I can't say for sure, but I suspect for many of us of a certain age, we share a common milestone from our early childhood. A rite of passage, if you will, marking a major achievement in our formative years. An event that represented freedom for us and perhaps a little fear for those who raised us. I'm of course referring to the day the training wheels finally came off our bike for good. (What milestone were you thinking of?) Has there ever been a greater sense of accomplishment in the kid world than to leave those training wheels behind in a cloud of dust as we peddled off into a big, new world of adventure? I also suspect, as we grew older, bike riding became something relegated to our childhood as we moved on to more "grownup" pursuits. But something interesting has happened over the years. Biking has grown up as well. With an array of advances in technology and design, bikes have become as sophisticated or simple as you choose to make them and everyone, from the young to the young at heart, are riding bikes today.
One of the more popular forms of riding today is mountain biking. Don't be misled by the name. Mountain biking isn't limited to just navigating steep mountain biking downhill trails, dodging boulders, tree stumps and the fallen riders who came before you, all at a break-neck speed. It encompasses a wide variety of riding experiences for bikers of all ages and skill levels. And one of the premiere mountain biking destinations is Nature's Mountain Playground, Pocahontas County, West Virginia. With more than 375 miles of biking trails available, Nature's Mountain Playground offers anything from extreme, rugged downhill trails for the professional, to one percent gentle grade trails for everyday riders or beginners, as well as any assortment of mountain biking trails in between. Maybe it's time for you to once again experience the simple fun and freedom of bike riding - to recall the thrill of leaving those training wheels behind as you ride off into new adventures in Pocahontas County. Here's a brief rundown of great places to ride as well as where to rent bikes and services associated with mountain biking in Nature's Mountain Playground.
Where to ride...
Awarded the first International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Ride Center designation in West Virginia, Snowshoe Bike Park offers nearly forty mountain biking trails, ranging from steep downhills to gentle grades, making it one of the largest trail systems in the East. More than just trails, Snowshoe really is the complete mountain biking package, offering lift-service, mountain biking rentals, riding lessons, and special events like the 2021 Mercedes-Benz UCI Mountain bike World Cup Finals. So, whether it's mountain biking for beginners or world-class competition, Snowshoe Mountain has something for everyone.
Greenbrier River Trail
If you're looking for a more laid-back mountain biking experience, you could hardly go wrong with the Greenbrier River Trail. This former railroad track turned state park, is available to bikers, hikers, horseback riders and cross-country skiers and is the longest trail of its kind in West Virginia. The seventy-eight-mile-long trail parallels much of the Greenbrier River and, with only a one percent grade, lazily winds its way through isolated valleys and hidden-away small towns of the rustic West Virginia Mountains. Along the way you'll traverse thirty-five bridges, two tunnels, and quickly see why Backpacker Magazine rated the Greenbrier River Trail one of the top ten trails in the country.
Green Bank Observatory
For an unquestionably unique mountain biking excursion, be sure to check out the Green Bank Observatory. Believe it or not, the Green Bank Observatory provides eleven miles of trails from paved road, turf and forest terrain. Imagine biking, firmly rooted here on earth, while reminders of the universe surround you. Not only is the world's largest steerable telescope visible from several trails, but you can also check out the distance between planets as you ride by a model of our solar system. The Green Bank Observatory offers twelve trails: seven easy, four intermediate and one difficult. Half of the trails are less than a mile long, and with three of those rated as easy trails, the Green Bank Observatory would be a great choice for beginning mountain bikers.
So many more trails to explore...
There are so many miles of trails to ride in Nature's Mountain Playground that it's almost too much to detail here. But let's briefly touch on just a few more.
Kennison Mountain A deep forest ride with moderate and technical trails along the edge of the Cranberry Glades.
Tea Creek-Gauley Headwaters Considered to be some of the toughest trails in West Virginia, this area presents riders with technical rock gardens, steep climbs and exciting descents.
West Fork Rail Trail A former railroad line, this twenty-two-mile trail parallels the West Fork of the Greenbrier River drawing riders deep into the Monongahela National Forest.
Ryder Gap to Paddy Knob This twenty-mile-long gravel trail runs the ridgeline that separates West Virginia and Virginia and features steep climbs, long descents and spectacular mountain views.
For further details on these trails and others, the Ride Snowshoe Highlands map is available from select businesses throughout Nature's Mountain Playground and the Marlinton Visitor Center for a cost of $5.00. Proceeds of these sales help with trail maintenance and is a great way for mountain bikers to "pay it forward" for future riders. Visitor Centers in Pocahontas County, along with many businesses and lodging establishments, also offer the Nature's Mountain Playground Biking Trail Map, highlighting fourteen trails as well as bike rental locations, lodging and bike services. Be sure to pick up one or contact Nature's Mountain Playground to request this free information.
Bike Rental and Services...
So many trails and so many miles to ride. But what if you don't have a bike? No problem. Nature's Mountain Playground has outfitters with the gear you need to hit the trails. Here's a few places to check out for bike rental, repair, shuttle services, food and lodging.
Appalachian Sport, Marlinton
Located four blocks from the Greenbrier River Trail in Marlinton, Appalachian Sport offers bike rental, repairs and accessories. They also operate Greenbrier River Trail Shuttle Service. Reservations for the shuttle service are recommended at least one day in advance. They can be reached at 304-799-4050 or check out their website at www.appsport.com.
Dirtbean Café and Bike Shop, Marlinton
The Dirtbean Café is located two blocks from the Greenbrier River Trail in Marlinton and features bike rental and repairs as well as biking accessories for sale. The Dirtbean also doubles as a café and coffee house, fueling up riders before they hit the trails or afterwards. Look them up online at www.dirtbean.com or call 304-799-4038.
Elk River Touring Center, Slatyfork
Bordering the National Forest Trail System in Slatyfork, Elk River Touring Center provides bike rental, a full-service repair department and bike shop stocked with plenty of gear and accessories. Elk River also offers tours, shuttle service (reservations recommended) and hosts selected weekend biking events. If you're looking for convenient lodging for your next mountain biking adventure, Elk River also operates Elk River Inn and Cabins. With eight guest rooms and four cabins to choose from, you're sure to find a cozy and comfortable place to relax after a day of riding. You can contact Elk River at 304-572-3771 or online at www.ertc.com.
Jack Horner's Corner, Seebert
Situated nicely beside the Greenbrier River Trail in Seebert and less than a mile from Watoga State Park, Jack Horner's Corner offers bike rental for riders of just about any age. They also operate as a convenience store serving fresh pizza, sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream as well as an assortment of souvenirs and gifts. They also provide a shuttle service (check about reservations). Open seasonally, early April through late October, Jack Horner's Corner can be reached at 304-653-4515.
Route 66 Outpost, Cass
Conveniently located next to the Greenbrier River Trail and Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, Route 66 Outpost offers bike rental, convenience items, gifts and delicious food. What better way to take in the scenic views of both river and rail than an early morning bike ride followed up with an afternoon train excursion? Route 66 Outpost can be reached at 304-456-4288.
More and more people are coming back to the fun of bike riding - in fact, some have never left it. The training wheels are gone and there might be a little grey hair peeking out from under the mountain biking helmets, but for many, biking has been a lifelong pursuit. How about you? Is it time to give biking a try again? Or maybe you're a seasoned rider, looking for new challenges and trails to master. Whether a beginner or a pro, a young rider or a rider that hasn't ridden since you were young, as you can see, Nature's Mountain Playground is a mountain bikers dream come true. So why not load up the family and all your bikes (or let us provide the bikes for you) and head to Pocahontas County West Virginia. Whether you ride solo or with friends and family, with trails and beautiful locations of every kind, you're bound to find the right ride for you in Nature's Mountain Playground.
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