New Mountain Bike Trails on the Way in CV
I just got back from Canaan Valley this weekend. Went MTBing on Sunday morning - it was 42 degrees! (went for a road ride yesterday in NVA and it was close to 80 - talk about contrasts).
Anyway, there was an article in the Parsons Advocate regarding the construction of new sustainable MTB trails on the CVI property near Davis. The Tucker County Trails club received assistance from an IMBA trail crew to break ground on some new trail off Camp 70 road towards Blackwater Falls SP. Overall, there are currently 7.5 miles of multiuse trail open to the public on CVI land near Davis. CVI's goal is to eventually expand the trail network to over 20 miles.
The participation and leadership of IMBA should be welcome to the trail program. IMBA trail crews (there are only 2 active in the US) travel around the country building trail and training local trail builders in the techniques needed to build truly sustainable MTB trails that can withstand rain, snow, and high traffic with limited maintenance. Local DC mountain bikers who ride at Wakefield park near Annandale have undoubtably sampled some of the sweet trail the IMBA trail crew helped our local MTB club, MORE, build there this summer.
CVI envisions the trail network being used by hikers and cross-country skiers as well (no word on equestrians, and ATVs are not allowed on CVI property).
The trail building on the CVI land is another step in Canaan Valley recouping its reputation as a great mountain biking destination. Earlier this summer, Blackwater Bikes hosted a race on the existing CVI trails - including many of the trails used in the earliest editions of the legendary 24 Hours of Canaan (including Moonrocks). In total, 4 races were held in the Canaan Valley area this summer.
The fate of the abandoned Blackwater Canyon rail grade remains in the air; however, while the National Forest Service considers an application from Allegheny Wood Products to convert part of the rail grade into a logging road to access their timber holdings within the canyon. Nevertheless, signage for the Blackwater Canyon trail was recently added near the trailhead in Thomas, and the Highlands Trail Foundation has announced plans to extend the existing Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail (starts in Elkins) north from Hendricks through the Canyon to Thomas. Two new bike shops offering rentals and shuttle service for the Canyon opened in Thomas this summer. A future trail will branch off of the rail grade before Thomas towards Route 32 and then follow alongside Rt 93 some 44 miles to Mt Storm Lake (no date given for completion of this trail).
Overall, Canaan Valley seems on the brink of offering the kind of infrastructure - trails, shops, tour services - needed to really promote itself as one of the Mid-Atlantic's best bike vacation spots during Summer and Fall. I think they need some additional family-oriented trails, like the rail trail, to invite families with youngsters on tricycles and training wheels for a ride. Though I am partial to singletrack - a short 4-5 mile paved trail between Thomas and Davis, or to Blackwater Falls SP, would be popular with families' vacationing in the Valley. The roadie scene in the Valley has not been exploited to its potential. There are plenty of beautiful, sparsely traveled two lanes - including some leg-breaking climbs - all around the area. I recently saw 3 brave souls climbing Allegheny Mountain from Seneca Rocks - the only thing missing was the guy in the red devil's costume chasing them - allez! Seriously though, I think there would be a market for a business to offer fully supported and guided road riding tours of the area also.
The awesome riding in Canaan Valley is one of the biggest reasons I continue to travel up there after the snow melts. In many ways, the mountain biking in Canaan Valley (and most of West Virginia) is considered some of the best in the country. The new trails will only make things better.
Thanks for the update. The Black Water Canyon rail grade trail is one of my favorites. I hope it stays the way it is...
I'm with you John regarding the Canyon trail. That is truly a gem - as is. It really has the feeling of remoteness, yet it is a very accessible ride for an average rider (at least the downhill leg!).
As an aside related to my earlier post, check out this story I just found surfing the net this morning (found on the West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners website). It is written by one of the 3 riders I passed climbing Route 33 towards Harman this summer. I could not believe it - but doublechecked my dates and sure enough these must have been the guys. What I found even more amazing was their condition! (these are the kind of athletes we need to make Moonshine Mountain a 4 seasons resort...read on):
"Friday 8/12/05 @ 14:30 Robert arrives dressed in shorts, black socks and dress shoes. We set up camp and cracked the cap on two cold Heinekens. We sat in the shade and enjoyed a few more. Earlier in the day I had passed on breakfast and lunch in anticipation of this evenings bounty of grilled dogs and burgers. The combination of an empty stomach, soaring temperatures and cold beer sent my head spinning so I said to Robert, "let's go for a ride". We donned our riding attire and snaked our way through the campground. Before we could even make it to Rt. 33, a slightly impaired Robert swerved into my rear derailer, clipped a spoke on his wheel and then his tire went flat. We stopped to change the tire and mid-way through the procedure a young couple from Michigan walked up to us and asked us what we were doing. We told them that we were going on a drunk bike ride. The young husband, Jason, asked if he could come along. We said "sure, but were not responsible for what could, may and most likely will happen to you because we're drunk". He raced back to his camp and assembled his very expensive Cannondale bicycle. After brief introductions and an exchange of pleasantries were finally on the road.
It is 10 miles to the top of Allegheny Mountain with it's summit lying just in the shadows of Dolly Sods. The climb begins with gentle rolling hills that soon stretch their way towards the heavens. As we began to climb, Robert and Jason dropped me off the back end of the slow moving train. The climb started at 9 percent for two miles then 10 percent for another couple miles until the summit. I was working hard and would frequently come out of the saddle only to have my quads fail and leave me desperate to make another revolution of the crank. The road never seemed to end. I kept looking up just to see one more switch back. I unzipped my jersey and took off my helmet. I pictured myself on the road to Le Alp D 'huez with a multitude of crazed fans cheering, waving flags, ringing cow bells, with the devil running along side of me parting the way just at just the last second allowing me to peddle my way to victory when just then the alcohol wore off, my mind cleared, and a log truck nearly made road pizza outta me. With a new found sense of sobriety, I kept climbing and finally reached the summit where Robert was standing by a large sign reading "Eastern Continental Divide". It was all worth it. We shook hands. The guy from Michigan said, "I thought you guys were joking when you said you were drunk". We turned our machines to the east and descended the mountain. "
Well, like you said, we need to hire these guys to run the Bike Shop on Moonshine-Mountain
The Canyon Rim Trail is fun both ways. I like to ride it down to Hendricks, pick up the Allegheny Highlands Trail, and go all the way to Parsons. It's a nice ride, and the Fernow Experimental Forest is a good place to have a picnic. They have some nice bird feeders near the visitor center where you can see a variety of critters, including Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. My greatest memory of the trail, however, is seeing the large, 6 foot timber rattler earlier this year. Amazing. It proves that WV is indeed still wild in some spots. We should try to keep it that way.
John: Please clarify what you mean by Canyon Rim Trail. There is a Canyon Rim hiking trail you can get to off 219 near the Olson Fire Tower. This is also supposed to be an excellent MTB trail, though I have only hiked it. Then there is the Blackwater Canyon Rail Grade Trail. This is below the Canyon rim trail and empties out in Hendricks near the start of the Allegheny Highlands Trail. There is supposed to be an old (perhaps abandonned) trail that drops (steeply) from the Canyon Rim onto the rail grade though I have never seen it.
Also, I have seen the Fernow Experimental Forest on maps but have not been there. Any good singletrack open to MTBs there?
The Canyon Rim Trail is the rail grade that dumps out at Hendricks and the Olson's Tower Trail, another good ride, goes up to Olson's Tower (a fire watch tower). Most of the bike guides I own of the area refer to the two trails that way, alhough I must admit that calling the lower trail the "rim" trail is confusing. I like the idea of just refering to it as the rail grade and leaving it at that.
Fernow has no single track--just a bunch of gated roads that you can access with a MTB. It's a great area for birding and that's why I often go there.
Hey John - just read (a reprint of?) an article you wrote in 2002 about riding the Canyon Rim trail in the latest Friends of the Blackwater newsletter. Very nice writeup - I'll have to try that ride after the snows melt.