As one visitor commented, West Virginia was once part of Virginia, so today we’re stepping outside our home state to share one of West Virginia’s premier bike paths.
We decided to try our hand (or feet) at the Allegheny Highlands Trail. This is a converted rails-to-trails bike path through the West Virginia highlands. This trail connects Elkins to Hendricks, mostly following Route 219. There are plans to extend the trail up to Thomas and beyond. Currently, there are about 25 miles of established trails. Parts of the trail are paved and parts are ground gravel, so conditions are nice for hybrid or mountain bikes.
If you are interested in doing the entire trail, I would suggest arranging a shuttle, dropping off a car at Parsons and then taking off from Elkins. This way seems to be a little easier than the opposite way due to the grade.
On our first visit to this trail, we did two segments of this trail – Parsons to Porterwood and Bretz to Hendricks. These were both two short and easy segments. This time, we decided to do the Montrose to Porterwood section which ended up being a little over 15 miles roundtrip. We started off in Montrose. The way to Portwerwood ended up being more downhill than uphill, which made to return trip about five miles on a gradual uphill. If you feel like getting the harder work done first, I would take off from Porterwood first. Since this is a rails-to-trails, the grade is not steep and any average cyclist will find the climb to be quite easy, but the uphill is definitely constant heading south.
The scenery along the trail is not amazing, but you do pass through some nice stretches through the woods. As you are getting closer to some of the towns, expect to see some houses near the trail. We actually found the Bretz to Hendricks area the prettiest of the areas.
If you are into geocaching, there are a ton of caches to find along the trail. The caches are not that tough to find, so it is a great idea if you are doing a family ride. Sadly, my GPS unit made its final find along the Allegheny Highlands Trail While I was loading the bikes onto the car, I put the GPS unit on the roof and promptly drove off with it still there. We never found it. It’s probably busted into a million pieces along Rte. 219.
This bike ride would have been so much fun if I hadn’t developed a migraine about an hour into the ride. Literally, I felt like someone was stabbing me in the head with an ice pick. Adam kept telling me to stop biking, rest on the roadside, and let him bring the car to get me. But, I am stubborn – so I cried (yes, really) and pedaled my bike for about eight more miles. We managed to find some ibuprofen in our first aid kit, and that took a little of the edge off the migraine. I felt quite a bit better by the last couple miles, but for a lot of the ride I was simply miserable.
That said, I really recommend this bike trail for riders of any level. The climbs and descents are gentle and the trail conditions are very smooth and pleasant. There are several large stands of rhododendron along the path and the forest floor is covered with ferns. I’m always amazed by how few people use the trail. This weekend, the weather was gorgeous – 75, breezy and sunny. It was also a long, holiday weekend – but we still only passed a handful of other bikers. People don’t know what they’re missing!
- Distance – 25 miles worth of trails
- Elevation Change – Some gentle and gradual changes in elevation.
- Difficulty – 2. Depends on which way you go and how far you want to ride.
- Trail Conditions – 3.5. The trail is paved in some sections, but the gravel sections consist of ground gravel which makes for nice riding.
- Views – 1.5. Mostly views through wooded sections. Occasional views of a few forks of the Cheat River.
- Waterfalls/streams -1. A few views of water, but not great looks.
- Wildlife – 0. Not much since it is so close to the road.
- Ease to Navigate – 4. Easy to navigate, but there are a few passes that cross trafficked roads.
- Solitude – 4. This is a slightly popular trail, so expect more people on weekends, especially around holidays. You still shouldn’t see that many people.
Directions to trailhead:
There are several places to park, depending on where you want to start your trail. The bike trail runs beside state road 219 that connects Elkins to Thomas. Brown signs let you know of parking lots along the way.