biking, and
horseback riding passing through the Mid-Ohio Valley eastward along
US 50 to Clarksburg in the Mountaineer region. Accessible from Walker,
Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro, Greenwood, West Union, and Salem, this
trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, which will eventually
link historic and natural landmarks from coast to coast. Surface
varies from wide, hard-packed gravel to pocked stretches still being
Burnsville Lake and Wildlife Management Area, off I-79 at Burnsville
exit, has 13,000 acres with 78 miles of easy and intermediate roads
in open woodlands and fields. Accessible anytime, but mown only in
late September for hunting season. Campsites, with lodging, restaurants,
groceries nearby. Call 304-853-2371.
Cranberry/Tri-Rivers Trail, off WV 55 near Richwood lies at the
edge of the Potomac Highlands region. This is a new 16-mile rail
grade conversion that passes down the Cherry River from Richwood
and up the Gauley River, with a 282-foot trestle over the Cranberry
River and a 640-foot tunnel at its end.
Holly River State Park, 32 miles south of Buckhannon on WV 20,
has 8,101 acres of dense forest and waterfalls with 35 miles of
hiking trails. Great biking on many miles of service roads. Some
are detailed in Mountain Biking in West Virginia (see page 69).
Cabins, campsites, restaurant, groceries, pool, game courts.
Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, off I-79 exit 91 on WV 19 near
Weston, has full-service campsites, groceries, water sports, and
fishing around 2,650-acre lake. Fishing and house boat rentals.
A road cyclist's heaven with miles of near traffic-free country
roads surrounding the park. Site of Stonewall Jackson 50-mile Road
Whisper Mountain Resort, off US 33 and I-79 near Weston, has 120
acres with 14 miles of logging roads and single track trails. Site
of Whisper Twister Mountain Bike Race. Lodge, RV campsites, horseback
riding, bike rentals. Call 304-452-8847.
Grand Vue Park in Moundsville, off WV 2 and US 250, features 6.5 miles
of hiking and biking trails, with commanding views. Cabins, golf course,
pool, and tennis courts. Call 304-845-9810.
Oglebay Resort Park, off WV 2 and I-70 in Wheeling, is a grand
1,500-acre municipal park with 4 miles of scenic roads for cycling.
Lodging, restaurants, other activities. Call 800-624-6988.
Tomlinson Run State Park, off WV 2 at the very top of the Panhandle
near New Manchester, is a 1,398 acre facility with 6.5 miles of
hiking and biking trails. Tent and trailer campsites, pool, game
courts and playground, boat rentals, fishing. Call 304-564-3651.
Wheeling Heritage Trail follows the riverfront in downtown Wheeling
for 7 miles to the Pike Island Locks and Dam, and is part of a still-developing
rail trail system in the area. Some 14 miles of rail grade along
the Ohio River have been converted to a paved bicycle and jogging
path. The downtown section is below street level between a stone
wall and the river and is lit at night. Stairs lead from the trail
up to street level shops and restaurants on Main Street. Call 304-233-2575
Big Bear Lake, off I-68 near Morgantown, contains 5,000 acres of lake
and woodland with an average elevation of 3,700-4,000 feet. Site of
the WVMBA Big Bear Classic Mountain Bike Race (see page 29), featuring
both downhill and cross country races on its 12-mile course. Altogether,
there are 25 miles of biking trails here which include gentle, steep,
or rocky grades on black top, dirt roads, and some gut-jarring single
track. The Big Bear Lake Camplands has facilities for RV and tent
camping. Call 304-379-4382.
Caperton Trail, a new 53-mile addition to West Virginia's rail
trail system, which will connect Fairmont and Morgantown and extend
north to the Pennsylvania line. It follows along the Cheat River
through downtown Morgantown and borders West Virginia University.
A southeastern branch of this trail will also link Morgantown with
Reedsville and Kingwood.
Cathedral State Park, on US 50 near Aurora manages 132 acres of
ancient virgin hemlock and hardwoods, some 10 feet in diameter, with
5 miles of bike trails. Here is one of the most accessible stands
of old-growth forest in the country. Lodges and campsites nearby.
Coopers Rock State Forest, off I-68 exit 15 (follow signs) near
Morgantown, is West Virginia's largest state forests covering 12,700
acres with 50 miles of scenic and challenging trails open to hikers
and bikers year round. Site of WVMBA Henry Clay 30K Mountain Bike
Race. A trail map is available at forest headquarters. More trails
are detailed in Mountain Biking in West Virginia. This terrain has
also spawned a rock climbing school in Morgantown. Camping, with
lodging and restaurant nearby. Swimming and boating available at
Cheat Lake nearby.
Pricketts Fort State Park, off I-79 at exit 139 near Fairmont,
is a reconstructed 18th-century refuge with easy biking trails throughout
most of its 186 acres. It connects to Fairmont via a 2.5-mile rail
trail, affectionately called McTrail (Marion County Trail). This
trail features the only lighted tunnel in West Virginia's rail trail
system, the 1,200-foot Meredith Tunnel near the trailhead at Fairmont.
The southern end of the new Caperton Trail will also connect here
and provide access to Morgantown. Day use only, with rustic camping
nearby. B&B lodging in Fairmont.
North Bend Rail Trail is a 72-mile hiking, biking, and horseback
riding trail which passes through the Mountaineer region westward
along US 50 from Clarksburg to North Bend State Park and Parkersburg
in the Mid-Ohio Valley (see listing under Mid-Ohio Valley).
Tygart Lake State Park, off US 119 or US 50 near Grafton. 2,134
acres and 11 miles of lake shore with 7 miles of paved road popular
with cyclists. No off-road trails. Racers use 15-mile loop from
Grafton with 2 major hills on Route 1 as conditioning course. Future
bike trails are planned along with rail trail. Lodge, cabins, campsites,
restaurant, game courts, lake swimming, boating, and scuba diving.
Valley Falls State Park, off US 250 near Fairmont from I-79, contains
1,145 acres with 18 miles of road and off-road bike trails. Site
of the Valley Falls Challenge mountain bike race in April. Day use only,
with lodging nearby in Fairmont. Call 367-2719.
West Fork Rail Trail, accessible at Shinnston and Fairmont from
I-79 is a 16-mile converted rail grade that parallels the West Fork
River and passes by residential and commercial areas, as well as
farmland. There are plans for trailhead development at Shinnston
and for connecting this trail with the North Bend Rail Trail at
Clarksburg. B&B lodging and bike rentals in Shinnston and Fairmont.
Trail maps at trailheads or from Marion Country Parks and Recreation