Mountain Biking in West Virginia
Thursday, March 4, 2010
If any area could be said to have been created for mountain biking, that place would be Pocahontas County, West Virginia. By Larry Rice
Home to some of the most beautiful country in the eastern United States, this mountainous region is the birthplace of eight rivers and is almost engulfed by the Monongahela National Forest. Within this vast preserve are miles of trails and back roads, almost all open to mountain biking.
Traveling through the area last spring, I checked with the experts at the Elk River Touring Center in Slatyfork for advice on where to go. Gil Willis, owner and operator of the mountain bike center, steered me to a one-day, self-guided tour of the Greenbrier River Trail. “The Greenbrier is a perfect blend of wildness and rural civilization,” he assured me, “as welcoming a trail as any biker can hope to find.”
Formerly a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, this 75-mile-long trail crosses 35 bridges and two tunnels on its way through the Green-brier River Valley. Much of the route is next to the Monongahela National Forest and is surrounded by summits of the Allegheny Mountains, but the trail itself is level, making it perfect for the whole family, or in my case, a solo getaway.
One great section for a ride is accessible from the historic logging town of Cass. As I made my way south to Marlinton, 25 miles away, I passed by steep bluffs and through hardwood forests—home to deer, wild turkeys, hawks and a variety of songbirds. My rented mountain bike was the perfect steed from which to admire the countryside.
Old water towers, depots and trestles of the steam-driven locomotive era dot the trail. During my ride, I skirted abandoned little towns from the big-timber days, like Clover Lick. And about five miles south of Clover Lick, I came upon Sharp’s Tunnel and bridge. The tunnel is 511 feet long, dark and spooky inside, and the bridge spans 229 feet. A couple of teenage riders I met thought the tunnel was “way cool.” I did, too—especially when I emerged on the other side.
The Engine That Could
The town of Cass is also home to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, the site of a recreated logging train.
The restored Shay steam locomotives pull old flatcars made into passenger coaches to nearby Bald Knob, elevation 4,842 feet.
Writer, photographer and outdoor enthusiast Larry Rice has traveled to seven continents from his home in Buena Vista, Colorado.