SOUTH CHARLESTON – The North Bend Rail Trail and the Greenbrier River Trail are parts of the West Virginia State Park system that are popular with both residents and visitors who enjoy hiking and biking. These former train track bed trails provide long, gently sloping access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas.
The east-west North Bend Rail Trail runs from Happy Valley in Wood County through four counties with its eastern terminus in Harrison County at Wolf Summit. The Greenbrier River Trail’s southern terminus at Caldwell, near Greenbrier State Forest, closely parallels its namesake to the northern terminus at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. The Greenbrier River Trail features five state park system areas along its mileage. Both rail trails offer outstanding outdoor opportunities to hike and bike.
North Bend Rail Trail
The North Bend Rail Trail is an abandoned spur of the CSX railway system. The trail is part of the 5,500 mile coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail and is 72 miles in length. This scenic trail passes through 13 tunnels and crosses 36 bridges between the Parkersburg area and Wolf Summit in the Clarksburg area. North Bend State Park in Ritchie County offers very accessible entry to the trail. Easily accessible from Interstates 77 and 79, the trail nearly parallels U.S. Route 50 east and west from Harrison County to Doddridge, Ritchie and Wood counties.
In the tumultuous years before the Civil War and the creation of the state of West Virginia, the former rail corridor was constructed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad between 1853 and 1857, including many tunnels. The Number 10 tunnel west of Ellenboro, for example, is 337 feet long and is a “raw” or natural tunnel that was bored through solid rock.
After the Civil War, the tunnels’ wooden interiors were replaced with brick and stone or brick was applied to the exterior ends. Many of the tunnels on the North Bend Rail Trail have the dates of reconstruction at the top of the entrances. This of railway was decommissioned in 1988 and the tracks removed, allowing the creation of the rail trail as part of the West Virginia State Parks system. Visit www.northbendrailtrailstatepark.com for more information.
The Greenbrier River Trail
This 78-mile trail has a packed, crushed-run surface coupled with a mere 1 percent grade. The trail closely mirrors its namesake, the Greenbrier River, for much of its length, offering opportunities for swimming and exceptional small-mouth bass fishing.
The state’s longest rail trail, the Greenbrier River Trail is ranked by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top 10 hiking trails in the United States. “Beginner and intermediate mountain bikers will appreciate the packed gravel surfaces on the majority of the Trail. More advanced bikers will find greater challenges on the adjoining mountain trails and abandoned logging roads that characterize the national forest bordering the Trail.”
Hikers and bikers will see wildflowers and deciduous trees along the trail including trilliums, Joe-pye, jewelweed, wild columbine, black-eyed Susan, phlox and dozens of other species. Fall foliage includes birch, sycamore, maple and Mountain Ash with differing oak species. Neo-tropical bird migration during May and June creates outstanding bird watching opportunities as well as spying species attracted to water such as Great Blue Herons.
The Greenbrier River Trail (www.greenbrierrivertrailstatepark.com) traverses one of the most remote areas in the Mountain State. It lies adjacent to the Monongahela National Forest and includes Greenbrier (www.greenbriersf.com) and Seneca (www.senecastateforest.com) state forests and Watoga (www.watoga.com) and Calvin Price State Forest, and Cass Scenic Railroad (www.cassrailroad.com) state parks along the way.
For more information about West Virginia State Parks and their miles of trails, rail and otherwise, please visit www.wvstateparks.com or call 800-CALL-WVA (225-5982).