Illustration by Scott DuBar
Compared to its wild surroundings, Elkins feels like a metropolis. The town of 8,000 is the gateway to Monongahela National Forest, an incomparable bounty of outdoor action.
“It’s a small town, but it feels huge for this area,” says Joey Riddle, owner of Joey’s Bike Shop in downtown, who’s lived in Elkins for a decade.
While Elkins is still relatively small, it’s quite culturally rich for its size. The town has one of the most well-known mountain music scenes in the country, anchored by the annual Augusta Heritage Festival, which brings in talented acts from around the world. Every fall the Mountain State Forest Festival also draws 100,000 people to the dense green Appalachian escape.
“If you’re into the outdoors or music, this is the perfect place to live,” adds Riddle. “I know many people that have come for one or the other and ended up moving here. It makes for a diverse group of folks.”
Ride the Spruce Knob Epic
Try the IMBA designated Epic Ride in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. From the Spruce Knob Lake Campground, you’ll connect the Huckleberry, Judy Springs, Bear Hunter, and Allegheny Mountain Trails, as well as Forest Service Road 112 for an amazing spin down into dense spruce groves and up to huge scenic views. For an additional stash of technical singletrack, Riddle recommends Cheat Mountain’s 30-mile network of trails, 30 minutes south of town.
For a great road ride, Riddle sends cyclists off on a 50-mile mountain rollercoaster that includes the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail and a handful of scenic one-lane country roads that tackles 4,000 feet of climbing with three ascents over Pheasant Mountain.
Explore Otter Creek
Day hikers and backpackers should explore the dense woods of the 21,000-acre Otter Creek Wilderness. The pristine valley cut by Otter Creek sits in a heavily vegetated bowl between McGowan Mountain and Shavers Mountain with 40 miles of trails.
Local climbers take advantage of nearly 400 routes on the open faces and sharp ridges of nearby geological wonder Seneca Rocks, a collective rock formation that rises almost 900 feet straight above the North Fork River.
Ski White Grass
In the winter, you can ski 50 kilometers of groomed trails at White Grass cross-country ski lodge in the nearby Canaan Valley. whitegrass.com
Paddle Shavers Fork
Paddlers should check out a 14-mile stretch of the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River from Bemis to Bowden, which is mostly flatwater through stunning scenic woods with a little class III-IV stretch thrown in for excitement.