West Virginia is a miniature Colorado. It is a veritable hotspot that’s almost irresistible.
That is how one tourism trade magazine describes the Mountain State’s attractions of river rafting, rock climbing and incredible mountain bike tours.
Where else can you find 200 kilometers of single-track, black bears, great fishing, and more animals than people?
According to the Adam Carrico of Beckley, the region is the new hotspot for adventure in Southern West Virginia. “It’s largely unspoiled, un-crowded terrain that makes the riding dreamlike,” says the amiable biking enthusiast.
“On a good day, I can ride for miles and miles in any direction.”
Carrico, a Beckley City fireman, has worked with several local groups to establish biking trails in the area during the past few years. He plies his mattock and shovel to the earth and rock to make trails more accessible for mountain bikers of all persuasion.
The self-styled adventurer feels at home in the southerly mountains along New River Gorge National River, where the biker-trail-keeper lauds Appalachia’s bountiful natural phenomena.
“Bikers are buzzing all over the old railroad routes that have been converted to trails,” Carrico says. “It’s what we bikers call ‘mountain biking heaven.’”
The awesome mountain biking terrain is guarded by a handful of dedicated cyclists and tour shops which, for the sake of preserving their version of Mecca, instill responsible riding techniques in all who enter the kingdom.
Both mountain biking and competitive road racing are growing rapidly in the Mountain State.
“This shows a huge growth in the upper division of the sport,” Carrico explains. “It means that racers are getting better and riding faster. The races are much more intense, and you must be on top of your game to win.”
From the Cranberry Wilderness north to Canaan Valley, a biker can cover 150 miles in about six days on single-track, old forest service roads, abandoned rail beds and open fields.
Some of Carrico’s favorite mountain biking trails in the Mountain State include Greenbrier State Forest near Lewisburg; Cooper’s Rock State Forest near Morgantown; Snowshoe Mountain; Blackwater State Park in Canaan Valley; Bunner’s Ridge in Morgantown, Little Beaver State Park in Daniels, and various trails along New River Gorge National River in Fayette County.
Many abandoned rail beds in West Virginia, legacies of a past century’s mining and logging, make for great wilderness routes, and the narrow-gauge rail beds, rails long since gone, produce some of the best riding trails in the country.
“If you ride the trails, early in the morning when it’s still misty and foggy, you’re apt to jump deer, in twos and threes, that burst across in front of you with startling speed,” says Carrico, describing the mountain thoroughfares of the area.
“You can ride along on old rail beds that are lush with rhododendron, mountain laurel and spruce.”
The biker adds, “If you and your party come to a creek crossing, you can play at who can go fastest and deepest without falling in.”
From the Sinks of Gandy along the Gandy River to the challenging climb of Canaan Ridge, mountain bikers coming to West Virginia can expect to get all the action they bargain for.
“You burn calories galore,” Carrico explains. “You could eat a four-course meal and not gain an ounce after pumping up steep ridges and rocky slopes in our state. That is because we are blessed with some of the best mountain biking country in the world. I think folks are starting to appreciate it.”
Top o’ the morning!