Bike 36 bridges, 13 tunnels and a whole lot of history

Like the railroad culture of a century ago, you’ll revel in the beauty of western Appalachia as you “steam” down the North Bend Rail Trail.

Running from I-77 near Parkersburg to Wolf Summit near Clarksburg, the 72-mile trail is part of the 5,500 mile Great American Discovery Silver Run Tunnel, North Bend Rail Trail, WVtrail that spans the entire nation. Its scenic route winds through North Bend State Park, crosses over 36 bridges and through 13 tunnels.

Some tunnels, like the 1,376-foot long Silver Run tunnel, are rumored to be haunted. Keep your eyes peeled for an apparition of a child, or a woman in a white wedding dress. Legend has it that a woman travelling on the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was on her way from Grafton to Parkersburg to get married when she disappeared without a trace, and today her spirit haunts the tunnel.

If you think the Silver Run Tunnel is long, bring your headlamp to make it through the longest one— Tunnel #6, at almost 3,000 feet. The second-longest tunnel you’ll ride through is Eaton Tunnel #21 at mile 14, coming in at 1,840 feet. You’ll literally be heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel, although the shade feels great on a hot day.

While riding through the tunnels is one of the best parts of the rail trail, the bridges are also part of the beauty of this adventure. Crossing over creeks and rivers, the bridges run the gamut from simple wood structures to more elaborate designs that are clearly as much a nod to artistic styling as they are functional use.

Look for wildlife like deer, bear, geese, grouse, blue herons and beavers along the banks of the waterways. Stop at one of the rivers or creeks for a quick swim or fishing break.

Besides taking in the natural scenery, stop at one of the turn-of-the-century industrial cities and rural communities, like Parkersburg, Cairo and Pennsboro. Explore hand-blown glass factories, marble factories, old stagecoach stops, Industrial-era warehouses and historic Civil War sites.

Check forNorthbend Rail Trail seasonal festivals, farmers’ markets, and state and county parks before you head out.

There are stretches of the NBRT that are pretty remote, so plan for sections of up to 10 miles with no services. But enjoy the rolling farmland, forested hills and slow-moving rivers and creeks in those secluded sections.

Expect every kind of surface on the trail: grass, dirt, gravel and pavement. While you could technically take a road bike onto the NBRT, you’ll be much more comfortable on a cross bike or mountain bike. Generally speaking, the western portion of the trail near Parkersburg is more manicured and developed, and the further east you travel, the rougher the trail gets.

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This post was last updated on March 16, 2022