West Virginia: Tailor-made for Bikepacking

There’s quite a bit to do when passing through this college town.
There’s quite a bit to do when passing through this college town. Joseph DeGaetano
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The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.

West Virginia is one of the best states in the nation for bikepacking.

Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest and Jefferson National Forest all have large stretches of wilderness that are easily accessible.

The state is well-known among cyclists for its rolling paved mountain roads, but mountain bikers are just rediscovering its vast collection of interconnected forest service roads, backcountry trails (ranging from the gnarliest root and rock-laden singletrack) and a growing network of rail trails.

Put it all together and you have the recipe for a bikepacking wonderland.

When planning routes through West Virginia, all you really need to do is look at a map and figure out what green areas you want to visit— then connect the dots between the small towns. Some of the best bikepacking is in more remote and less populated areas, so be sure to bring more than enough supplies to get you from point A to point B.

Logistics aside, you can craft everything from single overnight bikepacking tours to a huge 3-week circumnavigation of the state. Here are some of the best bikepacking spots in the Mountain State, though it’s only a taste of what West Virginia has to offer!

1. Morgantown

This college town has a big selection of restaurants, pubs and music venues, which makes it a great destination to start and/or end a tour. Black Bear Burritos, Morgantown Brewing Co. and Iron Horse Tavern tick all the boxes for great food, a wide assortment of craft beers and live music.

There are 3 distinct rail trails from Morgantown: Deckers Creek Trail is a good connector to the Cheat River Valley. The Mon River Trail North heads across the border into Pennsylvania and the Mon River Trail South heads west, and you can use those trails to connect to the North Bend Rail Trail in Clarksburg.

You can also easily get to Coopers Rock State Forest, Big Bear Lake, North Bend State Park, the Cheat River Valley and Canaan Valley from Morgantown.

2. Seneca Rocks-Spruce Knob Recreation Area

Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia.
    Joseph DeGaetano
Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia. Joseph DeGaetano

This region has some of the most beautiful land in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. It’s one of those places that is more remote and has fewer services, but the seemingly endless miles of dirt roads and trails are a mountain biker’s dream.

Seneca Rocks is most known for rock climbing because of the massive quartzite fins that jut out of the mountainside. Here, you can resupply at Harper’s Olde General Store and get a meal at the Front Porch Restaurant while you gaze out at the mountain above Seneca Rocks— take note of the ridgeline. That ridgeline is home to an International Mountain Bike Association Epic Trail— the North Fork Mountain Trail, 24 miles of technical singletrack.

Continue past the trail to Spruce Knob Recreation Area, which is home to the the highest point in West Virginia, Spruce Knob. Another crucial resupply stop is the "town" of Judy Gap at the Gateway Inn Restaurant , which sits at the foot of Spruce Knob.

The Spruce Knob Recreation Area is home to miles of forest service roads and some gnarly singletrack. Trails like Seneca Creek and Huckleberry Trail are great technical additions to any bike tour through this countryside. Make sure to summit Spruce Knob for 360-degree views.

3. Canaan Valley/Thomas/Davis

Canaan Valley should be on any bikepacker’s list. Load up on food and gear in the small mountain towns of Thomas and Davis. You can’t go wrong with Hellbender Burritos, Sirianni’s PizzaCafe and Bright Morning Inn for food; and Stumptown Ales , Blackwater Brewing Co. and Mountain State Brewing offer quality, local craft beer. In the artsy town of Thomas, check out The Purple Fiddle, a hamlet for live music and the launching spot for several well-known artists.

Go explore some, if not all, of the local trails and dirt roads. There are enough of these to justify a few nights of trekking, and it’s a good way for beginner bikepackers to get their bearings without going too far away from town.

Stop by Blackwater Bikes for some suggestions on trails to get you started. If you want to go a little further, head to the Seneca Rocks region, where you can step it up again for a more isolated trip.

4. Cranberry Backcountry-Tea Creek

These 2 areas are another must-visit spot for West Virginia bikepackers. There are hundreds of miles of forest service roads and trails in this area alone.

Kennison Mountain Trail, Cowpasture Trail and Pocahontas Trail in the Cranberry Backcountry and Tea Creek Mountain Trail and Bear Pen Trail in the Tea Creek region are a test of both mountain bike skill and backcountry travel. Combine those sections of singletrack with the nearly endless amount of forest service roads and you will be feeling backcountry bike touring bliss long after the trip has ended.

Along Forest Service Road 102, which parallels the Cranberry River and is only accessible by foot and on bike, are many 3-sided huts that make for stellar camping spots. There are no resupply spots anywhere in this region, so whether you are travelling through on part of a larger tour or plan to spend a few days exploring the area on a shorter tour, pack in all your food and plan accordingly.

5. New River Gorge/ Meadow River Gorge/ Gauley River Gorge

This region is home to 3 major rivers that form large gorges with tons of feeder creeks and drainages, and major recreation areas like the New River Gorge National Park, Gauley River National Recreation Area and Summersville Lake. Along with an extensive trail system, there are hundreds of miles of gravel roads and paved country roads to explore.

The hub of this region is Fayetteville, a town with a thriving outdoor community. New River Bikes, Marathon Bicycle Company and Arrowhead Bike Farm can help with any bike-related issues. Restaurants like Pies & Pints, Secret Sandwich Society, Cathedral Café, Gumbo’s and Vandal’s Kitchen make top-notch food that will make even the biggest foodie smile. Catch some live music with the locals at The Grove , The 35th Star Bar and Grill or Arrowhead Bike Farm.

Start your tour out of Fayetteville at Summersville Lake, Little Beaver State Park, Bluestone Lake, Lewisburg or Charleston.

Bikepacking is even more fun with a friend or two!
    Joseph DeGaetano
Bikepacking is even more fun with a friend or two! Joseph DeGaetano

6. Greenbrier River and West Fork Rail Trails

These rail trails are great connectors for big tours through the state.

The Greenbrier River Trail is a 77-mile rail trail that runs from Caldwell, WV, in the south to Cass, WV, in the north. Along the GRT there are options to go deep into Calvin Price State Forest, Watoga State Park and Seneca State Forest. There are enough towns to resupply. Marlinton is the largest and most likely stopping point.

The West Fork Trail is a 27-mile rail trail that runs from Durbin, WV, to Shavers Fork River, WV. It’s less travelled than the GRT and is much more of a wilderness outing, with no amenities except in the starting town of Durbin.

Both of these rail trails are good connectors to access various areas of West Virginia, most notably the Spruce Knob recreation area.

Find more WV biking trails.

A section of the Greenbrier River Trail was recently washed out, but volunteers restoring the trail. Call ahead to make sure the route you want to take is open.

Originally written for West Virginia .

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