Biking in the Mountain State: 8 best WV rides

Seriously— where better to mountain bike than THE Mountain State?

It’s the variety that makes West Virginia’s trails so alluring. Any rider at any level can find winding mountain paths to explore— from old-school rock-and-root-littered single track and machine-built flow trails to lift-serviced downhill runs and awesome easy family rail trails.

After a day of riding out in the mountain wilderness, join your fellow adventurers back in town to refuel with great food, craft beer and family fun.

Here are some of the best places for families, serious riders and everyone in between:

SINGLE-TRACK

1. North Fork Mountain Trail

This scenic ridgeline ride is truly a mountaintop marvel. Cyclists call it unforgettable— the single most standout experience among a state stocked with stunning trails. It rolls along for 24 miles in the remote backcountry, opening into sweeping vistas of the valleys below, which are accented by the the jagged peaks Seneca Rocks overhead.

It’s one of only a handful of trails in the world to earn “Epic” distinction by the International Mountain Biking Association, and it leaves a real impression on anyone who ventures to ride it— though it’s no simple undertaking to do so. You have to be fully prepared to ride this trail. Once you begin, there are no exit points until the end, and the ride gets technical. Because it’s so remote, there aren’t water stops, either.

IF YOU GO:
If you complete this epic trail and still crave more adventure, the via ferrata at NRocks is a unique chance to hike/climb the mountain terrain. There are plenty more natural wonders nearby, too. Tread up to the top of Spruce Knob for panoramic views of the rolling hills, or explore the underground at Smoke Hole Caverns, where you can also find cozy cabin accommodations to relax for the night.

2. Arrowhead Trails

Hundreds of trails trace the New River Gorge, but no system offers more flexibility than the Arrowhead Trails. The Boy Scouts of America poured many hours of volunteer work into crafting this world-class stacked loop system. Choose from easy trails for beginners or challenging trails for intermediate riders, and link together as many as you’d like. There are a little more than 12 miles to trek in all.

IF YOU GO:
The Arrowhead Trails are a highlight, but don’t limit yourself. The pros at New River Bikes or Marathon Bicycle Company can point you to other top trails in the gorge, too. A little-known secret: the town of Fayetteville is also a foodie heaven. Work up an appetite on the trails and take it to Pies and Pints, Gumbo’s, Secret Sandwich Society, Vandal’s Kitchen or another local favorite (There are plenty more).

3. Mountwood Park

“Keeps you on your toes” is the consensus from riders along Mountwood Park’s tight switchbacks, rocky hills and deep, rewarding drops. The carefully maintained trails were designed to create a diverse course of rides to choose from, with a main, twisting loop encircling the lake, and several adjoined looping paths you can dip onto along the way. Bridges, boardwalks and logovers add to the thrill of this moderate-level ride.

IF YOU GO:
With 30 miles of trail to discover, you might want to stay a few days to explore. Relax in Parkersburg post-ride at the boutique Blennerhassett Hotel. Contrast the natural beauty of Mountwood with the handcrafted beauty of the Julia-Ann Historic District.Or take a ferry ride to the elegant Blennerhassett Island mansion, and uncover the mystery of its lavish— but treasonous— past. For more tales of drama, visit any of the 3 local theaters downtown.

4. Big Bear Lake

4 distinct loops at Big Bear Lake allow you to choose from beginner trails to some of the state’s most challenging, technical rides. The easy routes are wide, easy-riding dirt roads, connecting to smooth, paved sections. From rock gardens to long, steep downhills, the ever-changing terrain and onslaught of obstacles through the thick brush can give even seasoned riders a test. If you stop pedaling long enough to take in the scenery, you’ll probably spot a few deer along the way.

IF YOU GO:
Stay in in Morgantown, and stop off to take in the panoramic view at the pinnacle of Cooper’s Rock State Forest along the way. Cheers to your ride at the state’s oldest operating brewery, Morgantown Brewing Co, grab a bite and brew at Mountain State Brewing Company, or hit the town’s vibrant concert and nightlife scene. If it’s a family trip, play with the kids at the Children’s Discovery Museum of West Virginia.

DOWNHILL

5. Snowshoe Mountain

One of the largest biking trail systems this side of the country, Snowshoe Mountain’s bike park gives you the option of 40 downhill trails, sweeping down 1,500 feet. Machine-manicured trails give beginner riders well-maintained paths to ride confidently, with instructors on-hand to help out. More challenging trails are lined with man-made obstacles that give serious riders room to play. It’s all the reward, without the work— speed down the trail that suits your skill level, then take the lifts back up either side of the mountain.

IF YOU GO:
Explore more of the mountain with adventures like horseback riding, hiking and ziplining, or relax after your ride with a round of golf, spa day or scenic train ride. After a long day, Snowshoe Resort’s village serves up entertainment and dining. If the open, starry sky catches your interest, stop onto the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s science center and marvel at the massive Green Bank Telescope.

6. Timberline

Take any of the 17 unique downhill trails at Timberline Four Seasons Resort’s bike park, rough with natural obstacles and hand-built berms, ladder crossings, creek gaps and more. Then take the lift back up, and try another carefully obstacle-laden route! If you aren’t ready for the downhill rush or need a break, pedal the 10+ miles of gentle forest trails instead.

IF YOU GO:
After enjoying the dining and music scene at Timberline, take a trip to nearby Davis and Thomas, WV.  You could explore the galleries, shops and coffee bars of these tiny mountain towns for days. You might— might— even be hungry enough to finish a whole Hellbender’s burrito before you stop into one of the 3 local brew pubs, or the renowned Purple Fiddle music venue (where you can sleep that night after the show, too.)

RAIL TRAILS

7. North Bend Rail Trail

Pedal along a smooth, scenic path of old CSX line through rural farmlands, remote woodlands and even small towns. The historic line is dotted with 13 tunnels (some said to be haunted!) and 36 bridges. Along the way, stop in to the Old Stone House museum, a marble factory, hand-blown glass factories, arts and craft markets, outlet shops and historic stops. The 72-mile stretch is part of the longer coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail.

IF YOU GO:
After stopping off in all the towns along the trail, head to Clarksburg, near its eastern end for a cocktail or scotch at The Fifth Floor martini bar overlooking downtown. Then pick up some Italian cuisine staples from authentic shops like Oliverio’s Italian-Style Peppers or Health Bread Company, where you can try West Virginia’s state food: pepperoni rolls. 

8. Greenbrier Rail Trail

With smooth crushed gravel and just a 1% grade, this scenic countryside rail trail is an easy ride for everyone in the family. The longest rail trail in the state, it winds alongside the Greenbrier River most of the way, crossing a few times over quaint bridges. You’ll pass ruins of the rails, like the old tunnels and whistleposts, and several parks to explore.

IF YOU GO:
Stop off in Marlinton to the Dirtbean for breakfast or lunch, and grab an energy cookie to fuel up for your ride. At the other end of the trail in Lewisburg, explore the boutique shops and artisan galleries, or explore the vibrant arts scene centered around Carnegie Hall. Many restaurants feature farm-to-table specialties.

Discover more biking, beer and adventure in the Mountain State with a free WV trip guide. 

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