Top Ten Mountain Bike Meccas (Beyond Moab)
Tucked in amidst the deep forests of the Allegheny Mountains in eastern West Virginia, just beside the Elk River, the tiny town of Slatyfork (pop. 448) serves as a hub for some of the East's best biking. The little town is surrounded by the mammoth Monongahela National Forest, 900,000 miles of public land just crawling with trails.
Locals boast that they've got 200 miles of trails just outside their doors, and innumerable more twist through the forest as a whole. It's diverse territory, too. Technical singletrack lies just minutes away from a more gentle rails-to-trails route. A couple of resorts, the Elk River Touring Center and Snowshoe Mountain, offer guided tours and shuttles uphill. All in all, there's no reason to stay away from these gorgeous, green mountains for too long. The trails that follow are our best suggestions for keeping busy while you're around Slatyfork.
The Greenbrier River Trail
This former railroad grade situated alongside the Greenbrier River has been converted to recreational use. It stretches from Cass in the north to North Caldwell in the south, running for 76 miles over packed limestone. Because of its easy grade (less than 1 percent) and scenic highlights like tunnels and bridges, this is an ideal route for the entire family. Cass is accessible from Slatyfork via Highway 66.
The Gauley Mountain Ride/Trail #438
This trail, along an old logging-era railroad grade, takes riders through stands of red spruce and hardwoods. It's a ten-mile out-and-back, on a relatively smooth and narrow dirt trail. The ride starts on Forest Road 24, which is located about five miles south of Slatyfork off of Hwy. 219. You begin riding at the Gauley Mountain Trailhead, then continue straight at the Tea Creek Connector Trail intersection, the Bear Pen Ridge Trail intersection, the Red Run Trail intersection, and the Right Fork Connector Trail intersection. The trail ends at the trailhead parking area on the Highland Scenic Highway. Return the way you came.
Bannock Shoals Trail Ride
This 22-mile, out-and-back trail runs along smooth gravel and dirt. Like the Gauley Mountain Ride Trail, it begins along Forest Road 24. Follow the same directions as for the Gauley Trail, but about 1.4 miles in, turn left on FR 135, which begins as a wide gravel road. Here you'll pass some reclaimed strip mines. When you see the Forest Service Trails sign at 5.7 miles, turn left up the hill. Continue straight around the barrier at the Bannock Shoals/Boundary/Saddle Loop trailhead. Be careful at 9.5 miles, because the trail detours around Bannock Shoals Run. Continue straight downhill, going through the Tea Creek Campground. Return the way you came.
The Cranberry Backcountry
A wide variety of riding opportunities are available in the Cranberry Backcountry, where hundreds of miles of roads and trails have been closed to motor vehicles. Cranberry River Road, a converted rail trail, offers access to numerous loops. Other trails in the area include Blue Knob, Pocahontas, and Cow Pasture. Riding isn't allowed in the Cranberry Wilderness and Botanical areas.
West Virginia Mountain Biking Association (304) 296-4142
Pocahontas County Tourism Commison (800) 336-7009
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication