When mountain biking first hit the main stage in the early ’80s, West Virginia was front and center. Largely known for its 24-hour races and hellacious terrain, the state garnered a reputation for being the toughest, burliest mountain biking destination around. We still think that, and though 24-hour races in West Virginia are a thing of the past, the gnarly trails are not. Check out our four favorite West Virginia mountain biking destinations. If you don’t know them yet, you should.
Davis , W.Va.
There’s a reason Tucker County’s slogan is #gettuckered. One ride around these rooty, rocky, steep trails and you will most certainly feel tuckered if not altogether beat down. Largely considered the birthing grounds of 24-hour racing (check out Laird Knight’s 24 Hours of Canaan), the quality of mountain biking here is old news. Everyone knows and love-hates the ego-crushing rock gardens and terrain. Biking here takes a special breed of rider. But if you’re not afraid of a little blood, mud, and rain, the trails will lead you to some downright magical places.
For a quick Canaan Valley appetizer, the eight-mile Allegheny/Plantation Trail Loop starts and begins at Canaan Valley Resort and offers a nice mix of minimal forest service road riding with all of that rooty-rocky goodness. For fast-packed downhill action, check out the trails at Timberline Four Seasons Resort. And for a taste of the long soul-sucking miles that are par for the course in Canaan, try tackling the 40-mile Revenge of the Rattlesnake course loop. The annual race just took place last week and benefits the Blackwater Bicycle Association. Better start prepping now.
Bike beta: Blackwater Bikes
Post-bike beverage: Stumptown Ales
Refuel stations: TipTop for caffeine, Hellbenders for burritos, Sirianni’s for pizza, Bright Morning Inn for breakfast
Crash pad: Bright Morning Inn
During the early 19th century, Mountwood Park was not a trail system but the thriving community of Volcano. Situated near the Ohio-West Virginia border, Volcano was a booming oil town with more than 5,000 residents. Life was good here. At its height, Volcano had two hotels, a Masonic lodge, bowling alley, opera house, and several saloons, not to mention the jeweled crown of the town—the 21-room Thornhill Mansion, which was built in the shape of a Maltese cross. Then, in 1879, the town literally burned to the ground. All that remains now is the crumbling stone foundation of the mansion and a few pieces of rusted machinery.
For the past 20 years, the River Valley Mountain Bike Association has worked hard to create what is now an impressive 50-mile trail system, nearly 30 miles of which are open to mountain bikers. The trails range in difficulty from novice to advanced, and the signage and infrastructure are all well-maintained and top-notch. Check out MTB Project’s 22.4-mile loop to get the ultimate tour de Mountwood. The hard-packed dirt keeps you flowing fast whether you’re climbing ridges or ripping downhill. You’ll cross bridges, open meadows, and historic ruins on this loop and with ample opportunities to lengthen or shorten your ride, what’s not to love?
Bike beta: Marietta Adventure Company
Post-bike beverage: Parkersburg Brewing Company
Refuel stations: The Pizza Place, for West Virginia’s only real Italian pizza.
Crash pad: Mountwood Park for camping, Blennerhassett Hotel for luxury
Charles Fork Lake
Originally developed in the mid-’90s, the trails at Charles Fork Lake are undergoing a renaissance! Approximately 20 miles of trails criss-cross the 1,600 acres of municipal land here, which includes a 70-acre reservoir highly regarded for its walleye, musky, and bass fishing. Charles Fork Lake trails have long served as the staging area for the Tour de Lake, one of the longest running mountain bike races in West Virginia. Next year, the race will serve as the opener in the West Virginia Mountain Bike Association’s point series.
The 10-mile race loop will take you through verdant forests bordered by ferns, across open meadows, and down low over rocky creek beds. Expect to work hard on these trails: the gently rolling terrain keeps you pedaling on both the climbs and the descents. Keep an eye out for the mystery mailbox near the end!
Bike beta: Charleston Bicycle Center
Post-bike beverage: Chestnut Ridge Winery
Refuel stations: Church Street Deli and Green Leaf Market for lunch
Crash pad: Charles Fork Lake for camping, The Arnott House for the comforts of home
Monongahela National Forest
Nothing says backcountry mountain biking like Slatyfork. This quaint, unincorporated community sits at the base of Snowshoe Mountain and acts as the gateway to the endless adventure that is the Monongahela National Forest. The 45 miles of trails surrounding Slatyfork are sometimes overgrown, scantly marked, and occasionally blocked with fallen limbs, so don’t come here expecting purpose-built, butter-smooth trails. You may even be reduced to some hike-a-bike stretches thanks to the wide variety in elevation.
The signature event around here is the Slatyfork Fat Tire, which takes place every August and features 25K and 50K cross-country rides, a Sunday enduro event, and even a kids’ race. Some of the trails follow 100-year-old rail grades, but don’t let that fool you: the majority of your day will be spent navigating technical rock gardens. Still, the high elevation red spruce forests and stunning views of Tea Creek and Gauley Mountains as well as the surrounding Williams River Valley are totally worth the long day in the saddle. No visit to Slatyfork is complete without rippin’ down Tea Creek Mountain or Turkey Point Connector, which may very well be among the best downhills in the entire state of West Virginia.