The Greenbrier River Trail calls you to the countryside

Reed Hellman

The Cass Scenic Railroad train takes on water as it prepares to chug up the mountain to the former lumber town of Cass.

West Virginia’s Greenbrier River is the longest untamed and undammed river in the eastern United States. Alongside the river, the Greenbrier River Trail traverses one of the most remote areas in the state and lies adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest, Seneca State Forest, and Watoga State Park.

A trip along the trail is truly a “Wild and Wonderful” experience.

The Greenbrier River Trail is a 78-mile-long rail trail operated by West Virginia State Park system.

Cyclists will find varied features on the 78-mile-long Greenbrier River Trail.

The trail offers an exciting but accessible venue for bicycling, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. A packed, crusher run surface coupled with a gentle 1 percent grade and double-track width creates an ease of riding that enables cyclists, young and old, to enjoy the many breathtaking views. Motorized wheelchairs, electric-powered chairs, and scooters are permitted for disabled use only. The trail closely parallels its namesake, the Greenbrier River, for most of its length, offering countless opportunities for swimming and fishing.

The trail is largely the domain of bicyclists. “It’s firm, flat, even, and good for novices and seniors,” said Jody Spencer, the trail’s superintendent. “The trail is well-suited for comfort style biking, with wider tires. Our most common trail user is a retiree; the majority of trail users fit a demographic of 50 years old and older.

“Younger folks make a two-day trip of the whole trail,” he continued. “People do the trail in many different ways.”

Cyclists enjoy the Greenbrier River Trail, a firm, flat, even trail good for all levels of ability.

Some people choose to tackle the trail a piece at a time, starting at a given point, cycling a section, then returning to their starting point.

“They actually wind up doing the trail twice — up and then back — then spend the night in a local motel,” said Spencer. “Shuttle services are also available.”

Little development can be seen along the way, but proximity to the river ensures almost constant scenic views. Trailside outfitters, such as Jack Horner’s Corner, rent inner tubes, bicycles, and kayaks. Camping at 15 rustic camping areas along the trail is free and on a first-come-first-served basis. State park cabins, motels, privately owned cottages, and bed-and-breakfasts are also available along the trail.

 

Other activities

The river has a good warm-water fishery with ample smallmouth bass. The more scenic sections include Marlinton to Cass, where the trail runs close to the river through a very natural area. From Beard to Droop Tunnel (Rorer) is also very scenic, with almost no private land or development along the way. The lower 10 miles of the trail still suffer from flood damages, but will be rebuilt beginning later this spring.

The trail is also known for the Great Greenbrier River Race. Going into its fourth decade, the race combines the challenges of a triathlon with a family-friendly attitude that stresses fun along with fitness. The triathlon, held the last Saturday in April in Marlinton, consists of a 3-mile run, a 4-mile paddle on the river, and a 10-mile bike ride. With great prizes, live music, and good food, the event attracts a loyal following of racers and fans.

Formed more than 35 years ago to promote the newly designated Greenbrier River Trail, the Greenbrier River Trail Association has worked with other groups to bring improvements to the trail, such as water pumps, enhanced trailheads, restrooms, shelters, interpretive signs, and resurfacing.

For an active West Virginia getaway, the Greenbrier River Trail is a great choice, no matter what your age.

 

For more information:

Greenbrier Trail State Park: greenbrierrailtrailstatepark.com

Pocahontas Co. Tourism: pocahontascountywv.com

 

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