Cherry River Rail Trail - Mountain Biking

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Summary

There is no better way to spend a long Summer day than following three different rivers as your make your way through the wilderness of Nicholas County along the Cherry River Rail Trail.

Written by

Neil Humphrey

Distance

33.0 miles

If you decide to do the full trail out and back, it’s 33 miles. But, there is always the option of turning back at any point along the way so you can make your ride as long or short as you want.

Destination Distance From Downtown

55.0 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

This 16.5-mile, gravel and hard-packed dirt path is long and flat. While it’s not technically difficult, it is long at 33-miles round-trip.

Time To Complete

4 hours

You can keep a high cadence on this trail, so with a quick snack at the halfway point, an experienced cyclist can make the trip in 4 hours. A beginning or intermediate biker should probably add at least another hour to their trip.

Seasonality

All Seasons

This year-round rail trail is maintained by a caretaker who actually lives on the trail. For brilliant groves of goldenrod and dense foliage, go during the summer. If you want to ride through tunnels of multicolored leaves, fall is spectacular. If you want the most unobstructed views of the 3 rivers you ride alongside, winter is the best time.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

The wide and level paths are great for dogs, but this rail trail is also very popular with horseback riders, so make sure your dog is not spooked by horses.

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

The Cranberry Tri-Rivers Rail Trail is one of the longest rail trails in southern West Virginia. It’s a fun adventure along a now-defunct logging rail line that once followed the paths of 3 different rivers: the Cherry, Cranberry, and Gauley rivers. Mountain bikers can ride along this meandering trail for 16.5 miles, through the wilderness of Nicholas County. There are 3 bridges along the trail, and 2 of them are built atop original railroad trestles that span the rivers.

What Makes It Great

The beautiful river views, multiple river crossings, and a historic tunnel all make the Cranberry Tri-Rivers Rail Trail a great ride. The trail begins alongside the rushing Cherry River and passes through groves of holly so thick on each side, you will think you are passing through a tunnel constructed of shrubbery. The trail’s surface alternates between hard-packed gravel and dirt, and the nearly level grade lets bikers keep a high cadence the whole way.

Near the halfway point, the Cherry meets the Gauley River, a world-famous destination for whitewater rafters. You will follow the Gauley for the rest of your ride. The first large trestle spans where the Cranberry River empties into the Gauley River, and an informative sign in front of the bridge lists the historic events that happened here. In a short distance, you will come upon the impressive 640-foot, horseshoe-shaped Sarah’s Tunnel. Move through the tunnel quickly—it is completely dark in the center!

After the tunnel, there’s roughly another 8 miles along the trail to the turnaround point. The trail here meanders through groves of wild flowers, and the trees up above are so dense that you will be nearly entirely shaded, even on a blistering summer day. After crossing the second long trestle you will be at end of the rail trail. Now it’s time to turn around and do it all over again.

Who is Going to Love It

Rail trail enthusiasts and bikers who enjoy rides with historic ties will love this ride. The modified original railroad trestles used for river crossings, the large tunnel, and even the small historic community of Woodbine, that sits at the confluence of the Gauley and Cranberry rivers, will keep history buffs intrigued. Because of its length, this trail out and back can certainly be made into a day-long outing.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To reach the Cranberry Tri-Rivers Rail Trail, take US 19 North until you come to the town of Summersville, where you will turn on Route 39 toward Richwood. Follow this road until it splits, with Route 39 going right towards Richwood and Route 20 turning left towards Craigsville. Some older signs will tell you to turn right and head into Richwood toward the old train depot. Don't follow these instructions; those signs are outdated, and the newer, more maintained trailhead is a bit further.

Instead, turn left and go about 3 miles until you come to a bridge in Holcomb. There will be a gravel lot on the left before the bridge for parking, and the trail begins just across the road on the right.

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Location

Cherry River Rail Trail

12 Cherry River Road
Holcomb, WV, 26261
38.258542, -80.599291

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